The Federal Law of Property: The Case of Inheritance Disclaimers and Tenancy by the Entireties

By Carlson, David Gray | Washington and Lee Law Review, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

The Federal Law of Property: The Case of Inheritance Disclaimers and Tenancy by the Entireties


Carlson, David Gray, Washington and Lee Law Review


Table of Contents

I. Introduction .......................................................................... 4

II. Tax Law .............................................................................. 14

A. Ancient History ............................................................ 15

B. Rodgers ......................................................................... 16

C. Drye .............................................................................. 24

D. Craft.............................................................................. 29

1. The Federal Bundle of State Sticks ...................... 41

2. The Partnership Analogy ...................................... 44

III. Bankruptcy Law ................................................................. 60

A. Disclaimers ................................................................... 62

1. Prepetition Disclaimers ......................................... 63

2. Postpetition Disclaimers........................................ 81

B. Tenancy by the Entireties ........................................... 87

1. Into the Estate and Out ......................................... 89

2. Severance of the Tenancy ...................................... 93

3. Wholly or Partially Exempt? ................................. 98

4. Cases Where Joint Creditors Are Present .......... 105

5. The Trustee's Subrogation to Joint Claims ......................................................... 113

6. The Debtor's Interest in the Proceeds of the Trustee's Sale ............................................. 119

7. Priority for the Joint Creditors ........................... 121

8. The Paradox of an Over-EncumberedTenancy by the Entirety ...................................... 129

9. The Shadow Bankruptcy ..................................... 131

a. Creditor Claims .............................................. 133

b. Surplus and Subrogation ............................... 140

c. Double Dipping ............................................... 141

d. Avoidance Actions ......................................... 146

i. Voidable Preferences ................................ 146

ii. Fraudulent Conveyances .......................... 151

iii. Post-Petition Conveyances ....................... 153

iv. Lien Stripping ........................................... 154

e. Disclaiming the Tenancy as an Exemption .................................................. 157

10. Fraudulent Tenancies by the Entireties ............. 167

11. Deadline for Objecting ......................................... 174

12. Future Interests ................................................... 183

a. Tennessee ........................................................ 184

b. Illinois ............................................................. 188

c. Massachusetts ................................................ 199

13. Divorce and Death ............................................... 202

14. Joint Cases ........................................................... 214

IV. Conclusion ........................................................................ 220

I. Introduction

Federal statutes often invoke the word "property" without defining it. For example, according to the Internal Revenue Code, "[I]f any person liable to pay any tax neglects . . . to pay . . . the amount . . . shall be a lien in favor of the United States upon all property and rights to property, whether real or personal, belonging to such person."1

The Bankruptcy Code often invokes the word "property." A very prominent example:

The commencement of a case under [the Bankruptcy Code] creates an estate. Such estate is comprised of all the following property, wherever located and by whomever held:

(1) Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c)(2) of this section, all legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property as of the commencement of the case. …

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