Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Connecticut Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court affirming the trial court's determination that Susan D. Elia could not create an irrevocable trust on her own behalf while she was under a voluntary conservatorship, holding that there was no error.In 2011, the probate court granted Elia's application for voluntary representation by Renee Seblatnigg as the conservator of Elia's estate. Elia subsequently created an irrevocable trust and arranged for the transfer of assets to it. In 2014, Margaret Day, acting in her capacity as coconservator of Elia's estate, brought this action seeking a judgment that the trust was void ab initio because Seblatnigg, acting in her capacity as Elia's conservator, did not create and fund the trust with the approval of the probate court under R.I. Gen. Stat. 45a-655. The trial court granted summary judgment for Day, and the appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the appellate court correctly determined that Elia lacked the legal authority to establish the irrevocable trust and, consequently, that the trust was void ab initio. View "Day v. Seblatnigg" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court affirming the judgment of the probate court that Peter Ziegler's Yellow Submarine Trust was a permissible appointee, holding that an unfunded charitable trust is a permissible appointee of the exercise of a nongeneral testamentary power of appointment.In 2015, Peter, a member of a wealthy Connecticut family, suffered an accident rendering him a quadriplegic. One year later, Peter executed a trust instrument to create his Yellow Submarine Trust, which was not funded during Peter's lifetime. Peter, who had nongeneral testamentary powers of appointment under various family trusts, did exercise his powers of appointment in his will to direct the proceeds of the sale of stock in his family's corporation to his Yellow Submarine Trust. Peter's sister argued that the trust was an impermissible appointee because it was unfunded during Peter's lifetime. The probate court disagreed, and the trial court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Peter's Yellow Submarine Trust was a permissible appointee even though it was not funded prior to Peter's death. View "Benjamin v. Corasaniti" on Justia Law

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In this declaratory action concerning the per stirpes distribution of two family trusts the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court rendering summary judgment for Defendants, the trustees of the trusts and potential beneficiaries, and dismissing this action brought by Plaintiffs, potential beneficiaries, holding that the trial court did not err.The two trusts in this case contained language that, upon the expiration of the trust term, the trust principal was to be distributed to the grantor's issue then living, per stirpes. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the trial court erred in concluding that the language of the trust agreements treated the grantors' children, rather than the grandchildren, as the heads of the respective stirpes for purposes of distributing the trust principal. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial court correctly concluded that the trust instruments unambiguously provided that the heads of the respective stirpes should be the grantors' children. View "Schwerin v. Ratcliffe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting Defendants’ motion to dismiss this claim brought by trust beneficiaries against third parties on behalf of the trust, holding that the trial court properly determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claim.Plaintiffs, beneficiaries of a trust, brought a breach of contract claim against Defendants, the financial advisor for the trust and the advisor’s employee. Plaintiffs argued that they fit within an exception to the general rule that beneficiaries of a trust lack standing to bring an action against a third party for liability to the trust, thus allowing them to bring this action because trustee improperly refused or neglected to do so. The trial court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the trustee improperly failed to sue Defendants for their alleged breach, and therefore, the allegations were insufficient to demonstrate that Plaintiffs had standing to sue. View "Browning v. Van Brunt, DuBiago & Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dissolving the marriage of Plaintiff and Defendant. On appeal, Plaintiff challenged several financial orders entered by the trial court. In affirming, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not err in (1) determining that Plaintiff did not contribute to the value of a trust created by Defendant’s father in 1983; (2) declining to find Defendant in contempt; (3) failing to consider the value of a trust created in 2011 as a marital asset; and (4) structuring the award of attorney’s fees in the dissolution action. View "Powell-Ferri v. Ferri" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, the trustees of a trust created by Paul John Ferri, Sr. solely for the benefit of his son, Paul John Ferri, Jr. (Ferri), sought a judgment declaring that they were authorized to decant certain assets from the trust and that Nancy Powell-Ferri, Ferri’s former wife, had no right, title, or interest in those assets. The trial court concluded that Plaintiffs were not allowed to decant the trust because Ferri had a vested irrevocable interest in its assets. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) under Massachusetts trust law, Plaintiffs had authority to decant assets from the trust; (2) the trial court erred in granting attorney’s fees to Powell-Ferri; and (3) the trial court did not err in the remaining issues challenged on appeal. View "Ferri v. Powell-Ferri" on Justia Law

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After the bankruptcy court granted Plaintiff a discharge of her debts, Plaintiff filed this action against the named defendants, alleging misuse of funds of a trust established by her mother. Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion to substitute the bankruptcy trustee as the proper plaintiff. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that Plaintiff failed to show that she had brought the action in her own name due to a mistake. The court then dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. While Plaintiff’s appeal was pending, the bankruptcy court granted the bankruptcy trustee’s motion to abandon the underlying cause of action. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court dismissed Plaintiff’s appeal as moot, holding that because the bankruptcy trustee abandoned the underlying action and Plaintiff no longer was seeking to substitute the trustee as party plaintiff, resolution of this claim would afford Plaintiff no practical relief. View "Gladstein v. Goldfield" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff contested the legality of the decedent’s will. Plaintiff then filed a second notice of claim seeking reimbursement of money advanced to the decedent. A number of motions subsequently followed, along with an affidavit filed by Plaintiff indicating his intention to remove the case to the superior court for a jury trial. After a hearing, the probate court concluded that some of the matters were eligible for removal and the remainder were not. Plaintiff later filed a complaint alleging that the probate court lacked jurisdiction over the matters decided at the hearing. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that, as an appeal, it was untimely. Plaintiff argued in response that the action was not an appeal but an action challenging the probate court’s retention of jurisdiction over the case. The trial court rejected Plaintiff’s arguments, concluded that Plaintiff’s action was untimely, and granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court correctly treated the present action as an appeal but incorrectly determined that the appeal was barred by the statute of limitations set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat. 45a-186(a). Under the facts of this case, however, the appeal was filed prematurely. View "Connery v. Gieske" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the beneficiary of a testamentary trust, entered a long-term care facility in 2012, at which time she applied for financial and medical assistance under Medicaid. The Department of Social Services denied the application for Medical benefits, finding that Plaintiff’s assets, including the trust, exceeded the relevant asset limits. A hearing officer upheld the department’s denial. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the trust was not an asset available to her as defined by relevant Medicaid regulations. The trial court dismissed Plaintiff’s appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the testator intended to create a discretionary, supplemental needs trust and, therefore, the trust corpus and income may not be considered to be available to Plaintiff for the purpose of determining eligibility for Medicaid benefits. View "Pikula v. Dep’t of Social Servs." on Justia Law

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Decedent entered into a contract for the sale of a parcel of real property to Buyer. Before entering into the contract, Decedent specifically devised the property to Plaintiff, a church, in his will. After Decedent died, a botanical garden and museum claimed entitlement to the proceeds from the sale of the property by the by the coexecutors of Decedent’s estate, due to a charitable pledge made by Decedent prior to his death. The trial court concluded that title to the property passed to Buyer at the signing of the contract under the doctrine of equitable conversion. The appellate court reversed, concluding that equitable conversion did not apply because Decedent died prior to the fulfillment or expiration of a mortgage contingency clause in the contract. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the mortgage contingency clause did not preclude the application of equitable conversion, and equitable title passed to Buyer at the execution of the contract. View "Southport Congregational Church-United Church of Christ v. Hadley" on Justia Law