New Jersey Court Decides Important Case Involving Second Marriages, Premarital Agreements and Estate Death Issues

APPELLATE DIVISION RULES ON SPOUSAL ELECTIVE SHARE RIGHTS UNDER A PREMARITAL CONTRACT

The New Jersey Appellate Division on June 20, 2007, decided that a widow’s premarital waiver of an elective share to the Estate of her late husband was void when the underlying premarital contract was found unenforceable.

In a case between a step-parent and the children of the decedent, the issued involved the enforceability of the steps-parents’ rights to inherit a portion of her late husband’s estate, even though she had waived her rights to the estate before her marriage. The Court found that because of the requirements of N.J.S.A. 3B:8-10 and N.J.S.A. 37:2-30, the premarital agreement could not be enforced and, therefore, plaintiff’s waiver was unenforceable.

Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann, a Freehold New Jersey law firm commented that this decision points out the extreme caution and adherence to form and substance that must be followed by individuals who contemplate second and/or successive marriages and who want to protect their estate for the benefit of their children. Mr. Niemann cautions that without a carefully prepared pre-marital agreement, “Older, financially successful men and women must be aware of the significant, almost enormous risks to them should the marriage fail. By consulting with a qualified attorney, the individual can take meaningful steps to protect their life’s savings for the benefit of all who are intended to receive it.”

Mr. Niemann is a partner of Hanlon Niemann, P.C. and directs the firm’s business and estate/elder law practice group. The case referred to is In The Estate of Shenn, A-3819-05T5.

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