Alimony & Spousal Support


In the family law and estate law appellate case of In Real Estate of Talerico, PICS, Case No. 16-0386 (Pa. Super. March 18 2016) The Honorable Jack A. Panella, writing on behalf of the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the trail court properly dismissed appellant separated husband’s petition to strike decedent’s sister’s claims to decedents estate where husband and decedent had separated and begun the divorce proceedings prior to her death because appellant had forfeited his right to share in decedent’s estate due to his extramarital affairs during the separation.

Decedent and appellant married in 2006 and resided in a house owned solely by decedent. In 2010, appellant moved out of the house. In 2011, decedent began divorce proceedings, though the divorce was not finalized prior to her death in 2014. After she died appellant was granted letters of administration. Decedent’s sister filed a notice of claim against the estate. Appellant filed a petition to dismiss the sister’s claims, arguing that he and the decedent were married at the time of the decedent’s death. Sister maintained that appellant had fortified his claims as surviving spouse pursuant to 20 Pa C.S.A. 2106(a) due to his post-separation and post-divorce commencement conduct.  She asserted that his admitted extramarital affairs instituted a forfeiture of any rights he had to an instate share of the decedent’s estate. The orphans court denied the appellants motion, and he appealed.

 On appeal, appellant argued that the trial court erred in concluding that willful and malicious desertion was satisfied solely by extramarital affairs engaged in during separation by both decedent and appellant where they were physically separated for a just cause and there was no other evidence of willful and malicious desertion.  The court found that, based on In re Archer’s Estate and In re Carter’s Estate, the orphan’s court did not abuse this discretion. Appellant’s extramarital affairs gave rise to an interference of willful and malicious desertion that the appellant failed to rebut. Appellant’s assertion that decedent was first to engage in extramarital affairs was irrelevant to the court’s analysis. The court found the separation of spouses, although not finalized by divorce, had to be given effect following the death of the spouse. Furthermore  6111.1 of the probate code showed a clear legislative intent that a spouse’s  death in no way invalidated  a separation and pending divorce contemplated by the spouse’s prior to that death.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 39 PLW 325 (April 5, 2016)

Filed Under: Forfeiture; Spousal Share, Willful and Malicious Spouses; Extra Marital Affairs

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