Promises, Promises was, of course, a classic Broadway musical with music by Burt Bacharach, lyrics by Hal David, and book by Neil Simon. For baseball fans this group represents, like the 1927 Yankees, a veritable “murderers’ row” of genius. It introduced classic songs like “I Say a Little Prayer,” “A House Is Not a Home,”  “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” and “Promises, Promises,” all immortalized by the great Dionne Warrick.

So what does this have to do with divorce agreements and estates of deceased ex-spouses? Enough to warrant a blog entry.  The Moneyist is a useful, well-written, and regular feature of the investment website MarketWatch. It is written by Quentin Fottrell. The topic of a recent article was: “My father’s divorce decree says his kids will inherit his house — but he later put it in a trust for his third wife. Which one wins out?” (The article is linked below.)

This fact pattern is a familiar one and it plays out in a variety of scenarios and many of those scenarios would create an estate obligation to give the house (or its date of death market value) to the decedent’s children from the first marriage. Most frequently, one sees a dispute about an obligation in a divorce setting that requires the decedent to maintain life insurance for his or her ex-spouse or children. Before the ink on the divorce decree is dry, the obligated spouse lets the life insurance policy lapse. (A marriage may be a mere mortal thing, but bitterness and spite live forever.) Years later, when that obligated ex-spouse dies, the beneficiaries ask for their insurance proceeds only to find there are none. Do they have a valid claim against the estate? In New York, and under the right circumstances, they do.

Interested in some relevant cases on point? See these links:

New York Law Cases

Rogers vs. Rogers Law Case

See this link for the MarketWatch article: