Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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Plaintiff, the grandnephew of the decedent, filed this action against Defendant, the decedent’s sister and the beneficiary of an Amica Insurance Company annuity policy created by the decedent. The complaint alleged forgery, fraud, manipulation, false pretenses, and misrepresentation. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not misapply the law to the evidence; (2) the trial justice did not overlook or misconceive material evidence pertaining to the beneficiary-change forms; (3) the trial justice did not err in failing to take judicial notice of the findings made by another superior court justice after a hearing on Plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction; (4) the was no error on the part of the superior court in refusing to shift the burden of proof to prove absence of mistake; and (5) the trial justice did not err in finding that Defendant was forthright and credible. View "Quillen v. Macera" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Plaintiff filed a claim against Testator’s estate for $2 million. The superior court awarded Plaintiff the amount requested under the provisions of the Testator’s last will and testament. The hearing justice then reduced the $2 million by the proceeds of a life insurance policy, ultimately granting summary judgment to Plaintiff in the amount of $1,550,000. Thereafter, the hearing justice awarded Plaintiff the requested amount of attorney’s fees but denied her request for prejudgment interest. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the trial justice, holding that the trial justice erred in granting summary judgment where this matter required fact-finding and conclusions of law with respect to Testator’s intent because the will did not clearly specify under what circumstances Plaintiff was to receive the sum of $2 million or other amount; and (2) an earlier stipulation entered in the family court did not control the outcome of this case in accordance with the principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel. Remanded. View "Glassie v. Doucette" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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At dispute in this case was an allegedly underfunded trust that was created by the decedent, Donelson Glassie (Donelson), for the benefit of his daughter, the late Jacquelin Glassie (Jacquelin), in accordance with a property settlement agreement between Jacquelin’s divorcing parents, Donelson and Marcia Glassie. After Donelson died, Jacquelin filed a claim against his estate, alleging that her father breached the property settlement agreement by failing to properly fund the trust. The claim was denied. Jacquelin then filed this action alleging breach of contract in that Donelson failed to carry out the provisions of the property settlement agreement. Jacquelin then died. Alison Glassie was appointed executrix of Jacqulin’s estate and was substituted as plaintiff in this action. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the executor of Donelson’s estate, concluding that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue the estate because, generally, only a trustee may institute an action on behalf of the beneficiaries of a trust. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the plaintiff lacked the requisite standing to sue her father’s estate for benefits she would have received based on her status as the beneficiary of the trust. View "Glassie v. Doucette" on Justia Law

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In two consolidated actions, Edward Voccola (Mr. Voccola) sought to recover property which he alleged his daughter, Patricia, had wrongfully transferred. Patricia and her company, Red Fox Realty, LLC, were named as defendants. Mr. Voccola died during the pendency of the actions, and Mr. Voccola’s children, Barbara and Edward, in their capacities as co-executors of Mr. Voccola’s estate, were substituted as plaintiffs. The superior court entered final judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err when she (1) concluded that Mr. Voccola’s signatures authorizing the transfer of the properties to Red Fox were not genuine; (2) determined that the transfer of Mr. Voccola’s properties was not a gift to Patricia; and (3) awarded Patricia $82,000 on her counterclaim. View "Voccola v. Forte" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was an inter vivos trust. The trust provided for three shares that were to be apportioned among the Settlor’s daughter and successor trustee, Lynne, the Settlor's son, Neil, and the Settlor's grandchildren, Kimberly and Jeffrey. Here, Kimberly sought to vacate an order of the superior court requiring that the disposition of funds held in trust for her be used to pay attorneys’ fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not err when he approved the first and final accounting of Lynne and when he approved the payment of the Settlor’s final debts and expenses, as well as administration costs, from the corpus of the trust; (2) the trial justice did not err in discharging and releasing Lynne from her fiduciary duty because Lynne did not breach that duty; (3) the trial justice did not abuse his discretion when he concluded that attorneys’ fees should be satisfied from Kimberly’s share of the trust; and (4) the trial justice did not violate Kimberly’s due process rights during certain hearings. View "In re Janet S. Bagdis Living Trust Agreement" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Plaintiffs, the children of William B. Ross, appealed the probate of William's estate. Specifically, Plaintiffs challenged the fifth and final accounting of the decedent’s guardian and sister, Nancy Howard, alleging that Howard breached her fiduciary duty, failed to correct a conflict of interest, and violated the law in failing to obtain approval for the challenged accounting. The trial justice found in favor of Defendants as to Plaintiffs’ appeal of the probate court order approving the fifth and final accounting. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the trial justice overlooked or misconceived the evidence presented during the trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err in finding in favor of Defendants. View "In re Estate of Ross" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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In 2010, Rudolph Bettez died. Rudolph was survived by his three sons - Robert, Ronald, and William - and his second wife, Joyce. Robert Bettez petitioned the probate court to admit Rudolph’s September 2009 to probate. In July 2012, The will was admitted to probate by a consent order. In August 2012, William Bettez appealed, alleging that Defendants - Robert, Ronald, and attorney Daniel Stone - collectively exerted undue influence over Rudolph in order that he exclude William from any share of his estate and that Rudolph lacked testamentary capacity when he executed the will. The superior court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err in its determination that no evidence of undue influence had been set forth in opposition to Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. View "Bettez v. Bettez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Plaintiffs filed this petition for the appointment of a guardian over their father. After the probate court denied Plaintiffs’ petition, Plaintiffs appealed. The superior court dismissed the complaint seeking review from the probate decision for Plaintiffs’ failure to adhere to statutory deadlines. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a motion pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 9-21-6 arguing that the dismissal of the probate court appeal was improper. The superior court denied the motion. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the superior court, holding that Plaintiffs’ failure to have satisfied the requirements of R.I. Gen. Laws 33-23-1(a) constituted excusable neglect, and therefore, justice required that Plaintiffs’ appeal be allowed to proceed under section 9-21-6. View "Duffy v. Estate of Scire" on Justia Law

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Gabrielle Mee passed away in 2008. Plaintiff, Gabrielle's niece, filed three separate cases in the superior court, alleging (1) Gabrielle’s will was executed through undue influence, fraud, and mistake in the inducement; (2) Gabrielle was unduly influenced and fraudulently induced into giving $60 million in lifetime gifts to the Legion of Christ North America, Inc.; and (3) Bank of America, N.A. breached its fiduciary duties as the trustee of multiple trusts set up by Gabrielle and her late husband. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of all Defendants on the grounds that Plaintiff lacked standing to bring the actions. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the trial justice’s decision as to Plaintiff’s lack of standing, as Plaintiff was not “a person legally interested in” Gabrielle's estate; but (2) vacated the trial justice’s decision requiring Plaintiff to pay attorneys’ fees in order to amend her reasons for appeal of the probate court decision, the imposition of attorneys’ fees in this case did not comport to what is “right and equitable under the circumstances and the law.” View "Dauray v. Mee" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Decedent died less than two weeks after executing her last will and testament. The will bequeathed nothing to Decedent’s heirs-at-law. After a lengthy contest that challenged the validity of the will, the will was admitted to probate. The contestant in this case, along with the remaining heirs-at-law, appealed, arguing that Decedent lacked testamentary capacity at the time she executed the instrument and that the will was procured by undue influence. The superior court concluded that the contestant and remaining heirs-at-law failed to prove their claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err by (1) failing to state specifically that the will was executed in compliance with statutory requirements; (2) concluding that the will was not the product of undue influence; (3) finding that Decedent possessed the requisite testamentary capacity to execute the will; and (4) making factual findings and conclusions of law. View "In re Estate of Picillo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates