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The owners of a family business sometimes attempt creative ways to protect the business from a divorce within the family but those plans can backfire.

The owner of a pizza parlor chain in New York chose to leave her estate to her daughter, cutting her son completely out of the will. She supposedly did this to protect the estate from the son’s wife because a divorce was looming. The plan apparently blew up.

John’s Pizzeria is a chain with locations all over the New York area and when owner Madeline Castelloti passed away in 2004, she left her entire fortune to her daughter Lisa, including the pizza empire. Her son Peter was cut out of the will entirely.

According to Peter, shortly before his mother passed away he was going through a divorce. An agreement was reached whereby his mother would cut him out of the will. Then, once his divorce was finalized his sister would give him his share of the pizza business in exchange for Peter agreeing to pay the estate tax on the estate. Consequently, Peter’s soon to be ex-wife would not receive any assets from their mother.

Apparently, this arrangement did not work as planned. When the time came for Lisa to give Peter a share of the business, she balked.

The New York Daily News reported this story in “John’s Pizzeria family to go to court over their empire.”

An appellate court recently ruled that John can proceed with his case against Lisa. However, the court also mentioned this could result in the reopening of his divorce case.


Peter’s ex-wife could get some of the pizza business, so the entire plot might have been pointless.

An estate planning attorney could be helpful in protecting the family business and keeping peace in the family.

Reference: New York Daily News (March 9, 2016) “John’s Pizzeria family to go to court over their empire.”

For more information on asset preservation and estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.