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Peck Lawsuit Highlights Nexus of Divorce and Estate Planning

Divorce records are normally sealed for 100 years, but a trust beneficiary in New York is suing to have his parents’ 40-year-old divorce records opened early, so he can determine if he’s getting his fair share of his father’s $41 million fortune.

The beneficiary, Ian Peck, is the son of the late Norman L. Peck, former owner of the Carlyle Hotel in New York City, who divorced Ian’s mother, Joan G. Peck (now also deceased) in 1976 and later married his second wife, Liliane. The elder Peck died this April at age 80, leaving a 2006 will that divides his holdings – a $29 million real estate company, $9 million in cash and securities, and a Manhattan apartment valued at $3 million – to four trust funds benefiting Liliane, his son Ian from his first marriage, and his daughter with Liliane, Dominique Peck-Meyer.

Ian Peck, well-known as the founder of Art Capital Group, petitioned the court to see whether his parents’ divorce papers contained an agreement that stipulates he is to receive a larger share of the Norman Peck estate than the will authorizes. The will was executed 30 years after the divorce was settled.

This case brings up two important points for divorced couples:

  • Children from a first marriage can lose a substantial part of their inheritance if parents do not take the proper estate planning steps to protect them.
  • Divorce and remarriage can change your testamentary wishes, and you must update your documents to reflect those changes

If you are going through a divorce and you have a substantial marital estate, it’s helpful to work with a divorce attorney who has an estate planning background, can anticipate these issues, and can offer efficient remedies. To speak with an experienced divorce lawyer at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia, contact us to schedule a consultation.