Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in this probate case involving an international will dispute impacting the probate of he estate of Matoula Papadopouli (the decedent), holding that the superior court did not err in affirming the order of probate court.The decedent held dual citizenship in the United States and Greece. The administratrix of the estate filed a miscellaneous petition requesting an order granting her full access to the estate's accounts in order to pay expenses related to a will contest in Greece. The probate court granted the motion. The superior court affirmed after applying Rhode Island law to the case, holding that Rhode Island law authorized the use of the estate's assets to fulfill the will contest in Greece. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err in allowing the administratrix to use the estate's assets to fund the estate's defense to the Greek litigation. View "Smile of the Child v. Estate of Papadopouli" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming an order of the probate court admitting the last will and testament of Barbara J. Cardiff, holding that the trial justice did not err in affirming the probate court because the will met the necessary formalities of R.I. Gen. Laws 33-5-5.Before the superior court, Petitioners argued that the will did not conform with the requirements of section 33-5-5 because it was not subscribed by two witnesses, but rather, a witness and a notary public. The trial justice determined that the will was signed by two witness, thus affirming the probate court's order admitting the will to probate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err as to any of the issues raised by Petitioners. View "In re Estate of Barbara J. Cardiff" on Justia Law

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In this litigation between the beneficiaries and trustees of two trusts the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting the trustees' petition for their services and expenses, including attorneys' fees incurred on behalf of the trusts and interest owed on those fees, holding that there was no error.The trial justice determined that the trustees were entitled to be indemnified for their attorneys' fees after considering the beneficiaries' arguments against payment of attorneys' fees. The court then entered judgment stating that reasonable attorneys fees were to be indemnified by the trust, that an unpaid balance remained, and that interest on the attorneys' fees would accrue through the conclusion of any appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the beneficiaries' argument that the trustees should not be awarded fees for pursuing their own fees was waived; and (2) the trial justice properly awarded interest as an expense reasonably incurred in the administration of the trust. View "Kumble v. Voccola" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of the Estate of Everett Joseph Hopkins in the Estate's action to declare a warranty deed null and void for failure of delivery, holding that the trial justice did not err or abuse her discretion.The trial justice determined that the warranty deed was void for failure of delivery because Everett did not intend to surrender control of and completely divest himself of title to the property. The trial justice further found that the deed was not accepted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice properly determined that the executed warranty deed was void for failure of delivery and acceptance. View "Estate of Everett Joseph Hopkins v. Hopkins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Appellee on the basis that Appellant failed to perfect her probate appeal under R.I. Gen. Laws 33-23-1, holding that Appellant perfected her probate appeal.Appellant, the surviving spouse of the decedent, filed a claim of appeal after the decedent's will, which named Appellee as executrix and left his law firm assets to her, was admitted to probate. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for Appellee, concluding that Appellant did not comply with the statutory requirements of section 33-23-1. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that there was competent evidence proving the existence of a disputed issue of material fact. View "Estate of John P. Garan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant, as trustee of the Trust of Anna H. Blankstein, and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint for an accounting pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 18-13-15(b), holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief.Plaintiff, the beneficiary of the Trust of Anna H. Blankstein, brought this action requesting an accounting pursuant to the Rhode Island Uniform Custodial Trust Act (RIUCTA). Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that, by its terms, the trust was not a custodial trust, and therefore, Plaintiff was not entitled to an accounting of the trust. The trial justice granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Blankstein did not create a custodial trust because the trust did not meet the requirements set forth in RIUCTA; and (2) Plaintiff did not have standing as the administrator of the estate to request an accounting. View "Shorr v. Harris" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, the Estate of Michael F. Cassiere, on Plaintiff's claim for distribution of assets held in the Carmen D. Neumann Revocable Trust and on Defendant Joseph Cassiere's counterclaim for breach of fiduciary duty, holding that distribution of the trust was proper.Plaintiff brought this action seeking distribution of the trust's assets and termination of the trust. Defendant filed a counterclaim for breach of fiduciary duty. The trial justice granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on both Plaintiff's claim and Defendant's counterclaim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no evidence in the record to support the elements of a claim for breach of fiduciary duty; and (2) distribution of the trust was proper. View "Estate of Michael F. Cassiere v. Cassiere" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's grant of judgment as matter of law in favor of Defendant, individually and as trustee of The Gilbert F. Roy, Jr. Residence Trust - 2005, holding that the trial justice did not err.Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that Defendant was holding property in a constructive trust for their benefit and asked the superior court to order Defendant to convey a co-tenancy interest to them. Plaintiffs requested monetary damages and asserted claims of promissory estoppel and unjust enrichment. The trial justice granted Defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not misapply the law of constructive trusts to the facts; (2) there was no error in the trial justice's finding that Plaintiffs failed to establish a valid promissory estoppel claim; and (3) the trial justice did not err in her analysis of Plaintiffs' unjust enrichment claim. View "Sousa v. Roy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of South County Hospital, Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island and Emmy Mahoney, M.D. (collectively, Defendants), and dismissing all claims alleged by Plaintiff individually and on behalf of the Guardianship of Joyce C. Willner, holding that the trial justice did not err in dismissing the claims.Plaintiff filed an eight-count complaint against Defendants, individually and as guardian of Joyce Willner, his mother. The trial judge granted Defendants' motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment, dismissing all claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err in (1) dismissing the claims alleged by Plaintiff on behalf of the guardianship because Joyce had no right to be represented by Plaintiff, who was not authorized to practice law; and (2) denying Plaintiff's request to appoint a guardian ad litem. View "Willner v. South County Hospital" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming rulings of the probate court and holding that the father (the decedent)Plaintiffs and Defendant had validly executed a last will and testament on June 9, 2011, holding that the last will and testament executed by the decedent on June 9, 2011 was valid.Plaintiffs alleged that the last will and testament was invalid because, on June 9, 2011, the decedent continued to be subject to a temporary limited guardianship, which included a provision prohibiting the Decedent from revoking or drafting any last will and testament. The superior court justice concluded that because the probate court had, on December 13, 2010, dissolved all portions of the guardianship restricting the decedent's ability to make a will, the last will and testament at issue was not invalid. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the condition limiting the decedent's ability to revoke or draft a last will and testament was extinguished by the probate court in 2010, the last will and testament executed by the decedent in 2011 was valid. View "Duffy v. Scire" on Justia Law