Doctor blows up house in divorce-is his wife going to get anything?

This doctor in NY blew up his house to keep his wife from getting the money. I guess insurance won’t cover it because it was intentional. so what is going to happen? will she lose the money?

You don’t supply a link and I am unfamiliar with this story.

If the divorce is final, she can sue him and will probably win. If he doesn’t have anything of value, she won’t be able to recover and she is hosed.

Naw. He blew himself up with the house. Link.

Matrimonial property law normally has provision about what happens when one spouse dissipates assets - the other spouse can normally go after other assets to make up the shortfall, or seek an uneven distribution of the remaining assets.

This is a rather spectacular dissipation of assets, but I would imagine the principle would still apply. For instance, it may be that the land is still quite valuable even without the building, so when the land is sold, she may get more than half of the sale proceeds, to compensate her for the loss of her share in the building.

Maybe someone familiar with New York law will chime in.

Some of the people injured in the explosion may sue his estate for damages. But wouldn’t that come out of his half of the proceeds and not hers?

New York is an equitable distribution state. That’s not quite community property, but sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. I didn’t follow the story carefully, but I do remember reading that there was a $4 million lien against the property which may have represented part of the wife’s divorce settlement.

IANAL and I don’t know the specifics of lien law (i.e., whether a lien is destroyed along with the asset), so I’m not sure if an accidental destruction of the property would have a different result from a deliberate destruction of the property. In this particular case, it would seem the wife could move against the rest of the estate for satisfaction, which is why it is important to have evidence that the husband planned and executed the deliberate destruction of the property.

I haven’t read anything about this story lately, but I thought I read that it was classified as a “sucide attempt”. Did the doctor die?

Dr. Bartha died July 15th. As the New York Daily News delicately phrases it, under the tasteful headline **Dr. Doom’s death is ruled a suicide:**The death of a demented doctor who blew up his upper East Side townhouse to spite his ex-wife was officially ruled a suicide yesterday, capping a bizarre New York saga of real estate and divorce.

I’ve heard, but have no cite to back it up, that the now essentially vacant lot is worth more than the lot with building. The building could not be torn down, but now a much more valuable buliding can be built there.

It appears that the divorce was final. The ex-wife would not ordinarily have a claim against his estate (unless she was included in his will–or as in this case, she has an unsatified judgment against him). Now she’ll have a claim against whatever other assets (including the land) that remain in the estate. The amount of the claim will be the $4M default judgment described in the article. Of course, the “22-year-old beauty” who received “hundreds of ‘tiny but excruciating’ paper cuts” and all others who were injured will have claims against the estate, too. Of course, if he had died in a less dramatic fashion, the ex-wife’s $4M default judgment would still be a claim against the estate; in this sense she’s better off than an ordinary heir, who would take subject to the claims of creditors. Will she get all 4 million? It depends on what other assets remain in his estate.

The truly interesting issue for me is whether the liability coverage included in his homeowner’s insurance will cover the 22-year-old beaty’s claim. If it did, that would cover some of the claims made against the estate, which would leave a larger pool of assets for his ex. Will there be coverage? Based on a cursory review of New York cases, without the benefit of the actual policy language (in other words this is a WAG), no.

He died of injuries from the blast that destroyed the building. I suspect she is SOL.

I heard that on a t.v. program this weekend as well. It makes sense, given New York real estate prices. If the old building had a heritage tag on it, or had a facade that couldn’t be altered, those restrictions are gone now. You’ve got a vacant lot in New York, ready for building as soon as it’s cleaned up.

springears, are you saying that under New York law the doctor’s estate can’t be sued for a tort committed ante mortem? any cite for that?

  1. His life insurance won’t pay: suicide.

  2. His real estate insurance is most likely not liable for wilfully illegal acts by the owner.

  3. The people hurt by his actions can sue the shit out of his estate, including liens and claims against the value of the lot.

  4. The NYC people may well file liens/claims against his estate in order to cover the costs of the emergency services rendered.

  5. He likely generated some serious medical bills, which again come out of his estate.

Since his ex had a judgment that preceded the medical bills, etc., would her claim go first? The empty parcel of land has to be worth quite a bit in NYC.

If his life insurance policy is more than two years old, it will probably pay, and he was elderly. I wonder if he changed the beneficiary.

The attempt to frame Reed Richards just didn’t work out.

In many states the ex-spouse is automatically removed as beneficiary once a divorce is finalized.

Not quite. While the townhouse was a designated landmark (and therefore couldn’t have its facade altered without approval) the neighborhood is in an historic district, which restricts what can be rebuilt on the lot.

Whatever goes up on that lot can be no taller than the original, and is required to ‘blend’ with the surrounding facades.

Apparently that’s not the case in New York, though. See, McCarthy v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 92 N.Y.2d 436; 704 N.E.2d 557; 681 N.Y.S.2d 790; 1998 N.Y. LEXIS 4034: http://www.law.cornell.edu/nyctap/I98_0141.htm

And of course, if the life insurance plan is covered by ERISA, such a state statute would be preempted. http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/99-1529.ZS.html

As others have said, she can sue his estate. She also would appear to have a lien against the vacant lot. She isn’t automatically “SOL” because he died.

I would be grateful if you didn’t post bad information in legal threads, especially where there are already more informed responses.