Justia Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates
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In 2010, Nancy Powell-Ferri (Nancy) filed an action, which was still pending at the time of the present action, for dissolution of her marriage to Paul John Ferri (Paul). After Plaintiffs, the trustees of a 1983 trust created by Paul’s father for the sole benefit of Paul, transferred a substantial portion of the assets in the 1983 trust to a 2011 trust created by Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs instituted this declaratory judgment action seeking a ruling that they had validly exercised their authority in transferring the assets and that Nancy had no interest in the trust assets. Nancy filed a cross complaint alleging that Paul had breached his duty to preserve marital assets during the pendency of the marital dissolution action by failing to take affirmative steps to contest the decanting of certain assets from the trust. The trial court granted summary judgment for Paul, concluding that Nancy failed to state a cause of action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the State does not require a party to a dissolution action to take affirmative steps to recover marital assets taken by a third party without a finding of dissipation. View "Ferri v. Powell-Ferri" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s husband executed a will prior to his marriage to Plaintiff that devised nothing to Plaintiff. After the decedent died, Plaintiff requested that her statutory share be set out. The trial court affirmed in part the judgment of the probate court, concluding (1) the value of the statutory share should be calculated based on the value of the estate as of the date of distribution rather than the value of the estate at the time of the decedent’s death; (2) with respect to the period prior to the date of distribution, Plaintiff was entitled to an average yield of one third of the estate during that time; (3) the probate court properly appointed distributors to set out the statutory share; (4) Plaintiff’s claim to a statutory share was not barred by the doctrines of waiver, estoppel and election of remedies; and (5) the statutory share should be calculated prior to the subtraction of taxes from the value of the estate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in its judgment. View "Dinan v. Patten" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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Plaintiffs and their older brother, Kenneth Stuart, Jr. (Kenneth) were the children of Kenneth Stuart, Sr. (Stuart). When Stuart died, Plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that Kenneth, who became an estate fiduciary, unduly influenced Stuart and breached numerous fiduciary duties owed to them as estate beneficiaries. Throughout much of Plaintiffs’ litigation against Kenneth, Kenneth engaged Defendant as a certified public accountant. Ultimately, the trial judge ruled against Kenneth and awarded monetary damages to Stuart’s estate. Plaintiffs then commenced the present action against Defendant alleging that Defendant prepared inaccurate and misleading financial statements that facilitated the misappropriation of estate funds by Kenneth. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant. The Appellate Division reversed in part and remanded. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs, in objecting to summary judgment, did not present sufficient counterevidence of their reliance on Defendant’s financial statements or a casual connection between his financial statements and their alleged injuries, as was necessary to demonstrate that a genuine issue of material fact existed on the counts of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and accounting malpractice. View "Stuart v. Freiberg" on Justia Law

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John McConnell created a trust naming his three children - James McConnell, Kathleen Hewitt, and Amy Sheridan - as beneficiaries. A decade later, Hewitt filed an application for, inter alia, a trust accounting and removal of a trustee. Plaintiffs in error represented Hewitt during the proceedings on the application. The probate court approved a stipulated agreement authorizing certain distributions to Hewitt and Sheridan from the trust. McConnell appealed, claiming that he did not receive notice of the probate proceedings and would not have consented to the terms of the stipulated agreement if he had had the opportunity to participate. The trial court issued an order to show cause why McConnell’s appeal should not be sustained and the probate court’s order vacated. The court ordered the Plaintiffs in error to appear at the hearing on the order to show cause. The plaintiffs in error appeared at the hearing and testified about their involvement in the proceedings before the probate court. Thereafter, the plaintiffs in error filed this writ of error challenging the trial court’s authority to order that they appear in court. The Supreme Court dismissed the writ of error, holding that the trial court’s order was not a final judgment from which a writ of error may be brought. View "McConnell v. McConnell" on Justia Law

