Northern Trust Co. v. Shaw

The Northern Trust Co. v. Shaw, --- So.3d --- (Fla. 2d DCA 2016)

This decision deals with an interpretation of a surviving spouse's rights under a prenuptial agreement.  While the spouse argued that she was entitled to both $500,000 under the agreement and other assets left to her by the decedent, the personal representative felt that she was only entitled to the $500,000, and the other assets left to her by the decedent should be taken into account in satisfying that amount. The Court, relying on North Carolina contract law, ultimately felt that the personal representative's interpretation was correct.

The prenuptial agreement at issue stated that the wife would receive from the husband the sum of $500,000 from his estate.  It defined "estate" as his probate estate, any living trust created by him, as well as life insurance, individual retirement accounts, qualified and nonqualified deferred compensation plans and other assets that may pass by beneficiary designation outside of the will or trust documents.  When the decedent died, the wife received a $480,000 IRA distribution as well as tangible personal property valued at $103,996.  

The wife felt that because the agreement also stated that the decedent had a continuing opportunity to make testamentary gifts and IRA distributions to the wife as he desired, the agreement should be interpreted to allow her to receive both the $500,000 distribution and these other gifts from the decedent.  The Court disagreed, and held that the agreement does not provide her with an additional $500,000 payment when she has already received at least $500,000 in assets from the estate.

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