My wife and I sold property to the church I am the pastor and retained our life time rights. The property and home is being payed for by the church . Now that we are divorced and remarried she is trying to get the church to pay her rent on the home . What should we do?
The facts are a bit fuzzy, but we can give you some general guidelines. But it really sounds like you need clarification from the matrimonial attorneys and the counsel for the church. A common estate, tax and planning technique is to give a deed for a house to a charity, in this case your church, and retain the life estate. This is the right to reside in and use the property for life. After you both pass away, the charity would have complete ownership in the house. In this case, it sounds as if you and your wife divorced after the gift of the life estate. You should have your attorney and the attorney for the church review the deed carefully, as well as the divorce agreement, and see how this was handled. Who got what under the deed? Is it you who had the sole right to the life estate? Was it both you and your ex-wife? Did the divorce agreement divide up the rights to the life estate as part of the divorce property settlement? Likely it should have if the life estate was a marital property right. If so, then your divorce agreement might just contain the answer. If you retained all rights under the divorce, then your ex-wife may have no claim. That can depend on a host of factors, state law, what you each negotiated, etc. Since a charity is involved, have your attorney check state law as to special rules when a charity is involved. It is possible that there are special notification requirements. For example, perhaps the state attorney general's office has to be notified if a matter affects the property rights of a charity. If so, and if this wasn't done properly, might that affect the result? Interesting question.
Subscribe to our email list to receive information on consumer webcasts and blogs, for practical legal information in simple English, delivered to your inbox. For more professional driven information, please visit Shenkman Law to subscribe.