Flynn’s bill clarifying rights to marital assets and estate when a spouse dies amid divorce now law

Flynn’s bill clarifying rights to marital assets and estate when a spouse dies amid divorce now law

Assemblywoman Victoria Flynn

TRENTON, N.J. – When someone passes away without a will in New Jersey, the burden on families and next of kin can be difficult to manage. These situations become even more complicated when a person who dies without a will happens to be in the middle of a divorce. Seeing that, Assemblywoman Victoria Flynn set out to rectify these issues and bring about some closure to families.

On Monday, Flynn’s bill (A2351) helping families to resolve conflicts by clarifying the rights of the surviving spouses in a divorce proceeding was signed into law.

“In the rare circumstance a spouse dies before a judge signs off on the divorce, it is important to preserve the agreed upon distribution of assets. This law will avoid lengthy legal battles and clarify what surviving spouses, children and parents are entitled to inherit,” Assemblywoman Flynn (R-Monmouth) said. “Surviving spouses in divorce proceedings in New Jersey have either received everything or nothing. This is a fairer process.”

In the 1990 court case of Carr v. Carr, the husband died during divorce proceedings and the wife could not claim rights to his estate or the pending spousal support. She never received an equitable distribution of the marital assets because the divorce ended with the husband’s death, and she had no way to inherit an elective share of his estate because they lived separately.

In the 2018 case of Acosta-Santana v. Santana, a husband died in the middle of the divorce proceedings, although a draft settlement would have given each party half the marital assets. However, since the divorce was not finalized, the wife received approximately $600,000 more than she would have, because she was beneficiary of the marital home, the life insurance policy, his retirement benefits and all jointly-owned accounts.

The law ensures that a surviving spouse or civil union partner would receive the distribution of assets as described in the pending divorce settlement agreement or a portion of their property.

“It is important to honor the intentions of both parties before the unfortunate and unexpected occurred. Death and divorce are very difficult even without having to jump through legal hurdles. Coming to a quicker resolution is better for the surviving spouse and loved ones,” concluded Flynn.