California Private Retirement Plans
Post-Distribution Exemption-Tracing Issues
of California Private Retirement Plan
California law at CCP § 703.080 provides for the "tracing" of exempt funds, i.e., an exemption for an asset follows the funds deriving from the asset so long as they can be uniquely identified as having come from the exempt asset. The statute provides in toto:
CCP § 703.080
(a) Subject to any limitation provided in the particular exemption, a fund that is exempt remains exempt to the extent that it can be traced into deposit accounts or in the form of cash or its equivalent.
(b) The exemption claimant has the burden of tracing an exempt fund.
(c) The tracing of exempt funds in a deposit account shall be by application of the lowest intermediate balance principle unless the exemption claimant or the judgment creditor shows that some other method of tracing would better serve the interests of justice and equity under the circumstances of the case.
Notice that the statute is limited to "fund". Once exempt, traced moneys are converted into something other than a fund or another exempt asset, the exemption is forever lost. Example: Mary receives a $50,000 distribution from her California Private Retirement Plan and places it into a bank account which holds only and exclusively the moneys which she received from the Plan; the account and the $50,000 are exempt from creditors. Mary later uses the $50,000 to purchase a luxury automobile with the funds; the exemption under the tracing statute is lost, and Mary will receive only the minimal $4,800 exemption against the value of the automobile when it is levied and sold at a Sheriff's sale, i.e., Mary will get a check from the Sheriff for $4,800 and the balance (less the costs of the auction) will go to Mary's creditors.
The use of the tracing statute of CCP § 703.080 as applied to transfers involving California Private Retirement Plans, is addressed in the following court opinions:
TEXT OF CCP § 704.115
California Code of Civil Procedure § 704.115.
(a) As used in this section, “private retirement plan” means:
(1) Private retirement plans, including, but not limited to, union retirement plans.
(2) Profit-sharing plans designed and used for retirement purposes.
(3) Self-employed retirement plans and individual retirement annuities or accounts provided for in the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, including individual retirement accounts qualified under Section 408 or 408A of that code, to the extent the amounts held in the plans, annuities, or accounts do not exceed the maximum amounts exempt from federal income taxation under that code.
(b) All amounts held, controlled, or in process of distribution by a private retirement plan, for the payment of benefits as an annuity, pension, retirement allowance, disability payment, or death benefit from a private retirement plan are exempt.
(c) Notwithstanding subdivision (b), where an amount described in subdivision (b) becomes payable to a person and is sought to be applied to the satisfaction of a judgment for child, family, or spousal support against that person:
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the amount is exempt only to the extent that the court determines under subdivision (c) of Section 703.070.
(2) If the amount sought to be applied to the satisfaction of the judgment is payable periodically, the amount payable is subject to an earnings assignment order for support as defined in Section 706.011 or any other applicable enforcement procedure, but the amount to be withheld pursuant to the assignment order or other procedure shall not exceed the amount permitted to be withheld on an earnings withholding order for support under Section 706.052.
(d) After payment, the amounts described in subdivision (b) and all contributions and interest thereon returned to any member of a private retirement plan are exempt.
(e) Notwithstanding subdivisions (b) and (d), except as provided in subdivision (f), the amounts described in paragraph (3) of subdivision (a) are exempt only to the extent necessary to provide for the support of the judgment debtor when the judgment debtor retires and for the support of the spouse and dependents of the judgment debtor, taking into account all resources that are likely to be available for the support of the judgment debtor when the judgment debtor retires. In determining the amount to be exempt under this subdivision, the court shall allow the judgment debtor such additional amount as is necessary to pay any federal and state income taxes payable as a result of the applying of an amount described in paragraph (3) of subdivision (a) to the satisfaction of the money judgment.
(f) Where the amounts described in paragraph (3) of subdivision (a) are payable periodically, the amount of the periodic payment that may be applied to the satisfaction of a money judgment is the amount that may be withheld from a like amount of earnings under Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 706.010) (Wage Garnishment Law). To the extent a lump-sum distribution from an individual retirement account is treated differently from a periodic distribution under this subdivision, any lump-sum distribution from an account qualified under Section 408A of the Internal Revenue Code shall be treated the same as a lump-sum distribution from an account qualified under Section 408 of the Internal Revenue Code for purposes of determining whether any of that payment may be applied to the satisfaction of a money judgment.
Published Court Opinions regarding California private retirement plans:
In re Daniel, 771 F.2d 1352 (9th Cir., 1985).
In re Bloom, 839 F.2d 1376 (9th Cir., 1988).
In re Crosby, 162 B.R. 276 (Bk.C.D.Cal., 1993).
Yaesu Electronics Corp. v. Tamura, 28 Cal.App.4th 8, 33 Cal.Rptr.2d 283 (1994).
Schwartzman v. Wilshinsky, 50 Cal.App.4th 619, 57 Cal.Rptr.2d 790 (1996).
In re Friedman, 220 B.R. 670 (9th Cir.B.A.P., 1998).
In re Phillips, 206 B.R. 196 (Bk.N.D.Cal., 1997).
In re Stern, 345 F.3d 1036 (9th Cir., 2003).
McMullen v. Haycock, 147 Cal.App.4th 753, 54 Cal.Rptr. 3d 660 (2007).
In re Rucker, 570 F.3d 1155 (9th Cir., 2009).
In re Segovia, 404 B.R. 896 (2009).
In re Simpson, 557 F.3d 1010 (2009).
In re Beverly, 374 B.R. 221 (9th Cir., B.A.P., 2011).
Marriage of La Moure, 221 Cal.App.4th 1463, 15 Cal.Rptr.3d 417 (2013).
Salameh v. Tarsadia Hotel, 2015 WL 6028927 (S.D.Cal., 2015).
Only published court opinions are included; non-published opinions are not useful as legal precedent and should not be relied upon for any purpose.
ARTICLES ON CALIFORNIA PRIVATE RETIREMENT PLANS
The California Private Retirement Plan: Separating Fact From Fiction (Jay Adkisson, Forbes.com, Dec. 28, 2015).
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