Divorce and inheritance litigation meets the #MeToo movement

“Before There Was #MeToo, There Was Mary Cunningham” (nytimes):

Ms. Cunningham, one of the first women ever to hold a leadership role at a Fortune 100 company, became the subject of a media frenzy in the early 1980s amid speculation and innuendo that she had slept her way to the top of Bendix Corporation, the auto parts manufacturer that Mr. Agee then helmed.

People assume “that must be a very unhappy couple that started out all about sex in the workplace,” Ms. Cunningham Agee said of her marriage. The house, she said, and the friends who filled it in the days after Mr. Agee died were a testament to “the beautiful marriage we had.”

One of the great things about the U.S. is that we can litigate the extent to which a marriage was “beautiful” even after the death of one spouse:

In October, less than two months before he died, a frail Mr. Agee, who suffered from scleroderma, a degenerative disease of the immune system, reconnected with his first family. Legal documents show that he gave Suzanne Agee power of attorney (along with his 32-year-old daughter with Ms. Cunningham Agee, Mary Alana Kurz), filed for divorce and rewrote his will to divide his assets among Ms. Cunningham Agee and his five children. (Previously, the will had left everything to Ms. Cunningham Agee.)

Ms. Cunningham Agee said that until those final weeks, her marriage had been blissful, but people close to the family said the couple had been living in separate wings of their St. Helena home, comparing the arrangement to the 1989 movie “War of the Roses.” Ms. Cunningham Agee confirmed that they lived on different floors, but said it was because Mr. Agee, whose illness had taken its toll, walked with a cane and couldn’t climb stairs.

In her version of the story, she was the consummate caregiver, bestowing on Mr. Agee chocolate milkshakes and foot massages in the middle of the night.

According to Wikipedia, Ms. Cunningham retired from the world of business and parked her MBA following her second marriage (to the rich guy) at age 31 (the family and probate court litigation, according to the Times, keeps her from “lunches she regularly organized with girlfriends or from working on the charity causes she supports”).

Separately, note that the (happy?) couple were smart enough to live in California, where the state constitution prohibits the imposition of an estate or inheritance tax (they still would have to pay federal death taxes, of course).

 

Leave a Comment

Log in