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Ask Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC

Q:       My daughter is going through a divorce and a friend told me that in Massachusetts my son-in-law is entitled to information about MY assets in connection with their divorce – can this possibly be true? 

A:        Believe it or not, it’s true.  In Massachusetts, a divorcing spouse can subpoena the parents of his spouse for information about the size of their estate and the terms of their estate plan to learn about any inheritance his spouse may receive.  This is due to the fact that Massachusetts divorce law requires that a judge consider the likelihood that a divorcing spouse will have the opportunity to acquire assets in the future when the judge is deciding how the marital assets of the couple should be divided between them. 

The 1990 Massachusetts case which established the right of a divorcing spouse to discover information about the other spouse’s possible inheritance was the Vaughan case.  If you are subpoenaed by your son-in-law’s attorney you may be required to submit a ‘Vaughan Affidavit’ which must include:

  • the approximate value of your estate
  • a general description of provisions of your estate plan which benefit your daughter
  • the date that your estate plan was last amended

Although you do not have the legal right to refuse to comply with a subpoena requesting this information, you certainly have the right to create an estate plan which provides protection for your child’s inheritance from the claims of creditors such as a divorcing spouse, a failed business, a bankruptcy, or other lawsuits. 

If you are concerned about the vulnerability of your estate to your children’s creditors, including a divorcing spouse, make an appointment to meet with one of our attorneys to discuss the steps you can take to protect your children’s inheritance.

July, 2018

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