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Marital Contracts Can Affect Your Estate Long-Term: What You Need to Know Before You Sign


Most people under most circumstances are perfectly free and able to make and execute an estate plan that perfectly reflects their wishes. However, when one is drafting their last will and testament, they need to keep in mind that the terms of a last will and testament do not act to supersede outside contractual agreements or conditions that bind the testator. But what does this really mean? This article will discuss a recent Florida court case that illustrates this matter.

A Contract is a Contract

Several legal constructs exist that act as contracts within a marital relationship. For example, most are familiar with the concept of a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement. The idea behind these constructs is that certain terms are laid out that bind both parties in the case of an eventual split. A marital settlement agreement can be thought of in a similar way – the terms of the agreement are a contract. Just as one would expect parties to be bound to the terms of a valid and binding prenuptial agreement, parties are expected to be bound to the terms of a marital settlement agreement.

Estate Planning and Haskin v. Haskin

Where estate planning and the validity of marital-related contracts may come into play is perfectly illustrated in the recent court case of Haskin v. Haskin. To understand this case, the reader must go back half a century –  the testator of a will married his first wife in the 1950s. The couple went on to have four children together, before ultimately divorcing a dozen or so years later.

As part of their marital settlement agreement, which was incorporated into their final divorce decree and entered by an official court, the testator at issue was required to “promptly make and execute” a will that leaves at least fifty percent of his net estate to any of his “then living children.”

The testator went on to re-marry and father an additional child with his new wife. The testator also adopted his second wife’s child. Over 40 years after the marital settlement agreement described above was signed and entered into the court records, the testator signed a new will. Despite the provisions in the marital settlement agreement, this new will disinherited three of his four children from the first marriage and, allegedly, was in violation of the marital settlement agreement.

After the testator passed away and this newer will was entered into probate, the decedent’s three disinherited children filed suit and sought specific performance of the rights laid out in the marital settlement agreement. A Florida trial court granted summary judgment to the three disinherited children.

On appeal, the majority held that the decedent had, in fact, agreed to leave 50% of his estate to the four children. While the widow argued that the decedent had the right to later remove the children from his will, the majority rejected this argument.

Contact Suncoast Civil Law

No matter the probate or estate law issue you may be facing, the experienced Sarasota probate litigation lawyers at Suncoast Civil Law know how to navigate you through the complexities of Florida probate law toward your most positive case outcome. Contact our office today to begin speaking with our team.