Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

by
Three of four siblings who were beneficiaries under an irrevocable trust attempted to remove the fourth sibling as a beneficiary by relying on a provision of the irrevocable trust that permitted seventy-five percent of the beneficiaries to amend the terms of the trust. The Court of Appeals held (1) the plain language of the modification provision granting the modification authority to the beneficiaries of the irrevocable trust does not grant authority for three beneficiaries of the trust to remove the fourth beneficiary; (2) the trust clearly manifests the settlor’s intent for the trust to benefit the four beneficiaries equally; and (3) therefore, the amendment in which the three beneficiaries purported to divest the fourth beneficiary was impermissible under the terms of the trust. View "Vito v. Grueff" on Justia Law

by
The well-known author Thomas Clancy (Decedent) died in 2013. Decedent was survived by his second wife (Mrs. Clancy), a minor child by that marriage, and four adult children from Decedent’s first marriage. Decedent left a will and various amendments. At issue in this case was which beneficiaries, if any, were obligated to pay a portion or all of federal estate taxes. Mrs. Clancy petitioned in the Orphans’ Court for a declaratory judgment in which she sought a determination that a Family Trust was not obligated to pay any estate taxes. The Orphans Court concluded that Decedent’s predominant intent was that the Family Trust be free of any federal estate tax liability. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the property conveyed in the Family Trust as identified in Decedent’s will and second codicil could not be burdened by the payment of federal estate taxes. View "Bandy v. Clancy" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this case was the revocation by divorce statute, which provides that, "unless otherwise provided in the will or decree," a divorce revokes a pre-existing will's provisions "relating to" the spouse. Here Decedent and Respondent were divorced in 2006. Three years earlier, Decedent executed a will that devised property to Respondent. The circuit court held that the revocation by divorce provision applied in this case and that the exceptions did not apply, resulting in the revocation of the will's provision relating to Respondent. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that revocation was not triggered because the exceptions the statute recognized applied. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) revocation of provisions in a pre-existing will relating to the divorced spouse is effective upon the subsequent divorce unless there is provided in the will or decree a statement that the decedent intended the bequest even after the parties divorced; and (2) in this case, Decedent did not clearly or unequivocally state his intent in his will or in the divorce decree that Respondent should receive the property at issue even after the divorce. View "Nichols v. Suiters" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner filed in the Orphans' Court a petition to obtain legal guardianship of Tracy, her nephew. At the time of the filing of the petition, Tracy's mother (Mother) was deceased and Tracy was living with Petitioner. Also, no legal proceedings had occurred seeking to terminate Tracy's father's (Father) parental rights, nor was Tracy entitled to any disposition from Mother's estate. The court dismissed the petition on the ground that the Orphans' Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the petition. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Orphans' Court lacks jurisdiction over petitions for guardianship of the person where at least one of the natural parents is alive, parental rights have not been terminated, and no testamentary appointment has been made. View "In re Adoption/Guardianship of Tracy K." on Justia Law

by
In 1997, the Bellevale Respondents sold an agricultural preservation easement on their dairy farm, Bellevale Farms, to a state agency (MALPF). Twelve years later, Bellevale asked MALPF to permit it to construct a creamery operation on the farm under the terms of the easement. MALPF approved the proposal, despite challenges from owners of real property adjacent to Bellevale Farms and a community association (collectively Petitioners). Petitioners filed this action against Bellevale Farms, MALPF, and others (collectively Respondents), seeking a declaration that the creamery violated the easement and an order prohibiting the construction of the creamery. The circuit court dismissed the action, concluding that Petitioners lacked standing to enforce the easement. Petitioners appealed, arguing that the easement constituted a charitable trust, and therefore, they possessed standing as "interested persons" under Md. Code Ann. Est. & Trusts 14-302(a). The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the instrument creating the easement and the statutory scheme of the MALPF program through which the easement was purchased did not indicate that Respondents intended to or created a charitable trust with a charitable purpose; and (2) therefore, Petitioners did not have standing under 14-302(a) to maintain a cause of action to enforce the easement. View "Long Green Valley Ass'n v. Bellevale Farms, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Petitioners were beneficiaries of a testamentary trust who sued the trustee, Respondent PNC Bank. Petitioners alleged that PNC improperly demanded that each beneficiary execute a broad release agreement prior to distribution and misapplied the provisions of the Maryland Code, Tax-General Article in calculating the amount of inheritance tax owed on the trust's assets and the amount of commission to which PNC was entitled as trustee. The circuit court granted summary judgment in PNC's favor, finding no legal impropriety in PNC's distribution plan or its calculation of the tax and commission. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that PNC's actions were in accord with Maryland law. View "Hastings v. PNC Bank, NA" on Justia Law

by
In the recent decision in Bates v. Cohn, the Court of Appeals reiterated that a borrower challenging a foreclosure action must ordinarily assert known and ripe defenses to the conduct of the foreclosure sale in advance of the sale. After the sale, the borrower is ordinarily limited to raising procedural irregulatories in the conduct of the sale, although the Court left open the possibility that a borrower could assert a post-sale exception that the deed of trust was itself the product of fraud. This case arose out of the foreclosure of a deed of trust for the residence of Darnella and Charles Thomas by Jeffrey Nadel and others. In apparent hope of fitting their post-sale exceptions within the question left open in Bates, the Thomases alleged certain defects in the chain of title of the note evidencing their debt and characterized them as a "fraud on the judicial system." The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the alleged defects did not establish that the Thomases' deed of trust was the product of fraud. View "Thomas v. Nadel" on Justia Law

by
The decedent in this case died in 1993, leaving an estate of more than $28 million to his wife, Helen Nassif, and his two children. Instead of receiving her bequest in the will, Nassif elected to take a statutory share of the estate. The personal representative, Carlton Green, the decedent's son, litigated a number of issues against Nassif. Green filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in the circuit court before distributing Nassif's elective share. The court ruled in his favor. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part, holding, inter alia, that (1) "enforceable claims," as used in Md. Code Ann. Est. & Trusts 1-101(n), means claims that in fact reduce the assets in the estate or are allowed by the court; (2) assets in a spouse's elective share are valued, when paid in kind by legatees, as of the date of distribution, and when paid in cash as of the date of the spouse's election to take a statutory share; and (3) ordinarily, and under the circumstances here, legatees cannot exercise the option to pay a spouse's elective share in cash thirteen years after the decedent's death. View "Green v. Nassif" on Justia Law

by
Roy Allen died in 2005. After a drawn-out legal struggle, the orphans' court approved an account of his estate in 2009. Before the personal representative (Appellee) would make the distribution under that account, she required that Allen's children sign a document releasing her from liability related to her duties as personal representative. Allen's sons (Appellants) refused to sign and return the document. The orphans' court ordered Appellants to sign, but they again refused. The court of special appeals affirmed the order of the orphans' court. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Md. Code Ann. Est. & Trusts 9-111 entitles a personal representative to obtain a release when she requests one; and (2) an orphans' court may order heirs and legatees to sign such releases when requested. View "Allen v. Ritter" on Justia Law

by
Catherine and Edward Johnson created an inter vivos trust, which named Catherine a trustee. After Edward died, Catherine's stepson, James Johnson, a beneficiary of the trust, filed a petition in the circuit court requesting, inter alia, that the court assume jurisdiction over the trust and require that Catherine file an accounting. The court granted the petition and ordered that Catherine provide an accounting to James. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals vacated the court of special appeals, holding that the trial court's order was not appealable as a final judgment because it did not decide any issue concerning the parties' rights. Remanded with directions to dismiss the appeal. View "Johnson v. Johnson" on Justia Law