Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the business and consumer docket's entry of final judgment reaffirming a partial summary judgment on the complaint filed by Michael Zelman and a counterclaim filed by Andrew and Zelman Family Business Holdings, LLC (ZFBH), holding that the business and consumer court had subject matter jurisdiction.Michael brought this action both individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Estelle Betty Zelman asking the superior court to dissolve and liquidate ZFBH. Andrew and ZFBH filed an answer and counterclaim. The court entered a final judgment concluding that Andrew was not a manager of ZFBH and that the sole remaining manager of ZFBH had died and declining to dissolve ZFBH. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the business and consumer court had subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction; and (2) the court correctly concluded that William did not have the authority to appoint Andrew as a manager of ZFBH. View "Zelman v. Zelman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the probate court granting in part Petitioner's petition for discovery of property pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 18-C, 3-110 but limiting the scope of the examination of Lorraine Kerwin, holding that Petitioner's notice of appeal was timely and that the limitation of the discovery was not an abuse of discretion.Petitioner's father, the decedent, married Kerwin in 2005. After the decedent died in 2018, Kerwin filed an application for informal probate of a will and appointment of a personal representative. Petitioner field a claim against the estate concerning certain real estate that was held in a trust and for which Kerwin was a trustee. Kerwin disallowed the claim. Petitioner then filed a petition for discovery of property asserting that the transfer of real estate to the trust was the result of undue influence or fraud. The probate court granted Petitioner's request to examine the creation of the decedent's trust but limited Petitioner's examination of Kerwin. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner's notice of appeal was timely filed; and (2) the court did not abuse its discretion in limiting discovery. View "In re Estate of Robert W. Kerwin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed as untimely Janet Sheltra's appeal from a summary judgment determining that her petition for formal probate was time barred and, subject to modification, affirmed a subsequent order of complete settlement.This case involved the will of Claudette Sheltra, who was survived by her son, Paul Sheltra, and her daughter, Janet. The probate court ultimately entered a judgment ordering Paul to transfer certain property to Janet and awarded attorney fees to Paul to be paid for only out of Janet's share of the Estate. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) when a final judgment is entered in a subsidiary docket, the time to appeal that judgment pursuant to Me. R. App. P. 2B(c) begins to run even if there are other pending proceedings involving the same estate or the estate has yet to be fully administered; (2) the court's summary judgment was ripe for appeal when it was entered, and Janet's notice of appeal, filed more than one year later, was untimely as to that judgment; and (3) the order of complete settlement is modified to award attorney fees out of the Estate in general, to be borne pro rata by Janet and Paul as the only two beneficiaries. View "In re Estate of Claudette Sheltra" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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