Death as Divorce for the Abandoned Spouse: Davis V. Combes and the Cautious and Gender-Sensitive Judiciary

9 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2020 Last revised: 9 Nov 2020

See all articles by Saul Levmore

Saul Levmore

University of Chicago Law School

Date Written: December 12, 2019

Abstract

Davis v. Combes is a Seventh Circuit decision by Judge Diane Wood involving a decedent who surprises her surviving family by secretly transferring assets to her sister. This Essay suggests that the case offers an opportunity to think about alternatives to forced heirship in American law. It discusses the choice among three ways to disappoint or even cheat an abandoned spouse. These are: (1) Divorce, followed by a battle over assets and future earnings; (2) Death – where the decedent attempts to dis-inherit the surviving spouse; (3) Death – where there is no will or simply few assets, and where the abandoned spouse is surprised to learn that she or he has been removed as the beneficiary of the insurance policy. In sum, one can divorce, dis-inherit, or dis-insure, with the latter being the subject of the case under discussion. I argue that for reasons of gender equality or partnership, the three cases should be treated alike as much as possible.

Keywords: Jurisprudence, Gender, Inheritance, Wills, Adjudication, Family Law

Suggested Citation

Levmore, Saul, Death as Divorce for the Abandoned Spouse: Davis V. Combes and the Cautious and Gender-Sensitive Judiciary (December 12, 2019). U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 755, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3668566 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3668566

Saul Levmore (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

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