Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Maine Supreme Court
Lubar v. Connelly
Lewis Lubar, the trustee of The Clover Trust, filed a complaint for foreclosure against Frederick Connelly. Connelly filed an answer and several affirmative defenses. The superior court granted Lubar’s motion for summary judgment and ordered the sale of Connelly’s residence. Connelly appealed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of foreclosure and order of sale, holding that summary judgment was improperly granted because (1) Lubar failed to include the minimum required, properly supported, facts in his statement of material facts, and therefore, Lubar failed to demonstrate that there were no genuine issues of material fact and that he was entitled to judgment as a matter of law; and (2) the record was rife with genuine issues of fact material to deciding the issues raised in this case, including Connelly’s affirmative defenses. Remanded. View "Lubar v. Connelly" on Justia Law
Estate of Nickerson v. Carter
After Daniel Nickerson suffered a fatal heart attack, Nickerson’s wife, Cecelia, as personal representative of Nickerson’s estate, filed professional negligence and wrongful death claims against Daniel’s doctor, Dr. Alan Carter, and vicarious liability claims against Mercy Primary Care, Dr. Carter’s employer. A jury found that Dr. Carter was negligent but not the legal cause of Daniel’s death. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s judgment, holding that the court erred in admitting the findings of a medical malpractice screening panel, as the panel chair’s consideration of evidence outside the record violated the Maine Health Security Act and Maine’s procedural rules. Remanded. View "Estate of Nickerson v. Carter" on Justia Law
Estate of Hall
In 1993, Gloria Hall executed a will that devised all personal and real property to her husband. In 2002, Gloria’s husband filed for divorce. In 2004, Gloria devised a new will which revoked all earlier wills and which devised nothing to her husband. The probate and family court later appointed a temporary guardian for Gloria due to her dementia. In 2007, the temporary guardian signed a separation agreement with Gloria’s husband that stated that neither Gloria nor her husband would modify the wills each had executed in 1993. After Gloria died, the county probate court concluded that the 2004 will could not have been revoked by the agreement entered into by the temporary guardian and admitted the 2004 will to probate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the probate court did not err in admitting Gloria’s 2004 will to probate because (1) the parties stipulated that the 2004 was validly executed by a person with testamentary capacity, and the will was not shown to be the subject of undue influence; and (2) the will could not be revoked by the separation agreement because the agreement itself failed to comply with the plain terms of the statute governing will revocation. View "Estate of Hall" on Justia Law
In re Estate of Hiller
Paul Ligor, the son of Mary Hiller, applied for informal probate and was appointed personal representative of Hiller’s estate after her death. Three of Ligor’s siblings filed multiple actions, including a petition to remove Ligor as personal representative and a complaint seeking review of Ligor’s conduct as Hiller’s agent. The probate court (1) found Ligor had solicited a power of attorney when Hiller was not of sound mind and then wrongfully depleted Hiller’s assets and estate before and after Hiller’s death; (2) found Ligor had breached his fiduciary duty owed to Hiller; and (3) ordered Ligor to repay to Hiller’s estate the sums he wrongfully took. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the probate court had subject matter jurisdiction to decide the siblings’ breach of fiduciary duty claim; and (2) the remainder of Ligor’s arguments on appeal were not properly preserved. View "In re Estate of Hiller" on Justia Law
Estate of Jennings v. Cumming
William Cumming was appointed as conservator for John Jennings's estate. George and Janetta Jennings, John's brother and sister, signed a bond for the conservatorship. Cumming later conceded that he misappropriated funds from John's estate. John filed suit against Cumming for breach of fiduciary duty, among other torts, and breach of the obligations of the probate bond. The complaint named George and Janetta, sureties of the probate bond, as co-defendants. The superior court entered a default judgment finding George liable for the breach of the bond by Cumming. George subsequently filed a motion to set aside the default judgment, asserting that the superior court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The superior court denied George's motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the superior court had concurrent jurisdiction to adjudicate actions both on the conservator's misconduct and against the sureties of probate bonds; and (2) probate judicial authorization was not required for Plaintiff to bring a suit on the bond in the superior court. View "Estate of Jennings v. Cumming" on Justia Law
Metcalf v. State Tax Assessor
Plaintiff was the administratrix of a Massachusetts estate appointed by a Massachusetts court. Part of the estate was a parcel of real property located in Maine that was later sold. The estate and the IRS agreed to value the back parcel at $950,000. Plaintiff later filed an amended Maine estate tax return, but insufficient funds remained in the estate to pay the Maine assessment. Plaintiff received a notice of assessment for Maine estate tax informing her that, as the estate's personal representative, she was personally liable for the money owed by the estate. Upon Plaintiff's request for reconsideration, the Assessor upheld an adjusted assessment of $98,180. The superior court vacated the Assessor's decision, concluding that the Assessor lacked jurisdiction to impose personal liability for unpaid estate taxes on a personal representative appointed by an out-of-state court to administer a foreign estate. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court's judgment and remanded for entry of judgment against Plaintiff, holding that Maine tax law provides the Assessor with the authority to hold a personal representative appointed by an out-of-state court personally liable for unpaid Maine estate taxes resulting from the sale of real property located in Maine. View "Metcalf v. State Tax Assessor" on Justia Law
