Wednesday, October 02, 2013

What is a Vaughan Affidavit?

Divorcing couples may want to know if their soon to be ex-spouse will be the beneficiary of an inheritance post divorce.  In Massachusetts, unlike almost any other state, the Judge, when determining the division of the estates of two divorcing parties, must take into consideration “the opportunity of each [party] for future acquisition of capital assets and income.”  - Mass. General Laws, c. 208, § 34.

This creates an awkward situation, where testators who are not parties themselves to the divorce or settlers of trusts may not want to divulge the extent of their assets. This was precisely the situation in Allan and Elizabeth Vaughan’s 1990 divorce. What has come to be known as the Vaughan Affidavit was a compromise between Elizabeth Vaughan’s right to know about her spouse’s likelihood of acquisition of future capital assets and Allan Vaughan’s parents’ right to keep their estate plan and personal records confidential.

The Court allowed that the Vaughan parents might prepare an affidavit with information limited to “(1) their approximate current total net worth (plus or minus $500,000), (2) a general description of their current estate plan and wills, and (3) the date, if any, when the estate plan or wills were last amended.” Since the Vaughan case was decided, others have used similar Vaughan Affidavits.

Petitions to The Single Justice of the Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court, as well as the unpublished opinions in the Vaughan case, are available on the Nissenbaum Law Office's web site