On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Probate Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. P-87-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Cuff and Simonelli.
In this probate action, we review an order dismissing a complaint filed by decedent's first wife and adult children (collectively, plaintiffs), in which the former wife sought a declaration that their Dominican Republic divorce was void.
They also contest appointment of decedent's wife as Administrator of the estate. We affirm.
Anthony Sarcona died intestate on January 13, 2010. Soon after decedent's death, Joan Hansen Sarcona, decedent's wife at the time of his death, filed the appropriate papers for appointment as Administrator of the Estate of Anthony Sarcona. Lucille Sarcona, decedent's first wife, filed a caveat to the proposed appointment.
Lucille and the decedent's adult children also filed a verified complaint and order to show cause seeking temporary restraints on March 19, 2010. They sought a declaration that the 1979 divorce obtained by decedent in the Dominican Republic was void, that the marriage between decedent and Joan Hansen Sarcona was void, that Lucille, as the surviving spouse, is entitled to her statutory portion of decedent's intestate estate, and that Joan Hansen Sarcona is not entitled to any portion of the estate. Plaintiffs also sought an inventory and accounting of decedent's assets, a fiscal agent to investigate and report on the current wife's handling and disposition of the estate, and an order restraining the current wife from undertaking any transactions affecting the assets of the estate. Plaintiffs also alleged that certain joint bank accounts established by decedent and his current wife during decedent's lifetime, certain inter vivos transfers to Joan, and beneficiary designations were the product of undue influence and sought an order restraining Joan from utilizing those accounts and declaring the inter vivos transfers void.
The facts concerning the 1979 divorce are disputed. The judge held, however, that the matter could be resolved in a summary manner, New York law governed the validity of the 1979 divorce, the foreign divorce was valid, Lucille's application to declare the 1979 divorce invalid was barred by laches, and Joan should be appointed Administrator.
The parties do not dispute the fact that decedent married Lucille in November 1961. Three children were born of the marriage. In September 1979, decedent traveled to the Dominican Republic where he obtained a divorce.
The divorce decree refers to a proxy executed by Lucille. Annexed to the divorce decree is a separation agreement dated July 30, 1979, signed by both decedent and Lucille. The agreement states:
WHEREAS, the wife is desirous of [moving] from the marital home to Italy and not wishing to be charged with abandonment, it is hereby agreed as follows:
1. The wife may move from the marital residence to Italy with the consent of the husband.
The agreement also provides for sale of the marital home and distribution of the proceeds, custody of the children, waiver of spousal financial support, and arrangements ...