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Notes From the Courts: A Rose By Any Other Name

Marital Share of Spouse’s Pension Includes All Elements of the Pension Benefit In a new application of an old theme, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reiterated the basic concept of interpreting an agreement of the parties with regard to a spouse’s pension benefit.  In Pulliam v. Pulliam, filed on April 29, 2015, the Court held that a consent judgment was unambiguous and that all elements of the Husband’s pension benefit are to be included in the transfer to Wife of her marital share of Husband’s pension. The facts of this case are straightforward.  At the time of the entry of a judgment of absolute divorce, the parties reached a settlement of their differences and subsequently created a consent order for review and signature by the judge.  The consent order contained all of the elements in the agreement of the parties. The term of the consent order that the court was interpreting was written as follows: “ORDERED, that the Defendant shall assign to the Plaintiff an interest in the Pension System for Law Enforcement officers of the State of Maryland as follows: One half of the Marital Share of his entire pension benefit.” When the time came for Husband to sign the particular order needed to transfer Wife’s marital share to her, he refused to do so. He asserted that one particular piece of the Husband’s benefit (referred to as the Deferred Retirement Option Program or “DROP”) should not be included in the calculation of the transfer to Wife.  Husband argued that at the time of the divorce, Husband was not eligible to receive DROP as a part of...

Notes From Annapolis: Death, Disability, and Digital Assets

In the aftermath of the 2015 session of the Maryland General Assembly, we naturally focus our attention on bills passed by the Assembly and signed by the Governor.  But as we sift through the accomplishments of our elected officials, it is always important to consider the bills that did not pass and the problems that may ensue without adjustment to our Code. One such bill that did not receive a favorable review this year is the Maryland Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (SB 429/HB 531).  If enacted, this bill would vest fiduciaries with the authority to access, control, or copy digital assets and accounts.  Typically such accounts – Facebook, e-mails, tweets and other on-line accounts – are governed by the contract created by the user of the account and the provider of the service without any reference to fiduciaries. Under the bill, fiduciary means a personal representative, guardian, agent acting pursuant to a power of attorney, trustee or advisor.    In essence, the bill would enable a fiduciary to “step into the shoes” of the account holder.  The fiduciary could take action that the account holder can take and would be bound by the same limitations of the account holder. While opponents of this bill cited concerns about the privacy of the account holder, as we collectively become more and more engaged in electronic communications and transactions, it is becoming increasingly apparent that those who are entrusted with managing our affairs – the fiduciaries we count on to perform tasks on our behalf – can encounter significant obstacles in dealing with on line transactions.  For example, in estate administration,...