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Friday, March 20, 2015

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court answers certified question from federal bankruptcy court

In In the Matter of Dennis Alan Howell, a 7-page, 5-0 opinion, Chief Justice Rush writes:

Indiana law exempts life insurance policies from debtors’bankruptcy estates when the named beneficiary is “the spouse, children, or any relative dependent upon” the debtor. That language undisputedly requires that relatives other than spouses and children must be dependent on the debtor for the exemption to apply, but whether that requirement also applies to spouses and children is less clear.We accepted a certified question asking us to construe whether the “dependent upon” phrase modifies only “any relative,” or also “spouse” and “children.” The statutory language and structure standing alone are inconclusive, but all of the relevant interpretive canons indicate that we should construe “dependent upon” to modify only “any relative.” Accordingly, spouses and children need not be the debtor’s dependents for the exemption to apply. * * *

We conclude that under Indiana Code section 27-1-12-14(e), the statutory phrase “dependent upon such person” does not modify “spouse” or “children,” but only “any relative” named as beneficiary of a life-insurance policy. Any potential as-applied constitutional problems arising from that statutory directive may be addressed case by case, as Foster contemplates.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 20, 2015 01:41 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions