Property Exam Question Part II: Terminator 2

June 23rd, 2017

My property exam this year was based on the first two installments in the Terminator series. Check the A+ answer.

Part 2 (50%)

Instructions: John has hired you to represent him in a series of property disputes involving his family. Several of these issues arose in 1984, before John was even born. Other issues arose in 1993, 1994, and 1995. Finally, one last issue arose in 2029. All relevant events took place in California, which employs a community property regime, and follows the modern trend in property law, as articulated in the Restatement (Second) of Property. Please prepare a memorandum of no more than 1,000 words addressing the five property issues involved in this case. (Please note that this question continues from the fact pattern in Part I).

On August 13, 1984, both Terminator and Arnold arrive in Los Angeles, after traveling back in time from 2029.

Upon his arrival, Terminator stole a motorcycle parked outside a bar. Soon Arnold confronted Terminator and said “Only one of us can live.” Following an epic battle, Arnold pinned Terminator on the ground, and was about to strike his final blow. Arnold asked, “Can I have your motorcycle.” Terminator replied, “You can take it from my cold dead hands.” At that moment, Arnold unplugged Terminator’s battery, shutting down the robot. Arnold said, “As you wish,” and took the motorcycle and rode off.

Sarah and Arnold immediately fall in love, and are married the following day on August 14, 1984. The couple does not sign a prenuptial agreement.

In 1980, Sarah had acquired Blackacre for the price of $10,000 on a ten-year installment plan Annual payments of $1,000 were to be made January 1st of 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1989.

Following their wedding, Sarah executes the following conveyance:

Blackacre, from Sarah to Sarah and Arnold as joint tenants, and when our first child is born, he will be a tenant in common.

The couple consummates their marriage, and nine months later, their first child is born. They name him John, knowing that he will grow up to lead the resistance after Judgment Day.

After the marriage, Sarah continues making the annual payments, with the final payment being made on January 1, 1989.

However, Arnold runs into money problems. In 1993, without telling Sarah, he puts a mortgage on Blackacre. Arnold fails to pay his bills, and the bank moves to foreclose on Blackacre. When Sarah finds out about the mortgage, she throws Arnold out of the house. He replies, “I’ll be back.” And indeed he would. One week later, Arnold returned to Blackacre, and opened a shooting range in the backyard. Sarah objected to the opening of the range. All the while, John continued to live in the house of Blackacre. Sarah pays off the balance of the mortgage, but is furious at Arnold.

In 1994, the marriage finally deteriorates. Arnold files for divorce from Sarah. They agree that Sarah will maintain sole custody of John, but disagree over the ownership of Blackacre. The court finalizes the divorce, and schedules a forced sale of Blackacre. During the auction, an anonymous buyer acquires the property for $10,000. The court schedules a hearing to decide how to allocate the proceeds of the sale.

In 1995, things took a turn for the worse. Arnold thought he had terminated Terminator a decade earlier, but he did not. Somehow, Terminator’s battery managed to plug itself back in, reactivating the robot. Terminator enters Blackacre, and finds the motorcycle he had stolen outside the bar.  Terminator drives the motorcycle at full speed into Arnold, piercing his cyber-lungs. However, the impact is so great that Terminator flies off the motorcycle into a hot furnace, where the robot burns into a pile of ash. Arnold will not live long. With his last breath, Arnold tells John, “You can have my motorcycle when I die.” Arnold then activates his time machine, and returns to the year 2029, where he dies.

Sarah tells John that she was the anonymous buyer, and now owns Blackacare in fee simple. On August 13, 1995, Sarah takes a polaroid of her and John, and scribbles on the back:

“From Sarah, to my son John so long as your father is alive, you will live on Blackacre, but if you abandon Blackacare, then Blackacare will go to your father, but if your father is dead, the land will return to your mother and her heirs.”

Sarah secures the polaroid in a safe, connected to a timer, that will not open until 2029. She writes the conveyance, knowing that the Arnold of the future will find it, and give it to John.

Two years later in 1997, Sarah is killed on judgment day.

Please prepare a memorandum of no more than 1,000 words addressing five property issues involved in this dispute.

  1. Assess the title of Blackacre in 1993 after the shooting range is opened, with respect to Sarah, Arnold, and John.
  2. How should the court divide the $10,000 of installment payments that were made towards the acquisition of Blackacre between Sarah and Arnold?
  3. Assess the title of the motorcycle in 1995 with respect to John, Terminator’s estate, and Arnold’s estate.
  4. In light of the facts presented in Part II, identify all relevant present and future interests of Blackacre in 2029 after Arnold’s death. (Note that this answer should be different from your answer to Question 4 in Part I).
  5. In light of all of the legal difficulties that resulted from the joint property held by Sarah and Arnold, why should the law provide special protections for marital property. That is, why should the state award benefits for married couples who jointly hold property?