Thursday, July 5, 2007

Prenuptial agreements and probate

From the Philadelphia Daily News on June 28:

ATTORNEY Edward J. Hayes says that Harry Jay Katz's lawsuit against the estate of Katz's late wife Tracey Birnhak is "completely meritless."

Katz, 66, a reformed playboy, former restaurateur and theater owner, filed suit last year in Common Pleas Court in an attempt to set aside and void a prenuptial agreement signed in April 2000 by him and Birnhak. The matter is listed for trial on July 23.

Katz and Birnhak married in May 2000. Birnhak, who died of cancer four years later at age 45, was a part-owner, with her parents Marilyn and J. Robert Birnhak of Weight Watchers of Philadelphia, Inc. Her assets, including real estate, Weight Watchers stock, and other investments, were listed at over $2 million. The prenup essentially states that in the event of divorce, both parties would keep their pre-marital assets and wouldn't owe each other.

Interestingly, Katz's assets in the pre-nup are listed as none.

The document says his sole income is a trust set up by his parents, and states that the expenses of the trust are greater than the income he receives.

Katz's legal complaint alleges that his late wife's finances were not properly revealed in the prenup and therefore the document should be nullified, and he should be entitled to part of her estate.

Hayes, attorney for the Birnhak estate, says Katz had six months after Birnhak's will was exercised in 2004 in which to contest it. "Mr. Katz, with very competent counsel, signed a prenuptial agreement of his own free will." His counsel was Chuck Peruto, Jr., who gave his legal service as a wedding gift.

Katz's lawyer Michael E. Stosic declined comment, but reached yesterday, Katz said that "Promises were made to me by the Birnhaks when I took care of their dying daughter and was a permanent caregiver to her in my own home until her death.

"I married her after she was diagnosed with Stage 4 terminal cancer and I loved her," Katz says.

Katz points out that he received the Wellness Community's "Caregiver Award" for "giving up my life to care for my wife," and is confident his suit has merit.

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