Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Court
Morse v. Kraft
In 1982, Plaintiff established the 1982 Trust, and four separate subtrusts therein, for the four sons of the Krafts. In 2012, Plaintiff, who had served as the sole and disinterested trustee of the trust and subtrusts, proposed to transfer all of the property of the subtrusts into new subtrusts established in accordance with the terms of a new master trust for the benefit of the Kraft sons. Plaintiff asked the Supreme Court to interpret the 1982 Trust to determine whether it authorized distributions to the new trust without the consent or approval of any beneficiary or court. The Supreme Court concluded that it did, holding that the terms of the 1982 Trust authorized Plaintiff to distribute the trust property in further trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the 1982 Trust without their consent or court approval. View "Morse v. Kraft" on Justia Law
Kraft Power Corp. v. Merrill
John Marino, who died before this action, owned Corporation. Defendant sold equipment to Corporation, which failed to pay Defendant. Defendant obtained a default judgment against Corporation but was unable to enforce the judgment because Corporation had no assets. Defendant brought an action against Marino's estate, the executrix of Marino's estate, and another corporation owned by Marino, asserting claims for breach of contract, remedies under the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (UFTA), violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, unjust enrichment, and fraud. Defendants filed a joint motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that none of the claims survived, as each claim arose from fraudulent acts or misrepresentations made by Marino. A superior court judge dismissed all claims against the estate. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the breach of contract, UFTA, and violations of Chapter 93A claims should not have been dismissed because the claims were contractual in nature; (2) the fraud claim was properly dismissed; and (3) the unjust enrichment claim should not have been dismissed because it was premised on the allegation that the executrix was retaining funds belonging to Defendant. Remanded. View "Kraft Power Corp. v. Merrill" on Justia Law
Rockland Trust Co. v. Attorney Gen.
The trustee of a trust established by Carol Vollmer (settlor) commenced this action in the probate and family court seeking reformation of the trust to comply with certain provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. A judge in that court reported the case to the appeals court, and the Supreme Court granted the trustee's application for direct appellate review. The Court then concluded that the trust should be reformed as requested, holding that reformation was warranted on this record because the proposed reformations would conform to the settlor's intent and would not be adverse to any person's or entity's interests under the trust instrument. View "Rockland Trust Co. v. Attorney Gen." on Justia Law
Anderson v. BNY Mellon, N.A.
In 1941, Anna Child Bird executed a will with a testamentary trust that benefitted her sons, her grandsons, and their issue. At the time the will was executed, the law provided that an adopted child was excluded from the definition of "child." In 1958, the statute was amended to redefine the term "child" to include an adopted child. By its terms, however, the 1958 amendment applied only to testamentary instruments executed after 1958. In 2009, another amendment made the 1958 amendment applicable to all testamentary instruments regardless of when executed. Plaintiff was the biological great-grandchild of Anna, and Plaintiff had two adopted brothers. Plaintiff's father was a biological grandson of Anna. Plaintiff had been receiving income distribution from the testamentary trust established by Anna in her will. The Supreme Court concluded that the retroactive application of the 2009 amendment to Anna's trust, with the effect that Plaintiff's interest in the trust would be divided into three parts to cover her and her two adopted brothers, was unconstitutional. Remanded. View "Anderson v. BNY Mellon, N.A." on Justia Law
Boyle v. Weiss
In a proceeding under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, a question arose concerning the application of the Commonwealth's homestead protection statute, G.L.c. 188, section 1, to a beneficiary of a trust. Finding no controlling precedent in the court's decisions, the Bankruptcy Court judge certified the following question: "May the holder of a beneficial interest in a trust which holds title to real estate and attendant dwelling in which such beneficiary resides acquire an estate of homestead in said land and building under G.L.c. 188, section 1?" The court confined its answer to the 2004 version of the homestead statute and answered the certified question in the negative. The court rejected the debtor's claims and concluded that even though the debtor resided in the Lowell property and used it as her home, as the owner of a fifty percent beneficial interest in the trust that holds to the property but who did not direct or control the trustee, she could not validly claim a homestead exemption for the property under the 2004 act. View "Boyle v. Weiss" on Justia Law
Sparrow v. Demonico & another
This case concerned a family dispute over ownership of what had been the family home in Woburn. At issue was whether a party could establish that she lacked the capacity to contract, thus making the contract voidable by her, in the absence of evidence that she suffered from a medically diagnosed, long-standing mental illness or defect. The court concluded that its evolving standard of contractual incapacity did not in all cases require proof that a party's claimed mental illness or defect was of some significant duration or that it was permanent, progressive, or degenerative; but, without medical evidence or expert testimony that the mental condition interfered with the party's understanding of the transaction, or her ability to act reasonably in relation to it, the evidence would not be sufficient to support a conclusion of incapacity. In this case, the evidence was insufficient to support a determination of incapacity where Susan, among other things, understood at the time that she was participating in a mediation to discuss settlement of the lawsuit, was aware that the subject of the mediation was to resolve the dispute regarding the family home, participated in the mediation, and listened to the arguments of counsel. Therefore, the court vacated the motion judge's order and remanded for entry of an order enforcing the settlement agreement. View "Sparrow v. Demonico & another" on Justia Law