Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the probate court denying Appellant's petition for formal adjudication of intestacy and appointment of personal representative of the estate of her former husband, David Washburn, on behalf of their minor son, holding that the probate court did not err. Specifically, the Court held (1) the probate court did not err in finding that David Washburn had sufficient testamentary capacity to execute a valid will; and (2) the probate court did not err by determining that there was no evidence that could sustain a finding of undue influence by a clear and convincing evidence standard. View "In re Estate of Washburn" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the probate court denying L.'s petition for termination of his adult guardianship, holding that the court applied an incorrect standard of proof in contravention of Me. Rev. Stat. 18-A, 5-307(d). In denying L.'s petition the probate court determined that L. "failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that his adult guardianship was no longer necessary for his safety and well-being." The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) Me. Rev. Stat. 18-A, 5-307(d) sets forth the burden of proof applicable to L.'s petition for termination of guardianship; and (2) the probate court in this case failed to apply the proper statutory standard of proof in denying L.'s petition. View "In re Adult Guardianship of L." on Justia Law

by
In this dispute over certain real properties the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court that Beth Clark had exclusive ownership of the properties, holding that the superior court correctly concluded that Beth was entitled to summary judgment. Sean Clark brought this action seeking a declaratory judgment that he and Jason Clark were each vested with a one-eighth share of the properties as tenants in common with Beth. The superior court granted summary judgment to Beth, ruling that Beth acquired her brother Kevin Clark's undivided half interest through a joint tenancy right of survivorship. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court did not err in its judgment. View "Clark v. Clark" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order denying Appellant's motion to dissolve an ex parte attachment entered by the superior court, holding that the court applied an incorrect standard of proof in its order on the motion to dissolve. The Portland Museum of Art (PMA) filed a complaint against Appellant alleging tortious interference with expected inheritance and undue influence and requesting an accounting. The PMA then filed an ex parte motion for attachment and trustee process, which the superior court granted. Thereafter, Appellant unsuccessfully filed a motion to dissolve the attachment and trustee process. The court denied the motion to dissolve, ruling that there was a reasonable likelihood that PMA would recover judgment. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order denying the motion to dissolve attachment, holding (1) the court unambiguously articulated the incorrect standard of proof in its order on the motion to dissolve; and (2) the misstatement of the standard was not harmless. View "Portland Museum of Art v. Germain" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgments of the probate court determining that the total expenditures made by, and deductions allowable to, Judith Gilbert, as the wife of John Gilbert and personal representative of John's estate, exceeded the value of the estate, and distributing the estate to Judith in kind, holding that the court did not err in its application of the law or in its important factual findings. On appeal, Nathan Gilbert, John's son, put forth fifty-one proposed findings of fact and seventeen proposed corrections of law regarding the value and distribution of the estate, arguing that the court made numerous errors in its findings of fact and its application of the law. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgments, holding that the probate court acted within its authority and with record support when it found Judith to be credible and did not err when it determined that Judith was entitled to the in kind distribution of the estate. View "In re Estate of Gilbert" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court entering summary judgment in favor of Curtis Frye, Daryl Frye, and the Estate of Carroll Frye (collectively, the Estate) on the Estate’s action seeking enforcement of a property insurance contract for the loss of a dwelling by fire. The Court held that the trial court erred by interpreting Carroll’s insurance contract with MMG Insurance Company as providing coverage to the Estate because when the fire occurred, several weeks after Carroll’s death, none of the parties was both insured by MMG and in possession of an insurable interest. Therefore, Me. Rev. Stat. 24-A, 2406 preluded enforcement of the policy as to the dwelling as a matter of law. The Court remanded the case for entry of a summary judgment in favor of MMG. View "Estate of Carroll G. Frye v. MMG Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
The probate court did not err in adopting the report of a referee and imposing a constructive trust on Plaintiff’s interests in real property, but remand is necessary for the probate court to enter an appropriate judgment. Plaintiff, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Stephen E. Libby, filed a complaint against her brother. Plaintiff’s brother filed a counterclaim against Plaintiff. A referee concluded that Plaintiff committed constructive fraud and recommended the imposition of a constructive trust on certain real estate. The probate court adopted the referee’s report and ordered judgment “entered in the record.” The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the probate court did not err in adopting the referee’s report; but (2) the court’s docket entry did not comply with rules 58 and 79 of the Maine Rules of Probate Procedure regarding the entry of judgment. The court remanded with directions that the probate court enter an appropriate judgment. View "In re Estate of Stephen E. Libby" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the summary judgment entered by the probate court in favor of David Gourevitch, a qualified beneficiary of a 1907 trust, on Gourevitch’s complaint for a declaratory judgment that Maxwell is not a beneficiary of the trust, holding that Gourevitch’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The court additionally held that Gourevitch did not receive the benefit of tolling because he had the full ability to determine why Maxwell was receiving trust income distributions under a circumstance contrary to a certain provision in the trust when he was serving as a trustee but did not commence legal action until twelve years after ending his service as a trustee. View "In re George Parsons 1907 Trust" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the probate court approving, with a modification, the report of a referee for the distribution of the Estate of John W. Gilbert. Judith Gilbert, individually and as personal representative of the estate, appealed, arguing that the probate court erred by appointing a referee and adopting the report of the referee. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter for the probate court to conduct an evidentiary hearing as if a referee had never been involved in the matter and for the court to issue a decision detailing the distribution of the estate consistent with the evidence produced at that hearing, holding (1) because the referee failed to conduct a hearing before submitting his report, the probate court’s adoption of any portion of the referee’s report was error; and (2) the involvement of a referee in the matter was misguided. View "In re Estate of John W. Gilbert" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, conservator and guardian for his son Vincent Jones, and Plaintiff’s counsel (Attorney) appealed from two orders issued by the probate court that (1) dissolved and replaced a supplemental needs trust that had been created for Vincent’s estate, and (2) directed the Attorney, who created the original trust, to disgorge legal fees paid to her by Vincent and conditionally to pay additional amounts. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the probate court’s order creating a new supplemental needs trust for Vincent was not void for lack of statutory authority; and (2) the payment order against the Attorney deprived the Attorney of due process. View "In re Guardianship & Conservatorship of Jones" on Justia Law