In Re Estate of Langeland: The court said the presumption that property acquired during a committed intimate relationship is jointly owned should prevail.
By Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski, family lawyers
Randall Langeland died in Whatcom County in 2009. He was survived by his daughter, Janell Boone, and his committed intimate relationship partner, Sharon Drown. Drown and Langeland had a relationship for 18 years until his death.
At issue were a home in Bellingham, a software company founded during the relationship, and a sailboat. Drown was named as the beneficiary of Langeland’s IRA, and her interest in that asset was affirmed.
In Re Estate of Langeland: A Case of a Conflicting Presumptions
The Court of Appeals characterized the dispute as conflicting presumptions. The personal representative was entitled to a presumption of correctness of inventory. The committed intimate partner was entitled to a presumption that property acquired during the relationship was owned by the parties together. The court concluded that the presumption that property acquired during a committed intimate relationship is jointly owned should prevail over a presumption of correctness for an estate inventory.
A further difficulty was in distributing the property acquired during the committed intimate relationship. Drown contended that the property was owned equally and that she was entitled to an award of half of it. The court held that the property must be “fairly and equitably” divided, which may or may not be a 50/50 division. The trial court was directed to hold a trial to make an equitable division of Langeland’s assets.
Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski practice family law in Olympia, Washington with the law firm of Connolly Tacon & Meserve.