In a recent National Law Journal article entitled "A New Twist: Divorce After Death" there was an interesting discussion regarding posthumous divorces in light of recent probate law changes and a handful of unusual lawsuits that deal with spouses who died during divorce proceedings. I have written before about the often close connection between probate litigation and divorce proceedings (see here and here). The linked-to article simply underscores how high the stakes can be in the probate context when estate planning issues are not immediately addressed after a divorce (better yet, during the divorce proceeding). Here is an excerpt from the linked-to story:
In Pennsylvania, an attorney is seeking a first-of-its kind posthumous divorce settlement following the death of her client — a dentist who was killed in his home in April, the night before he was to sign divorce papers. Yelenic v. Yelenic, No. 10944 (Indiana Co., Pa., Ct. C.P. 2003).
In Connecticut, divorce proceedings are still alive in the case of Andrew Kissel, a millionaire developer who was found murdered in his Greenwich home in April, nearly a year after his wife filed for divorce. Millions of dollars are at stake. Kissel v. Kissel, No. FST-FA-05-4003907-S (Stanford, Conn., Super. Ct.).
Posthumous divorce litigation and revised probate laws has prompted family law expert Jonathan W. Wolfe to issue a word of warning to his clients.
"If you have a will, it has to be changed immediately. And if you don’t have a will, you need to have one … because you are now in a position in your life where you don’t want your separate assets to go to the person you’re trying to divorce," said Wolfe, who chairs the family law committee for the American Bar Association’s General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division.