Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

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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

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In 2013, Peter Turcic Sr. died intestate. Peter was survived by his daughter, Patricia Turcic, and his son, Peter Turcic Jr. Patricia was appointed as personal representative of Peter Sr.’s estate. Thereafter, the probate court appointed Melvin and Ronald Christie, Patricia’s uncle and cousin, conservators of Peter Jr. The Christies then requested removal of Patricia as personal representative of the estate. The probate court removed Patricia as representative and appointed attorney J. Michael Talbot as representative of Peter Sr.’s estate. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed because Patricia did not provide a transcript for review and did not file a Me. R. Civ. P. 52 motion for specific factual findings. View "In re Estate of Peter A. Turcic Sr." on Justia Law

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After William Dean was involuntarily hospitalized, the Department of Health and Human Services was appointed as Dean’s temporary public conservator. Thereafter, the Department sold some of Dean’s property. Dean’s sister, Claire Perry, filed a complaint against the Department and certain state individuals, asserting claims arising out of the Department’s management of Dean’s property during the public conservatorship. Later, Pamela Vose was appointed as Dean’s conservator. Vose filed a cross-claim and then a separate action against the Department, alleging breach of fiduciary duty. The court consolidated the two cases. The Department and the individual state defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting sovereign immunity. The court entered a summary judgment in favor of the defendants on most claims but denied the Department’s motions for summary judgment on Vose’s claim for breach of fiduciary duty in both cases, concluding that the Maine Probate Court waived sovereign immunity and that the Department was subject to suit in tort when acting as a public conservator. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order denying the Department’s motions for summary judgment, holding that the Department is immune from the breach of fiduciary duty claims asserted in these cases because the Probate Code does not expressly waive sovereign immunity and the Department did not waive immunity. View "Perry v. Dean" on Justia Law

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Attorney Susan Thiem represented Ann Thomas, an allegedly incapacitated person, during this action for appointment of a guardian and conservator. During the proceedings, the probate court issued an order imposing sanctions against Thiem based on a finding that she had “unreasonably interfered” with the discovery process. The sanctions order required Thiem to pay reasonable expenses, including attorney fees. Thiem appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion by imposing sanctions. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the appeal as interlocutory without reaching the merits, holding that because the court had not yet quantified the amount of any attorney fees and expenses to be paid by Thiem as a sanction, the sanctions order was not a final judgment suitable for appellate review. View "Conservatorship & Guardianship of Ann B. Thomas" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Emma’s son successfully petitioned to be appointed as the new conservator of Emma’s estate. Thereafter, the son filed an amended inventory of the estate’s assets. In 2014, Emma’s son, as conservator, moved to have financial details regarding the value of the estate removed from the publicly available docket in the case. The probate court denied the motion. The son filed a motion to reconsider and to amend the judgment. While the court had the matter under consideration, the conservator filed a request for the financial information to be removed from the public docket as an accommodation pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The probate court then certified a question to the Supreme Judicial Court. The Court discharged the reported question, holding that the question could not be answered consistent with the Court’s basic function as an appellate court and instead sought an advisory opinion on an issue that may be rendered moot by subsequent decision-making. View "In re Conservatorship of Emma" on Justia Law

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After Barbara Frost died, her half-sister, Nancy Gamash, initiated a will contest, asserting that Frost’s will was a product of undue influence. In conjunction with that contest, Gamash sought a declaratory judgment that a note and mortgage held by Bank of America, N.A. (BANA) encumbering property of Frost’s estate were invalid. The probate court entered summary judgment in favor of BANA, concluding that the note and mortgage, as well as advances on BANA’s mortgage, were valid obligations of Frost’s estate. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment in part and vacated it in part, holding (1) judgment was correctly entered in BANA’s favor as to the validity of the note and mortgage; but (2) summary judgment on the issue of the validity of certain mortgage advances should have been entered in favor of Gamash. View "In re Estate of Frost" on Justia Law

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In 2005, Cecile Poulin, then approximately eighty-five years old, asked her nephew, Paul Gagnon, to assist her with her financial affairs. In 2011, Poulin signed a durable power of attorney appointing Gagnon as her agent. In 2012, Gagnon died. In 2013, Poulin filed a claim against Gagnon’s Estate, alleging unauthorized withdrawal of funds, fraud, undue influence, and breach of fiduciary duty. After an evidentiary hearing, the probate court concluded that Gagnon had misappropriated Poulin’s funds and was not acting pursuant to the authority granted to him by the power of attorney. The court denied Poulin’s motion for attorney fees. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the judgment; (2) there was no error in the court’s award of damages; and (3) the court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Poulin an award of attorney fees. View "In re Estate of Gagnon" on Justia Law

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After learning of allegations of inappropriate and unwanted physical contact by Mark Langlais against Marviline Luneau in Luneau’s nursing home, the Department of Health and Human Services filed a petition for ex parte appointment of a public guardian. After a hearing, the probate court adjudicated Luneau incapacitated and appointed the Department Luneau’s temporary and permanent public guardian. Langlais appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because the probate court found that Langlais was unsuitable to serve as Luneau’s guardian, the court did not err by declining to appoint Langlais as Luneau’s guardian. View "In re Guardianship of Luneau" on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute primarily among siblings regarding the substance of and rights to their mother’s estate. Plaintiff commenced an action against Defendants for tortious interference with an expectancy of an inheritance. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that Plaintiff did not make a prima facie case for the causation element of his cause of action. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case for tortious interference with an expectancy interest, and therefore, the trial court did not err in granting the motion for summary judgment in favor of Defendants. View "Cote v. Cote" on Justia Law

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In January 2012, after the death of John Gilbert, intestate probate proceedings were commenced. In November 2013, the probate court concluded that the relationship between Judith Gilbert, John’s widow, and Nathan Gilbert, John’s son from a prior relationship, had “risen to the level of causing concern” and ordered that it would supervise Judith’s distribution and settlement of the estate. In 2015, a court-appointed referee filed a report recommending a plan to distribute the estate. Judith objected to many of the report’s findings and recommendations. Nathan moved the court to adopt the report. The probate court did not hold a hearing regarding Judith’s objections and did not act on the report but, rather, continued to supervise Judith’s administration of the estate by entering orders. The Supreme Court vacated the order and remanded, holding that because the court had not held a hearing on Judith’s objections and acted on the report, the court erred by continuing to enter orders supervising the disposition of the estate. Remanded. View "In re Estate of Gilbert" on Justia Law