The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has committed to hear an appeal from a case decided by the Superior Court in August of last year. The issue on appeal is whether proceeds from the settlement of a will contest are marital property for the purposes of equitable distribution. A will contest is a lawsuit, usually brought by a family member(s) of someone who died, that contests the validity of the person’s last will. If the settlement proceeds of a will contest are marital property, the proceeds will be subject to distribution between divorcing spouses.
In the case, Strauss v. Strauss, the husband and his brother brought a lawsuit challenging the validity of their father’s last will and received their settlement proceeds prior to the husband’s divorce. The trial court held that the settlement proceeds were marital property subject to equitable distribution, but the Superior Court reversed.
The Superior Court held that the settlement proceeds from the will contest were not marital property because they were an inheritance, and Pennsylvania law treats inheritances as non-marital property. The court explained that the husband received his settlement proceeds from his father’s estate through his father’s will. The proceeds were thus an inheritance, and only the husband had a right to them.
The wife, however, has appealed the Superior Court’s decision, and the PA Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. It will be interesting to see how the high court decides this issue. Whatever the court decides will further refine the definition of marital property in Pennsylvania.
If you would like divorce advice or would like to start your divorce today, please contact Petrelli Previtera Schimmel at (215) 523-6900.