This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).







In re:  Estate of John P. Meath

aka John Paul Meath, Deceased.



Filed June 17, 2003


Halbrooks, Judge



Ramsey County District Court

File No. P5015642


John G. Westrick, Tammy L. Merkins, Westrick & McDowall-Nix, P.L.L.P., 400 Minnesota Building, 46 East 4th Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant James Meath, Personal Representative of Estate of John Meath)


Greg Holly, McGuigan & Holly, PLC, 200 Liberty Bank Building, 176 North Snelling Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104; and


Michael J. Burke, 200 Liberty Bank Building, 176 North Snelling Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104 (for respondent Jon Erickson, Personal Representative of Estate of Johanna T. Meath)



            Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant argues that the trial court erred by concluding that the antenuptial agreement of John Meath and Johanna Meath is invalid and unenforceable as a matter of law because John Meath failed to make a full disclosure of his assets prior to execution of the agreement.  Because the evidence supports the trial court’s factual findings that a full and fair disclosure of assets did not occur and because the findings support the conclusions of law, we affirm.


            John P. Meath and Johanna Meath were married February 27, 1987.  It was a second marriage for both.  They remained married until John’s death on April 23, 2001.  John was survived by Johanna and his three sons from a previous marriage.  Johanna died less than a year later on March 15, 2002. 

Before their marriage, John and Johanna signed an antenuptial agreement dated February 20, 1987.  The agreement was drafted by attorney Frank Mabley and witnessed by Mabley, as a notary public, and one other person.  Article one of the antenuptial agreement stated, in part, that

[e]ach party has fully advised the other of the nature and probable value of his or her property, income and liabilities.  The assets of John Paul Meath are listed in Exhibit A attached hereto and those of Johanna T. Gallagher are listed in Exhibit B hereto.


Johanna executed her will on January 19, 2001, before John’s death.  Her will referenced the antenuptial agreement and distributed her property in accordance with it.  After her husband’s death in April 2001, Johanna filed a petition for an elective share and a petition for a life estate in the homestead.  Upon Johanna’s death, respondent Jon Erickson, Johanna’s son and personal representative, filed petitions for family maintenance and exempt or other property.  The parties filed a stipulation of facts relative to the petition for elective share and an evidentiary hearing was held on the petitions on July 31, 2002.  

At trial, Erickson and appellant James Meath, John’s son and the personal representative of John’s estate, stipulated that exhibits A and B, which purportedly disclosed John’s and Johanna’s assets respectively, were never attached to the antenuptial agreement and, further, that there is no evidence that either exhibit ever existed.  In addition, Mabley testified that there were no exhibits attached to the antenuptial agreement in his file and that he did not recall ever preparing exhibits A or B.  Mabley also testified that he did not recall discussing the parties’ assets with them and that he had no notes in his file to indicate that any such discussion took place.

Erickson testified that when he asked his mother about any attachment of exhibits A and B, she said “[T]he copy you have, Jon, is all there is.”  In another conversation, Erickson asked his mother if she had known that John had any of the assets described in the inventory of assets prepared after John’s death.  “She stared at the sheet of paper and she shook her head and she just said, ‘I had no idea [John] had this.’”  While James Meath objected to Erickson’s testimony on the ground that it was hearsay, the court overruled the objections.

The trial court awarded Johanna’s estate $8,400 in family maintenance and up to $10,000 of exempt or other property.  The court also concluded that Johanna’s estate is entitled to an elective share of John’s estate because John and Johanna’s antenuptial agreement is invalid and unenforceable as a matter of law.  The court’s conclusion was based, in part, on its findings that exhibits A and B were not only never attached to the agreement, they were never drafted. 





            James Meath argues that the trial court erred in determining that the antenuptial agreement is void because a full disclosure of assets did not occur at the time John and Johanna entered into it.  Absent a motion for a new trial, our standard of review is limited to determining whether the evidence sustains the findings of fact and whether such findings sustain the conclusions of law and the judgment.  Gruenhagen v. Larson, 310 Minn. 454, 458, 246 N.W.2d 565, 569 (1976).  A trial court’s findings of fact will not be set aside or disturbed “unless clearly erroneous.”  Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01. 

