Equities in Divorce and Death – Again

By Doug Chalgian on April 7, 2024

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In Re E. Earl Lyden Trust is an interesting case, a published case, and has the potential to become an important case.  [Click on the name to read the case.]

Earl and Denice were married.  Denice filed for divorce.  Earl revised his estate plan and beneficiary designations so that it would all go to his kid, Hunter (and not to Denice).  When Earl died, before the divorce was final, Hunter got Earl’s property.  The property Hunter received included much of what would have been characterized as “marital property” in the divorce and would have been split between Denice and Earl per divorce law.

Denice seeks relief through a variety of equitable theories, all of which are rebuffed by the trial court and in this published opinion the trial court is affirmed by a majority of this panel of the Court of Appeals.

The Dissent

There’s a dissent.

The dissent argues that equity is available and should be employed to fix this injustice.  [Click here to read the dissent.] 

If this case becomes important, it’s because it goes to the Michigan Supreme Court and they adopt something like what the dissenting judge argues.

I’m thinking that may not be so farfetched.  After all, it was only two years ago that the MSC jumped in on the Von Greiff case and crafted (out of whole cloth) a new exception to the absent spouse rule in order to protect a party who lost her forced share when her spouse died while a divorce was pending.  This case presents similar equities and offers the MSC another chance to be touchy feely.

Finally, at the risk of putting the cart before the horse, if they did…. I mean, if they did … wouldn’t it be fine to have a current case from the MSC endorsing the broad scope of equity in probate court?



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mm By: Doug Chalgian
Doug Chalgian

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