December 12, 2017

Colorado Court of Appeals: Payment Obligation Under Marital Agreement Terminates at Death of Either Party

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re Estate of Williams on Thursday, September 7, 2017.

Dissolution of Marriage—Premarital Agreement—Separation Agreement—Maintenance—Estate.

Husband and wife executed a premarital agreement providing that husband would pay wife “during her lifetime” and wife would be entitled to receive from husband “during her lifetime” monthly payments on the filing of a petition for dissolution. In exchange for the monthly payments, wife waived maintenance. Husband and wife’s marriage ended in 1996, and husband consistently made monthly payments to wife under their separation agreement until his death. When husband’s estate refused to continue making the payments, wife filed the underlying action. The district court ruled that the premarital and separation agreements obligated the estate to continue making the monthly payments to wife until her death or remarriage. The court also awarded wife attorney fees and costs under the prevailing party provisions of the agreements.

On appeal, the estate contended that the district court erred in ruling that husband’s obligation under the premarital and separation agreements to make monthly payments to wife survived his death as an obligation of his estate. The premarital and separation agreements reflect agreement regarding the duration of the monthly payments relative to the life or marital status of the wife, but say nothing about what would happen on husband’s death. The separation agreement also released the parties and their estates from claims and demands. Therefore, husband’s personal obligation to pay ended when he died, absent a clear indication to the contrary, which neither the premarital nor separation agreement provided.

The estate also contended that the district court erroneously awarded wife attorney fees and costs and that it should have been awarded its own attorney fees under the prevailing party provisions of the agreements. The Colorado Court of Appeals agreed.

The order and judgments were reversed and the case was remanded with directions.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.