Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court

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Plaintiff, the grandnephew of the decedent, filed this action against Defendant, the decedent’s sister and the beneficiary of an Amica Insurance Company annuity policy created by the decedent. The complaint alleged forgery, fraud, manipulation, false pretenses, and misrepresentation. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not misapply the law to the evidence; (2) the trial justice did not overlook or misconceive material evidence pertaining to the beneficiary-change forms; (3) the trial justice did not err in failing to take judicial notice of the findings made by another superior court justice after a hearing on Plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction; (4) the was no error on the part of the superior court in refusing to shift the burden of proof to prove absence of mistake; and (5) the trial justice did not err in finding that Defendant was forthright and credible. View "Quillen v. Macera" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a claim against Testator’s estate for $2 million. The superior court awarded Plaintiff the amount requested under the provisions of the Testator’s last will and testament. The hearing justice then reduced the $2 million by the proceeds of a life insurance policy, ultimately granting summary judgment to Plaintiff in the amount of $1,550,000. Thereafter, the hearing justice awarded Plaintiff the requested amount of attorney’s fees but denied her request for prejudgment interest. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the trial justice, holding that the trial justice erred in granting summary judgment where this matter required fact-finding and conclusions of law with respect to Testator’s intent because the will did not clearly specify under what circumstances Plaintiff was to receive the sum of $2 million or other amount; and (2) an earlier stipulation entered in the family court did not control the outcome of this case in accordance with the principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel. Remanded. View "Glassie v. Doucette" on Justia Law

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At dispute in this case was an allegedly underfunded trust that was created by the decedent, Donelson Glassie (Donelson), for the benefit of his daughter, the late Jacquelin Glassie (Jacquelin), in accordance with a property settlement agreement between Jacquelin’s divorcing parents, Donelson and Marcia Glassie. After Donelson died, Jacquelin filed a claim against his estate, alleging that her father breached the property settlement agreement by failing to properly fund the trust. The claim was denied. Jacquelin then filed this action alleging breach of contract in that Donelson failed to carry out the provisions of the property settlement agreement. Jacquelin then died. Alison Glassie was appointed executrix of Jacqulin’s estate and was substituted as plaintiff in this action. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the executor of Donelson’s estate, concluding that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue the estate because, generally, only a trustee may institute an action on behalf of the beneficiaries of a trust. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the plaintiff lacked the requisite standing to sue her father’s estate for benefits she would have received based on her status as the beneficiary of the trust. View "Glassie v. Doucette" on Justia Law

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In two consolidated actions, Edward Voccola (Mr. Voccola) sought to recover property which he alleged his daughter, Patricia, had wrongfully transferred. Patricia and her company, Red Fox Realty, LLC, were named as defendants. Mr. Voccola died during the pendency of the actions, and Mr. Voccola’s children, Barbara and Edward, in their capacities as co-executors of Mr. Voccola’s estate, were substituted as plaintiffs. The superior court entered final judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err when she (1) concluded that Mr. Voccola’s signatures authorizing the transfer of the properties to Red Fox were not genuine; (2) determined that the transfer of Mr. Voccola’s properties was not a gift to Patricia; and (3) awarded Patricia $82,000 on her counterclaim. View "Voccola v. Forte" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was an inter vivos trust. The trust provided for three shares that were to be apportioned among the Settlor’s daughter and successor trustee, Lynne, the Settlor's son, Neil, and the Settlor's grandchildren, Kimberly and Jeffrey. Here, Kimberly sought to vacate an order of the superior court requiring that the disposition of funds held in trust for her be used to pay attorneys’ fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not err when he approved the first and final accounting of Lynne and when he approved the payment of the Settlor’s final debts and expenses, as well as administration costs, from the corpus of the trust; (2) the trial justice did not err in discharging and releasing Lynne from her fiduciary duty because Lynne did not breach that duty; (3) the trial justice did not abuse his discretion when he concluded that attorneys’ fees should be satisfied from Kimberly’s share of the trust; and (4) the trial justice did not violate Kimberly’s due process rights during certain hearings. View "In re Janet S. Bagdis Living Trust Agreement" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, the children of William B. Ross, appealed the probate of William's estate. Specifically, Plaintiffs challenged the fifth and final accounting of the decedent’s guardian and sister, Nancy Howard, alleging that Howard breached her fiduciary duty, failed to correct a conflict of interest, and violated the law in failing to obtain approval for the challenged accounting. The trial justice found in favor of Defendants as to Plaintiffs’ appeal of the probate court order approving the fifth and final accounting. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the trial justice overlooked or misconceived the evidence presented during the trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err in finding in favor of Defendants. View "In re Estate of Ross" on Justia Law

