In Estate of Jon den Hollander, an interesting question arose regarding a court order restricting a separated spouse from dissipating marital assets. This order is often established to prevent the deprivation of one’s spouse of equitable distribution. What if the separated husband dies before the divorce is finalized with a will directing his assets to those other than his spouse? Would that be considered, “dissipating marital assets” and therefore be in violation of the court order?
Jon Hollender, who owned Hollander Greenhouses, L.L.C., had been separated from his wife Arlene for about two years when he died in 2009. The Court had previously issued a consent order that stated “Neither party shall dissipate any marital assets” when they were separated. Arlene sought a declaration invalidating provisions of Jon’s will and testament, which bequeathed “any marital assets” to a trust for the benefit of his mother and sister, claiming that it violated the court order. The trial court accepted her argument. When the case reached the Appellate Court, however, the trial court’s ruling was overturned. The Court’s reason for upholding the will was that “Equitable distribution is a statutory remedy that is not available on the death of a spouse,” and is available only when a “judgment of divorce is entered.” In other words, even if Jon’s intent was in fact to divert the assets from Arlene it is irrelevant because the remedy of equitable distribution does not apply after death. For a more detailed summary of the case, click here Estate of Jon Hollander