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Important Change to Vermont Family Law Enacted

Langrock Sperry & Wool attorney Susan Murray was instrumental in getting the Vermont legislature to pass a bill, S. 31, which will clarify the rights of divorcing spouses to each other’s inheritances. In late 2011, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that a divorcing spouse’s “likely future inheritance” could be considered by the family court in dividing the marital assets. This ruling created a variety of financial and invasion-of-privacy problems. Divorcing spouses began demanding copies of wills and trusts and net worth statements from their soon-to-be ex-in-laws. Parents of divorcing parties (as well as aunts, uncles, and grandparents!) were forced to hire lawyers to change their estate plans and to fight requests that they produce private information about their assets. The new law, which will be effective July 1, 2013, protects people who are not parties to a divorce from having to divulge personal information about their assets and estate plans. It also prohibits family court judges from speculating as to the amount a divorcing spouse “might” inherit in the future, and it makes it clear that a “possible” future inheritance is not a marital asset and cannot be divided like other marital assets.

Susan spent hours meeting privately with legislators to explain the problems caused by the Vermont Supreme Court’s ruling, and she also organized a successful petition, signed by over 100 family law and estate planning lawyers, asking the legislature to fix the problems cause by the Supreme Court. Susan also testified several times at the State House, and helped to draft the legislation that was ultimately passed into law.

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