A recent decision emanating from the Kings County Surrogate’s Court provides another interesting application of the rules on entitlement to an elective share. In Matter of Atiram, 2009 NY Slip Op 52356(U), the petitioner sought a determination as to her right of election under EPTL 5-1.1A. She had married the decedent in 1952, but
This week, Jaclene D’Agostino discusses a recent decision on an application to determine the validity of an elective share, when the marriage had been declared void by an Article 81 court after the decedent’s death.
Continue Reading Posthumously Voided Marriage Negates Right of Election
Should a surviving spouse remain entitled to an elective share even if the marriage was procured by fraud or undue influence exercised upon the decedent, or if the decedent was incapacitated at the time of the marriage? In a recent case, Matter of Berk (20 Misc 3d 691 [Sur Ct, Kings County 2008]), the decedent’s estate opposed his widow’s notice of election alleging that circumstances of the marriage rendered it null and void ab initio, thereby eliminating her rights pursuant to EPTL 5-1.1-A. She moved for summary judgment.
The decedent died in 2006, leaving a will dated July 10, 1982. The marriage occurred almost exactly one year prior to the decedent’s death; he was 99 at the time, she was 47. Interestingly enough, the couple’s marital status had been concealed, and it was only after the decedent’s death that his family learned of the situation. According to the estate, at the time of the marriage the decedent lacked the requisite mental capacity “to understand the nature, effect and consequences of marriage, or to enter into a marriage contract” (id.). The estate further claimed that the evidence suggested that the decedent’s consent to the marriage was obtained by force, duress or fraud exercised by his widow. The Court held that even assuming the truth of these allegations, they were irrelevant on the motion for summary judgment, and granted the widow her elective share.Continue Reading Right of Election Granted Despite Evidence of a Voidable Marriage