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In Re Support of Halas





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Charles J. Fleck, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied November 30, 1984.

This appeal is from the appellate court's affirmance of the dismissal in the circuit court of Cook County of petitions filed by Therese M. Halas, one of the appellants. (112 Ill. App.3d 940.) The petitions asked for increased child support and sought to prohibit the enforcement of certain amendments to an insurance trust established by Therese's former husband, George S. Halas, Jr., for her benefit and that of their two minor children, prior to their divorce and his later death. The appellees are Virginia H. McCaskey and A. Gerson Miller, the successor co-executors of the decedent's estate. (George S. Halas, Sr., the original executor of the estate and the trustee of all of the trusts concerned, died subsequent to the filing of the appellate court's opinion.) We granted leave to appeal under our Rule 315 (87 Ill.2d R. 315).

Therese M. Halas and George S. Halas, Jr., were married on April 20, 1963, in Chicago and were divorced on January 17, 1975. At that time, they had two children: Christine Desiree (then age 9) and Stephen George (then age 7). George married Patricia Navalio in 1978. He died on December 16, 1979.

The judgment for divorce incorporated a settlement agreement entered into by the parties, each of whom was represented by counsel. Under its terms, Therese was to have custody of the children. George was to pay Therese $50,000 for the first year following the divorce as alimony and for child support and $35,000 per year alimony and child support for nine years thereafter. The parties further agreed that the alimony payments would continue in the event that George predeceased Therese. The agreement referred to the source for these payments: "It being the intention of the parties that said obligation to wife be fulfilled by the insurance mentioned in Paragraph 5 hereof." Paragraph 5 of the settlement agreement provided:

"The husband further covenants and agrees that he will keep and maintain in full force and effect insurance upon his life by doing any and all things necessary thereto in any amount no less than the unpaid balance of the alimony in gross due and owing the wife at any time, naming the wife or a trust for the benefit of wife as irrevocable beneficiary thereof until the husband's said obligation to pay alimony in gross to wife has ceased."

George also agreed to execute a will leaving half of his net estate to his living children; to pay for all costs and expenses incurred by Christine and Stephen in attending elementary school, high school, and college; and to pay extraordinary medical, dental, and hospital expenses that they might incur.

The agreement further provided that Therese was to retain the family home in Barrington, along with most of the furnishings and personal property situated there. George agreed to pay Therese $8,000 for her attorney fees, up to $1,000 for everyday living expenses incurred by her up to then, part of her medical expenses, and $50,000 for the waiver of all "her right, title and interest in and to all the assets presently held in the husband's name or held by any * * * entities in which husband may have an interest" except as otherwise provided in the settlement agreement. All jointly held accounts and securities were to be divided equally by the parties, except that George alone was to have the benefit of a $6,000 savings and loan account. George was to assist Therese in obtaining a major medical insurance policy.

The settlement agreement also provided:

"To the fullest extent permitted by law, and except as herein otherwise provided, wife does hereby forever relinquish, release, waive and forever quitclaim and grant to husband, his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, all rights of dower, homestead, inheritance, descent, distribution, community interest and all other right, title, claim, interest and estate as wife, widow or otherwise, by reason of the marital relations existing between husband and wife hereto under any present or future law, or which she otherwise has or might have or be entitled to claim in, to or against the property and assets of husband, real, personal or mixed, or his estate, whether now owned or hereafter in any manner acquired by husband; or whether in possession or in expectancy, and whether vested or contingent, and she further covenants and agrees for herself, her heirs, executors, administrators and assigns that she will never, at any time hereafter, sue husband or his heirs, executors, administrators, grantees, devisees or assigns for the purpose of enforcing any or either of the rights specified in and relinquished under this paragraph; and further agrees that in the event any such suit shall be commenced, this release, when pleaded, shall be and constitute a complete defense to any such claim or suit so instituted by wife; * * *."

A companion paragraph provided for a similar release of all interest and claims by George. Finally, it was provided that each party "reserves the right to dispose by testament or otherwise, of his or her respective property in any way that he or she may see fit, without any restriction or limitation whatsoever."

On April 23, 1976, in order to comply with paragraph 5 of the settlement agreement, George executed an amendment (hereafter the 1976 amendment) to an insurance trust originally established in June 1972 (hereafter the 1972 insurance trust). The 1972 insurance trust in its original form provided that the proceeds of nine specified insurance policies on George's life were to be paid upon his death to the American National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago, as trustee. Therese, as a beneficiary, had a one-half interest in the trust with the remainder evenly divided between Christine and Stephen. George reserved the right to change, modify or revoke the trust agreement at any time and to withdraw any of the policies from the trust. The 1976 amendment cancelled the plan for the distribution of proceeds under the 1972 insurance trust. It directed the trustee, upon George's ...

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