Estate of Gray
Decedent died testate, devising her estate in equal shares to her two surviving children, Daughter and Son. Daughter paid the estate's bills with her personal funds for several years. In April 2010, Daughter filed Decedent's will and petitioned to be named the personal representative. The probate court allowed the will, denied Daughter's request, and named an attorney as personal representative (PR). The PR caused a creditor's notice to be published in the newspaper beginning October 16, 2010. On January 19, 2011, Daughter filed a reimbursement claim against the estate for $40,871. The PR disallowed the claim, but the probate court allowed the majority of Daughter's claim, disallowing only her claim for reimbursement of telephone bills. Son appealed, arguing that Daughter's claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the probate court and remanded, holding that the probate court erred in (1) finding that because Daughter's claim was filed within four months of first publication of the creditor's notice in the newspaper, it was timely; and (2) failing to consider Son's claims of waiver and unjust enrichment. View "Estate of Gray" on Justia Law
Estate of Stanley Pinkham v. Cargill, Inc.
The Estate of Stanley Pinkham appealed a superior court judgment granting Cargill, Inc.’s motion for summary judgment on the Estate’s complaint. In 2004, Mr. Pinkham consumed a boneless turkey sandwich that contained a piece of bone. The turkey was "manufactured" by Cargill, Inc. The bone caused an esophageal tear requiring surgery (Mr. Pinkham died several years later after sustaining his injury. He did not sue for wrongful death). Three affidavits that the Estate relied on to defeat Cargill's motion for summary judgment were held inadmissible at trial. After consideration, the trial court granted Cargill's motion noting that Maine had not established the requisite test to use when evaluating a strict liability claim for allegedly defective food pursuant to its strict liability statute. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the Estate argued that it provided sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact, thereby rendering summary judgment inappropriate. The Estate further argued that the court erred in concluding that the Estate failed to meet its burden of proof to establish facts from which a fact-finder could infer that Cargill’s boneless turkey product was defective. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed that summary judgment was not proper given the facts presented in this case, and vacated the superior court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Estate of Stanley Pinkham v. Cargill, Inc." on Justia Law
Gray v. TD Bank, N.A.
Appellant's mother (Miller) opened a checking account with Bank. Appellant alleged that Miller added him as joint owner of the account with right of survivorship. After Miller died, Appellant withdrew all of the funds in the account. Miller's Estate brought an action against Appellant, alleging that the funds Appellant had withdrawn from the account belonged to the Estate. The probate court determined that Miller was the sole owner of the checking account and that the funds Appellant had withdrawn were the property of the Estate. The Supreme Court affirmed. Appellant later sued the Bank, seeking damages for breach of contract and negligence for failing to retain the records that would show his ownership of the account. Appellant also sought punitive damages. The superior court dismissed the action based on the doctrine of collateral estoppel, concluding that the precise issue of ownership was common to both proceedings. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed as to the breach of contract and punitive damages claims; but (2) vacated as to the negligence claim, holding that Appellant's negligence claim against the Bank was not barred by collateral estoppel, as the probate court did not adjudicate the factual issues related to this claim. View "Gray v. TD Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Estate of Joyce v. Commercial Welding Co.
Michael Joyce, who was frequently exposed to airborne asbestos while working, died of lung cancer. His last documented exposure to asbestos dust was while working for Commercial Welding. A Workers' Compensation Board hearing officer later awarded the estate of Joyce benefits on a petition for an award of compensation and ordered benefits paid to Mary Joyce, Michael's widow, on a petition for death benefits. Commercial Welding appealed the hearing officer's decision as well as the hearing officer's determinations that (1) it had not cured a previously established violation of the Board's "fourteen-day-rule" because it had not paid interest on the required payment imposed for the violation, and (2) it was not permitted to offset the amount of the death benefits ordered to be paid to Mary by the amount of the payment for the fourteen-day rule violation. The Supreme Court vacated in part and affirmed in part the hearing officer's decision. The Court (1) disagreed with the hearing officer's decision that interest was due on the required payment to the Estate, but (2) agreed that the required payment amount could not be used to offset the death benefits ordered to be paid to Mary. View "Estate of Joyce v. Commercial Welding Co." on Justia Law