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Indiana Court of Appeals: Unsigned settlement agreement not enforceable upon death
Posted in Estate Planning

On October 12, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that a drafted property settlement agreement prepared in a divorce case could not be enforced because the wife did not sign the agreement before she died. In the case of Dwight Murdock v. Estate of Sharron K. Murdock, the Court of Appeals held that the draft agreement could not be enforced because Sharron Murdock, who passed away, had not signed it, and that the court had not yet approved the agreement. Dwight Murdock filed for divorce in 2007. Six months later, his wife, Sharron Murdock, passed away. A property settlement agreement had been drafted prior to her death, but she had not signed it. Dwight Murdock and each of their attorneys had signed the agreement. According to Sharon Murdock’s attorney, she intended to sign it. A dispute came up in probate court between Dwight Murdock and two of the couple’s children. After a hearing, the probate court determined that the property settlement agreement was enforceable. However, the probate court reserved for a future ruling whether or not Dwight Murdock had forfeited his right to inherit his wife’s estate by filing for divorce. He appealed. The Court of Appeals noted that divorce filings generally terminate upon death of a spouse, and that none of the recognized exceptions to that rule applied. The issue then became whether or not the unsigned property agreement was enforceable. The Court of Appeals found that an agreement that had not been fully executed, nor approved by the Court, could be enforced. However, Sharron Murdock’s intent to sign the agreement was not sufficient to make it enforceable after her death. Thus, the matter was reversed. It was remanded to the probate court to determine whether Dwight Murdock’s divorce filing would cause him to forfeit the right to inherit his wife’s estate. For more information about property settlement agreements, contact the Estate Planning Practice Group at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP.

To learn more about Michael Kohlhaas and his practice, please visit his profile.

  • Partner

    Mike is a partner in Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP’s Estate Planning Department. The Estate Planning Department seamlessly coordinates and executes a wide array of legal services that cater to the unique needs of high ...

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