Are tuition payments for an adult child's education, while the parents are insolvent, constructively fraudulent? As the WSJ reported this week, Bankruptcy Judge Hoffman (D. Mass.) recently held that they are not. But other courts have disagreed. In fact, there seem to be courts on both sides of this (although apparently, no circuit decisions yet).
In this latest case, In re Palladino, the debtors made tuition payments for their adult daughter's college education. There was no question that the debtors were insolvent when they made payments or that they did so within the last two years. The only question was whether the debtors received "reasonably equivalent value" (REV) under section 548 of the Bankruptcy Code (and Massachusett's UFTA). That section defines value as "property, or satisfaction or securing of a present or antecedent debt of the debtor, but does not include an unperformed promise to furnish support to the debtor or to a relative of the debtor." 548 (a)(2)(A). Courts have interpreted REV as requiring an economic benefit, which could be indirect, but has to be "concrete" and "quantifiable."
Here, the court explained that
[The Palladinos] believed that a financially self-sufficient daughter offered them an economic benefit and that a college degree would directly contribute to financial self-sufficiency. I find that motivation to be concrete and quantifiable enough ... A parent can reasonably assume that paying for a child to obtain an undergraduate degree will enhance the financial well-being of the child which in turn will confer an economic benefit on the parent. This, it seems to me, constitutes a quid pro quo that is reasonable and reasonable equivalence is all that is required.
Opn. at 8 (emphasis mine).