Yiatchos v. Yiatchos, 376 U.S. 306 (1964)
U.S. Supreme CourtYiatchos v. Yiatchos, 376 U.S. 306 (1964)
Yiatchos v. Yiatchos
Argued January 7, 1964
Decided March 9, 1964
376 U.S. 306
Husband, who resided in a community property state, purchased with community funds United States Savings Bonds registered in his name with his brother, the petitioner, named as beneficiary. The husband's will left all cash and bonds to petitioner, four sisters, and a nephew. Petitioner sued to establish ownership of the savings bonds, relying on 31 CFR § 315.66, providing that, on the registered owner's death, the beneficiary will be recognized as owner. The State Supreme Court, affirming the judgment of the lower court that half the savings bonds were to go to the wife, and the other half under the will, held that the husband's purchase of such bonds out of community funds constituted "constructive fraud" of the wife's rights.
Held: Under 31 CFR § 315.66, petitioner, in accordance with Free v. Bland, 369 U. S. 663, must be recognized as owner of all the savings bonds unless their purchase by the husband was a fraud on his wife's property rights or a breach of trust with respect thereto -- concerning which the case is remanded for establishment of the facts; but, in any event, petitioner is entitled to one-half the savings bonds (subject to possible allocation for debts), since the husband owned a half interest in them which he could dispose of to the beneficiary of his choice. Pp. 376 U. S. 309-313.
(a) If the wife consented to or ratified the bond purchase, there was no fraud. P. 376 U. S. 310.
(b) If, under state law, a widow's half interest is in the estate generally, rather than in each asset thereof, all the savings bonds must go to petitioner, since they constituted less than half of the gross estate; otherwise, and in the absence of the widow's consent or ratification, she is entitled to one-half the savings bonds, and petitioner the other. Pp. 376 U. S. 310-312.