Pfannenstiehl Divorce



In what was widely considered the most important family law case of the decade, with national implications, Burns won a unanimous Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruling on the issue of trust assets as marital property that could be divided in divorce proceedings.

The key issue in the case was whether our client, Curt Pfannenstiehl, had to pay to his former wife nearly $1.4 million that the Appeals Court and the trial judge attributed to his interest in a discretionary spendthrift trust established by his father. While a full reversal of the Appeals Court on further appellate review is rare, the SJC unanimously adopted every one of Burn’s compelling arguments in the case. The decision is now the definitive law on trust interests that may be included in a division of marital assets in Massachusetts, and also serves as guidance for the more than 35 states that use a similar equitable division statute.

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