            Minnesota law historically has favored antenuptial agreements that dispose of the parties’ estates after death.  Hill v. Hill, 356 N.W.2d 49, 53 (Minn. App. 1984), review denied (Minn. Feb. 19, 1985).  The enforceability of such agreements rests in part on a determination that each party has been afforded “procedural fairness.”  McKee-Johnson v. Johnson, 444 N.W.2d 259, 263 (Minn. 1989).  Minn. Stat. § 519.11, subd. 1 (2002), establishes the current requirement for an antenuptial agreement and provides:

A man and a woman of legal age may enter into an antenuptial contract or settlement prior to solemnization of marriage which shall be valid and enforceable if (a) there is a full and fair disclosure of the earnings and property of each party, and (b) the parties have had an opportunity to consult with legal counsel of their own choice.


Minn. Stat. § 519.11, subd. 5 (2002), also establishes the burden of proof and the presumption that

[a]n antenuptial or postnuptial contract or settlement duly acknowledged and attested shall be prima facie proof of the matters acknowledged therein and as to those matters, the burden of proof shall be and rest upon the person contesting the same.


Here, John’s and Johanna’s antenuptial agreement was properly signed and dated.  Therefore, based on Minn. Stat. § 519.11, subd. 5, Johanna’s estate, as the party contesting its validity, has the burden to overcome the presumption that a full disclosure of assets was made.

The court was provided with a stipulation stating that exhibit A, listing John’s assets, and exhibit B, listing Johanna’s assets, were never attached to the antenuptial agreement.  The stipulation further specified that there is no evidence that either exhibits ever existed.[1]  Mabley’s testimony that his copy of the antenuptial agreement had no attachments, and that he did not recall ever preparing exhibits A or B, is also consistent.  Mabley further testified that he did not recall discussing John’s and Johanna’s assets with them. 

James Meath contends that the lack of any writing containing a schedule of earnings and property, such as exhibits A and B, is not fatal to the validity of the antenuptial agreement.  Minn. Stat. § 519.11, subd. 2 (2002), sets forth the procedure for executing an antenuptial agreement, and states that it “shall be in writing.”  While it is prudent and desirable to include a schedule of the parties’ earnings and assets, it is not necessary to the validity of an antenuptial agreement.  Pollock-Halvarson v. McGuire, 576 N.W.2d 451, 456 (Minn. App. 1998), review denied (Minn. May 28, 1998).  Where the parties agree to enter into the agreement, a party’s general knowledge of the other party’s financial holdings may satisfy the disclosure requirement.  See Hill, 356 N.W.2d at 52, 54 (considering fact wife knew generally husband was wealthy but would have signed document regardless of amount of husband’s assets). 

Likewise, this court has upheld the validity of an antenuptial agreement where the wife signed the agreement because she trusted her future husband and the antenuptial agreement contained an attachment listing some assets such as a

home; all household items except certain described items belonging to appellant; an automobile; an airplane; checking and savings accounts; IRA’s; stocks; and the contents of a safe deposit box


but excluded husband’s assets such as earnings, accidental death policy, and VA policies.  Pollock-Halvarson, 576 N.W.2d at 454, 456-57.  In Pollock-Halvarson, we concluded that full disclosure does not mean a disclosure of every tangible and intangible item when the wife failed to show that the omission gave her an inaccurate view of decedent’s financial condition.  Id. at 456-57.

Although James Meath is correct that a disclosure need not be in writing, the court must have before it some evidence of a disclosure.  The statement in the Meaths’ antenuptial agreement is prima facie evidence that disclosure occurred, but Erickson has rebutted that presumption.  Unlike Pollock-Halvarson, there is no evidence here that John made any disclosure at all to Johanna or that Johanna was otherwise completely or partially familiar with John’s assets.  See Pollock-Halvarson, 576 N.W.2d at 456 (noting that appellant knew that earnings consisted of unemployment compensation and had first-hand knowledge of some of decedent’s assets after living with him prior to marriage for six years); Hill, 356 N.W.2d at 52, 54 (noting that wife’s general knowledge of husband’s assets in addition to her trust of husband satisfied disclosure requirement). 

To the contrary, Erickson was able to provide evidence in the form of the parties’ stipulation that exhibits A and B never existed and testimony from the drafting attorney that he did not recall ever discussing John’s and Johanna’s assets with them.  This evidence is sufficient to sustain the trial court’s findings of fact, which sustain the court’s conclusion that the antenuptial agreement is invalid.



As an alternative argument, James Meath contends that Johanna ratified the antenuptial agreement by incorporating the terms of the agreement in her will.  Because this argument was not properly raised before the trial court, it is waived.  Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988) (noting that a reviewing court will generally consider only those issues that were presented to and considered by the trial court). 


*  Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10. 


[1] At the hearing, appellant’s counsel stated, “It seems like it is uncontroverted that at the time that the antenuptial agreement was executed, that there was no disclosure of assets.”