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After Plaintiff filed a complaint for divorce from Dean Miller, Plaintiff and Dean executed a property settlement agreement providing that Dean would maintain life insurance for the benefit of the parties' four minor children until they reached the age of majority. Dean subsequently executed a service request form listing his children as the beneficiaries of his life insurance policy and instructing that beneficial interests be paid to and managed by Kristin Saunders as custodial trustee for the benefit of his minor children. After Dean died, funds from his life insurance policy were distributed to Saunders. Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief asking the superior court to declare that Dean's four children were the sole beneficiaries of his life insurance policy. The court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding that Dean created a valid custodial trust pursuant to the Rhode Island Uniform Custodial Trust Act (RIUCTA) and that the trust was not inconsistent with Dean's obligations under the property settlement agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Dean created a custodial trust pursuant to RIUCTA; and (2) Dean did not violate the property settlement agreement by designating Saunders as custodial trustee on the service request form. View "Miller v. Saunders" on Justia Law

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Before Decedent's death, the Department of Human Services (DHS) expended $94,162 in medical assistance payments on Decedent's behalf. Neither administratrixes of Decedent's estate notified DHS that Decedent's estate had commenced. More than three years after Decedent's death, DHS learned Decedent's estate had been opened and filed a claim out of time with the probate court, seeking reimbursement for the medical assistance payments it had paid on Decedent's behalf prior to her death. The probate court entered an order allowing the claim. The estate appealed, arguing that DHS's claim was time barred. The superior court concluded that DHS was not precluded under the statute of limitations from filing its claims for medical assistance payments and entered summary judgment in DHS's favor. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the statute of limitations was not triggered until the date DHS received notice that the state had been opened, and therefore, its claim was not time-barred. View "In re Estate of Manchester" on Justia Law

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In 2000, Lauren unsuccessfully petitioned for guardianship of her father, Glenn. Appellants, including Lauren, subsequently removed Glenn from his house and refused to disclose his location. On June 26, 2003, the probate court awarded temporary limited co-guardianship to Glenn's business partner, David, and to Glenn's son, Dan. Because Appellant's refused to disclose Glenn's whereabouts, the court later ordered Appellants to retrieve Glenn and bring him before the court. In 2005, the probate court adjudged Appellants to be in contempt of the court's July 26, 2003 order. The court then appointed David as permanent guardian for Glenn. Glenn died in 2007. In 2010, the probate court assessed compensatory and contempt sanctions against Appellants totaling $447,000 in the aggregate. In 2011, the trial justice dismissed Appellants' appeals for failure to timely provide the probate record. Later that year, the superior court issued an execution on the probate court order awarding sanctions. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of Appellants' appeals, as the Court could not conduct any meaningful review due to the lack of a record before it. View "Griggs v. Heal" on Justia Law

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In 1989, Defendant hired a law firm and one of its attorneys (collectively, Plaintiffs) to represent Defendant in her father's probate proceedings. The retainer agreement provided that Defendant would pay Plaintiffs fifteen percent of any amounts she recovered in exchange for any settlement Plaintiffs negotiated on her behalf. Plaintiffs successfully negotiated the probate settlement under the terms of which Defendant was to receive on half the interest and principal payable under a promissory note (Victory note). In 2002, Defendant discharged Plaintiffs as her attorney. In 2005, Defendant settled her claim pertaining to the Victory note in a receivership proceeding. Defendant received more than $1 million as payment of her claim, none of which Plaintiffs received. Plaintiffs subsequently filed suit against Defendant, alleging that Defendant breached her contract with them by failing to pay fifteen percent of each payment received under the receivership settlement as required by the 1989 retainer agreement. The trial court granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs, reasoning that Plaintiffs earned fifteen percent of any amounts received by Defendant when they successfully negotiated the probate settlement in 1989. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that at the time Defendant discharged Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs' right to receive their fee from amounts eventually recovered by Defendant had vested. View "Law Firm of Thomas A. Tarro, III v. Checrallah" on Justia Law