Friday, July 19, 2019
The New Jersey Supreme Court issued an opinion for publication on May 6 in Woylas v. Greenwood Tree Experts, Inc. The state's highest court upheld the decision of the lower courts to side with an ex-wife against her former husband's estate after he had committed suicide.
Timothy and Christina had entered a Marital Settlement Agreement at the culmination of their divorce in which Timothy was required to pay alimony and child support for 12 years, secured by a life insurance policy in the event of his death. But two year later Timothy committed suicide, which under the exception clause voided the insurance policy. Christina sued his estate, claiming it is liable because Timothy breached their Agreement. The trial court and appellate courts both agreed. The administratrix petitioned the New Jersey Supreme Court, which affirmed. The man's obligation to his ex-wife exceeded the value of his estate, so the court ruled that all of the assets would be sold and the proceeds given to Christina.
By being approved for publication, the decision assumes precedential value and guidance to lawyers in terms of drafting precise Marital Settlement Agreements to ameliorate such problems as described above.
See Divorce, Suicide, and Life Insurance, National Law Review, July 16, 2019.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.