Clark Hill’s Chicago Estate & Trust Litigation Team Earns Significant Victory in Appellate Court

Aug 27, 2019

An important decision for a prominent Chicago family and the world of trusts and estates was issued Friday, August 16, 2019 by the Illinois Appellate Court, First District.  Kenneth Pigott was a lawyer, private investor, and CEO of the Lyric Opera, among many other positions. The marital settlement agreement and divorce decree ending the marriage of Mr. Pigott and his first wife in the late 1970s required that Mr. Pigott leave at least 50% of his estate to the children of that marriage. Shortly before Mr. Pigott passed away in 2015, he executed a new estate plan that reduced the share his six children from his first marriage would receive. Those children, represented by Ray Koenig, Mason Floyd, and Eric Dorkin of Clark Hill, and Jane Direnzo Pigott, Mr. Pigott’s wife at the time of his death, have been involved in various lawsuits in the Circuit Court of Cook County relating to the estate.

The children from Mr. Pigott’s first wife filed a claim in his probate estate for one-half of the value of his gross estate.  The estate moved to dismiss, arguing that the claim was essentially stale because the judgment from the divorce should have been revived in accord with the Revival of Judgments Act; the trial court agreed.  This month, the appellate panel overturned that ruling, finding the 20-year statute only applied to money judgments, not mandatory injunctions. Additional coverage of the case may be found here (subscription may be required). 

This ruling is significant because it created law.  Before this year, no Illinois court had issued a published opinion on these issues. Now, the First Appellate District has made clear that the Limitation on Enforcement (735 ILCS 5/12-108) and Revival of Judgment (735 ILCS 5/2-1602) statutes apply “only to money judgments against judgment debtors.”  The Second District also did so this year.

This ruling is important to attorneys practicing divorce law and trust and estate law.  The provisions that are the subjects of the probate claims at issue here are not uncommon.  To have clear law that these provisions are enforceable and need not be revived like money judgments is important to divorce practitioners.  Divorce lawyers can continue to use these provisions and know that Illinois Courts will recognize and enforce them. Trust and Estate attorneys faced with the question of enforceability to similar claims also now have the answer.