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Claimant brought a claim before the Claims Commissioner seeking damages from the State as the coadministrator of the estate of her deceased daughter, who had died while confined in a correctional institution. In the course of Claimant's case, the Commissioner issued subpoenas to the Charlotte Hungerford Hospital requesting information about the decedent's treatment there. The Hospital refused to comply with the subpoena, arguing that the Commissioner had no authority to issue subpoenas to nonparties. The trial court enforced the Commissioner's subpoena, and the appellate court affirmed. Subsequently to the Supreme Court's certification of the Hospital's appeal, Claimant settled underlying case, and consequently, the State no longer sought to enforce the subpoenas. The Supreme Court dismissed the Hospital's appeal as moot and vacated the judgments of the lower courts, as the Court could no longer grant relief. View "State v. Charlotte Hungerford Hosp." on Justia Law

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Defendant's father was a resident at Plaintiff's nursing care facility until his death. After Defendant refused to pay Plaintiff the outstanding bill from her father's assets, Plaintiff filed this action against Defendant, claiming breach of contract and fraud. The trial court held in favor of Defendant, concluding that Defendant did not have a power of attorney for her father and did not have access to his checking account or to any of his other financial resources. The court also awarded attorney's fees to Defendant under Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-150bb for successfully defending against a commercial party's action based on a contract. The appellate court reversed in part, concluding that Defendant was not entitled to attorney's fees under section 42-150bb because she was not the personal representative of her father. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the appellate court improperly concluded that, in order to be a "personal representative" entitled to fees under section 42-150bb, Defendant would have to be a legal representative of the party to the contract. Remanded. View "Aaron Manor, Inc. v. Irving" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed from the judgment of the trial court affirming the decision of the probate court requiring her to provide an accounting of her actions as attorney-in-fact for her mother. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court properly determined (1) the probate court had subject matter jurisdiction to call Plaintiff to account for her actions as attorney-in-fact for her mother; (2) the defendant, who was named as the second successor attorney-in-fact, had standing to make an application to the probate court for an accounting of Plaintiff's actions in her role as attorney-in-fact; and (3) the probate court properly ordered Plaintiff to submit an accounting of her activities as attorney-in-fact for her mother in the absence of a showing of cause for the accounting. View "In re Bachand" on Justia Law

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Defendant was the wife of Kenneth Otto, who was convicted of the murder of Shamaia Smith. Before his conviction, Otto transferred title to certain property to Defendant. Otto and Defendant subsequently received a judgment of dissolution, which included a division of the marital property. During a hearing in the wrongful death action filed by the estate of Smith against Otto, the trial court found that Smith's estate was a creditor of Otto and that the transfer of Otto's assets to Defendant was fraudulent. Plaintiff, administratrix of Smith's estate, filed an action against Defendant pursuant to the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, along with an application for a prejudgment remedy. The trial court concluded that there was probable cause to show that the assets transferred from Otto to Defendant through the dissolution action were fraudulent transfers and awarded Plaintiff a prejudgment remedy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff had standing to bring a claim under the Act; (2) the trial court's determination that the dissolution action was undertaken with actual intent to hinder, delay or defraud Smith's estate was proper; and (3) the trial court had jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim because it could grant practical relief under the Act. View "Canty v. Otto" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff HVC Inc. was a trustee of the Honda Lease Trust. During the audit period at issue, several car dealerships entered into thousands of leases with customers (lessees) pursuant to lease plan agreements between the dealerships, the trust, and the servicer of the trust. Under the leases, the lessees were responsible for submitting the vehicle registration renewal application and renewal fees to the department of motor vehicles on behalf of the trust. Upon receipt of the renewal application and fee, the department sent the vehicle registration card to the trust, and the trust forwarded the vehicle registration card to the appropriate lessee. After conducting a sales and use tax audit for the audit period from April 1, 2001 through October 31, 2004, Defendant Pamela Law, the then commissioner of revenue services, issued a deficiency assessment against Plaintiff, concluding that the renewal fees constituted taxable gross receipts of the trust and, therefore, were subject to the sales tax. The trial court rendered summary judgment partially in favor of Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the renewal fees paid by the lessess qualified as Plaintiff's gross receipts subject to sales tax under Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-408(1). View "HVT, Inc. v. Law" on Justia Law