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Pfannenstiehl v. Pfannenstiehl, Case Nos. 13-P-906, 13-686, and 13-P-1385, 2015 Mass. App. (August 27, 2015)

In this case the husband’s interest in a multi-million dollar irrevocable totally discretionary spendthrift trust established by his father was held to be included in the marital estate under G.L. c. 208, § 34. The Appeals Court pointed to the fact that the husband received significant distributions from the trust during the marriage and the family’s routine expenses and lifestyle were funded in large part from those distributions. Also central to the Court’s decision was that the trust distributions to the husband, but not other beneficiaries, ceased at the exact time that divorce proceedings began. The Court saw this as an attempt to shield the husband’s interest in the trust from his wife.

The Court found that the pattern of distribution contradicted the husband’s attempt to apply the spendthrift provision as an argument that the trust should be excluded from the marital estate. The Court further determined that the support language of the trust (the trustee had total discretion to use trust principal or income for a beneficiary’s “comfortable support, health, maintenance, welfare and education” created a “present enforceable right to distributions” for the husband, because a beneficiary would have an action against the trustee for non-support.