Washington, DC asked in Divorce and Estate Planning for Virginia

Q: Can a probate court reverse overturn property distribution from a prior divorce decree?

My ex and I divorced 6 years ago. We had a jointly titled exotic car. In our divorce decree, my ex was supposed to pay me for my share of the car before he could retitle it into his name alone. He made a few payments then stopped. He subsequently died and now the executor of his estate is trying to claim the vehicle for his heir (his father). The estate is insolvent. I was told by an atty that once he died his ownership ceased and the car would be mine. His executor is trying to pay me the unpaid balance and claim the car for his father. Can they do that?

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1 Lawyer Answer
James H. Wilson Jr.
James H. Wilson Jr.
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Glen Allen, VA
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: Your question does not match your description of the legal problem. Joint property with a right of survivorship will pass to the survivor upon the death of a co-owner. In Virginia, divorce severs survivorship rights between spouses. The estate would now include your deceased ex-husband's interest in the vehicle, subject to payment to you of the value of your interest according to the court order. You are a creditor of the estate, and you should pursue your right to payment.

It seems the estate is offering to pay you the money your ex-husband was required to pay you in return for the title to the vehicle, which is apparently what you were entitled to under the terms of the divorce decree. You may want to ask the attorney you previously consulted about the legal basis for his or her opinion. It appears he or she was mistaken, or did not know all the facts.

Nina Whitehurst agrees with this answer

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