A New York appellate court in Brooklyn recently ruled that a woman could substitute the estate of her deceased ex-husband in a post-divorce proceeding to determine an equitable distribution of property. The executor of the estate objected, claiming that the court actions ended with the husband’s death. The trial court disagreed and granted the wife’s motion. The appellate court affirmed that order in May 2015 in Charasz v. Rozenblum.
The unusual case essentially began when the husband filed for divorce in July 2010. The wife counterclaimed for divorce soon afterwards. The parties had three children, who were approximately 13, 10, and seven at the time the divorce case started. While the case was pending, the husband was diagnosed with advanced stage brain cancer in May 2012. The court granted a divorce for the husband on the ground of constructive abandonment several months later, but it reserved the division of property and other economic issues. A lengthy trial followed, beginning in late 2012 and ending in about February 2013.
After the trial ended, the husband removed the wife and children as beneficiaries on a life insurance policy and several investment accounts, reportedly worth a total of about $5 million. He designated his mother, sister, and the executor of his estate as beneficiaries, in violation of the court’s order. On March 21, 2013, before the court entered a judgment in the case, the husband committed suicide.