A Premarital Agreement Executed Before a Will and Codicil Does Apply to the Subsequent Documents

Posted on April 9, 2018

In Smith v. Smith, 232 So. 3d 509 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017), the Court addressed whether the waiver provisions in the premarital agreement extended to the later executed codicil and will. “A trial court’s interpretation of a prenuptial agreement is reviewed de novo, as such agreements are governed by the law of contracts.” Hahamovitch v. Hahamovitch, 174 So.3d 983, 986 (Fla. 2015) (quoting Taylor v. Taylor, 1 So.3d 348, 350 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009)). “Contract interpretation begins with a review of the plain language of the agreement because the contract language is the best evidence of the parties’ intent at the time of the execution of the contact.” Taylor, 1 So.3d at 350. “Where a contract is clear and unambiguous, it must be enforced pursuant to its plain language.” Hahamovitch, 174 So.3d at 986.

On March 5, 2009, the appellant, Katherine Anne Smith, and her husband, the decedent, entered into a premarital agreement “to refrain from any action or proceeding to void or nullify to any extent the probate of or the terms of any last will and testament or trust or testamentary substitute created by the other so long as the rights of the surviving party under the terms of this Agreement are not abridged by any such instrument.” On May 28, 2013, the appellant’s husband died. The decedent’s last will and first codicil named the appellees co-representatives and set up a marital trust for the appellant. On September 11, 2013, the appellant filed a claim against the estate pursuant to the premarital agreement, which provided for the purchase of the marital home by the estate from the appellant and a lump sum payment of $500,000.00. This triggered the premarital agreement, therefore prohibiting the appellant to void or nullify any extent of the probate or the terms of the will. On November 2, 2015, the appellant filed an amended petition asking the court to remove the co-personal representatives due to alleged breaches of fiduciary duty in regards to the marital trust. The petition also alleged that the premarital agreement did not apply to the subsequently executed will and codicil. The appellees filed a motion to dismiss, which the court granted with leave to amend. On January 28, 2016, the appellant filed a second amended petition asking to remove the co-personal representatives, but omitted any mention of the premarital agreement. In response, appellees filed another motion to dismiss as well as a motion to strike, which asserted that the removal of the reference to the premarital agreement constituted a sham to avoid a subsequent dismissal. The trial court entered an order both striking and dismissing with prejudice appellant’s claim seeking removal of the co-personal representatives. Appellant filed an appeal.

The First District Court of Appeals determined that the language of the premarital agreement clearly contemplated any and all future wills and codicils, and therefore appellant is barred from removing the co-personal representatives because that would nullify the terms of the will. The Court also determined the trial court did not err in striking the appellant’s claim as a sham. The court may grant the motion “only if the material facts are not in dispute and only if the pleading is not supported by the facts.” Philip J. Padovano, Florida Civil Practice, § 7:12 (2016–2017 ed.) Here, appellant’s second amended complaint removed all references to the premarital agreement—an agreement that was the basis for the trial court’s prior dismissal of appellant’s claim seeking removal of the co-personal representatives. The First District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision.

If you or anyone you know is in need of representation in actions involving Guardianship, Probate, and/or Trust Disputes, or questions pertaining to such proceedings, please contact the Law Offices of Glenn M. Mednick, P.L., at (954) 315-1154 or gmednick@mednicklawgroup.com.

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