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Probate Law

Tort Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Agati, Taryn

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=5231

AC44878 - Healey v. Mantell ("This appeal arises out of an action brought by the plaintiffs, Gabrielle Ceruzzi Healey and James Ceruzzi, against the defendants Charles Mantell and David Novicki for claims originating out of the defendants' administration of the estate of Louis L. Ceruzzi, Jr. (decedent), the plaintiffs' father. The defendants were the coexecutors of the will and the cotrustees of trusts created by the will, and the plaintiffs were beneficiaries of one of these trusts.

The defendants appeal from the trial court's judgment granting their motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' action in its entirety. The defendants do not challenge the judgment of dismissal itself but, rather, they claim that, although the court properly granted their motion to dismiss, they nevertheless are aggrieved by certain additional determinations the court made that, although not necessary to the court's decision, could have a preclusive effect in a subsequent proceeding between the parties. Specifically, the defendants claim that the court improperly concluded that the plaintiffs had standing, as beneficiaries, to sue the defendants for their actions as coexecutors of the estate. We conclude that, because the court ultimately concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the entire action because counts one and three were not ripe and the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring count two, its determination regarding standing to bring counts one and three was not essential to the court's decision and is dictum. Consequently, because the determination regarding standing is dictum and cannot have a preclusive effect in subsequent proceedings between the parties, the defendants are not aggrieved. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.")


Probate Law Appellate Court Opinions

   by Roy, Christopher

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=5180

AC44604 - Kabel v. Rosen ("The plaintiff, Reuben Kabel, appeals from the judgment of the trial court, rendered following a bench trial, in favor of the defendant Beth Rosen, in her capacity as executrix of the estate of the decedent, Marcia Chambers, who was the plaintiff's aunt. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court erred in failing to consider his request for an equitable remedy (i.e., 'to alter the disposition of property under the distribution plan set forth under the decedent's will') that effectively would have resulted in the reformation of the decedent's unambiguous will, which he claims was necessary in light of a mistake that he alleges she made concerning whether a particular individual retirement account would be included in her residuary estate. We conclude that the court did not err in refusing to consider the plaintiff's request for an equitable remedy in the form of reformation of an unambiguous will, a remedy that has never been recognized in Connecticut. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.")

AC43486 - In re Probate Appeal of Tunick ("The plaintiff, Stephen Tunick, appeals from the judgment of the trial court dismissing his appeal from a probate decree approving the payment of attorney's fees to the defendant, Richard S. DiPreta. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court improperly (1) concluded that he was not aggrieved by the probate decree and (2) failed to consider certain trust documents in rendering its judgment. We do not reach the merits of these claims because we conclude that the probate decree at issue in this appeal was superseded by a subsequent probate decree, which is the subject of a separate probate appeal pending in the Superior Court, and, therefore, we dismiss this appeal as moot.")


Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Oumano, Emily

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=5119

AC43983 - In re Probate Appeal of Harris (“The plaintiff, Richard Harris, appeals from the judgment of the Superior Court denying his appeal from a decree of the Newington Probate Court admitting the will of his mother, Freida Harris (decedent), to probate upon the application of the defendant Dora-Lynn Harris. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court erred in concluding that the will was validly attested by two witnesses as required by General Statutes § 45a-251. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.”)


Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Roy, Christopher

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=5019

AC44328 - Sessa v. Reale ("The plaintiff, James Sessa, appeals from the judgment of the Superior Court granting the motion of the substitute defendant, Julia Lee, administratrix of the estate of Johnson Lee (estate), to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction his probate appeal taken from the Probate Court's denial of his application to hear and decide a rejected claim. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that (1) because the Probate Court decided the merits of the rejected claim underlying his application, rather than denying the application, the language in General Statutes § 45a-364 (b) requiring the commencement of suit following a Probate Court's denial of an application to hear and decide a rejected claim did not apply, and, therefore, the Superior Court had subject matter jurisdiction over his probate appeal; and (2) in the alternative, the court improperly granted the defendant's motion to dismiss because an alleged failure to satisfy the time requirement in § 45a-364 (b) for commencing suit must be raised by way of a special defense rather than by a motion to dismiss.We affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.")



Probate Law Supreme Court Slip Opinion

   by Zigadto, Janet

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=4814

SC20280 - Day v. Seblatnigg ("The issue that we must decide in this certified appeal, broadly stated, is whether a person who has voluntarily obtained the appointment of a conservator, and thus has not been found by a court to be incapable of managing her affairs, shares joint authority with the conservator of her estate. This issue arises in the specific context of the question of whether an inter vivos trust created by a person under a voluntary conservatorship was void ab initio because the authority to create such a trust rested exclusively with the conservator of the estate under General Statutes (Rev. to 2011) § 45a-655.

In 2011, Susan D. Elia submitted an application to the Probate Court for voluntary representation by the named defendant, Renee F. Seblatnigg, as the conservator of her estate. The Probate Court granted the application. Thereafter, Elia created an irrevocable trust and arranged for the transfer of certain assets to it. In 2014, the plaintiff, Margaret E. Day, acting in her capacity as coconservator of Elia's estate for the limited purpose of matters related to the irrevocable trust, brought this action, seeking a judgment declaring that the trust was void ab initio because Seblatnigg, as Elia's conservator, did not create and fund the trust with the approval of the Probate Court pursuant to § 45a-655 (e). Thereafter, the trial court granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment for the plaintiff. The defendant, First State Fiduciaries, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company that was designated as 'the protector of the . . . irrevocable trust,' appealed from the judgment to the Appellate Court, claiming, among other things, that the trial court had incorrectly determined that Elia could not create an irrevocable trust on her own behalf while she was under a voluntary conservatorship. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. Day v. Seblatnigg, 186 Conn. App. 482, 506, 199 A.3d 1103 (2018). This certified appeal followed. We affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.")


Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Zigadto, Janet

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=4810

AC44067 - Rider v. Rider ("The plaintiff, Patrick Rider, appeals from the judgment of the Superior Court dismissing his probate appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. On appeal, he claims that the court incorrectly concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over his appeal on the basis that it was untimely. We affirm the judgment.

---

Reading the relevant statutory scheme with the well established principles regarding the statutory right of appeal in probate cases, we conclude that a motion pursuant to § 45a-128 does not toll the appeal period for the underlying decision.Thus, the plaintiff's appeal from the decree approving the final account was untimely, and the Superior Court correctly determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the appeal.

The judgment is affirmed.")


Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Zigadto, Janet

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=4799

AC43648 - Salce v. Cardello (Probate appeal, trusts, in terrorem clause; "The plaintiff . . . appeals from the judgment of the Superior Court dismissing his appeal from the Probate Court's decision that the defendant . . . did not violate the in terrorem clauses set forth in their deceased mother's will and trust agreement. We affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

. . .

For the foregoing reasons, although the defendant technically violated both in terrorem clauses when she challenged Attorney Goldstein's actions in administering the estate and the trust, enforcing the clauses as written would violate public policy. Accordingly, we conclude that the in terrorem clauses are unenforceable against the defendant as a matter of public policy.")


Probate Law Supreme Court Slip Opinion

   by Zigadto, Janet

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=4743

SC20491 - Benjamin v. Corasaniti (Probate appeal, wills, charitable trusts; "On appeal, we must determine whether an unfunded charitable trust is a permissible appointee of the exercise of a nongeneral testamentary power of appointment. We answer that question in the affirmative and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.")



Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Zigadto, Janet

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=4631

AC43751 - In re Probate Appeal of McIntyre (Probate appeal; removal of custodian of account created pursuant to Connecticut Uniform Transfers to Minors Act; "The plaintiff, Ian McIntyre, individually and as the custodian of an account created pursuant to the Connecticut Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA), General Statutes § 45a-557 et seq. for the benefit of his son, Douglas McIntyre, appeals from the judgment of the Superior Court denying his appeal from a decree of the Probate Court removing him as the custodian of the account and naming the defendant Janine Carbonaro as the successor custodian. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the Superior Court (1) lacked subject matter jurisdiction to make certain orders and (2) improperly placed the burden of proof on him to prove that his removal as custodian was not warranted. We agree with both claims.")


Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Zigadto, Janet

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=4556

AC43831 - Holloway v. Carvalho (Probate appeal; "The plaintiff, Stacy Holloway, appeals from the judgment of the trial court . . . affirming the admission to probate of the will of her late grandfather, the decedent Paul Pizzo. The will was submitted to the Probate Court by the plaintiff's aunt, the defendant Linda Carvalho, who was the decedent's only surviving daughter, the executrix of his estate, and the principal beneficiary under the will. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court erred in affirming the admission of the decedent's will to probate after improperly rejecting her claims (1) that the decedent lacked testamentary capacity to execute the will, and (2) that the defendant exerted undue influence on the decedent in connection with the will. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.")


Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Zigadto, Janet

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=4494

AC42918, AC42919- Kemon v. Boudreau (Trusts; probate appeal; whether trial court erred in determining that plaintiff had abandoned various counts at trial on basis of his counsel's statements at closing argument and whether trial court erred in rendering judgment for defendant in probate appeal instead of dismissing appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because appeal became moot during its pendency: "These consolidated appeals arise from a dispute between the plaintiff . . . who is a trust beneficiary, and the defendant . . . who is, among other things, the executor of the estate of the deceased trustee, Elizabeth Lee Kemon Boudreau (trustee). With respect to Docket No. AC 42918, the plaintiff appeals from the judgment of the trial court rendered in favor of the defendant on the plaintiff's amended complaint. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court improperly concluded that (1) he had abandoned at trial counts two, three, four, and six of his amended complaint, and (2) to the extent that the court addressed, in a postappeal articulation, the merits of his breach of fiduciary duty claim set forth in count four of his amended complaint, the court improperly determined that there was no evidence in the record demonstrating that the defendant breached any duty owed to the plaintiff. We agree with the plaintiff that the court committed error in concluding that he had abandoned the aforementioned counts of his amended complaint. Accordingly, we reverse in part the judgment rendered in AC 42918. With respect to Docket No. AC 42919, the plaintiff appeals from the judgment of the court rendered for the defendant in the plaintiff's appeal from a probate order approving an accounting. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court incorrectly rendered judgment in the defendant's favor notwithstanding that the probate appeal had been rendered moot. We conclude that the probate appeal became moot during its pendency, at which point the court was divested of subject matter jurisdiction over it. We further conclude that the form of the judgment is improper because the court's lack of subject matter jurisdiction necessitated a judgment dismissing the probate appeal, rather than a judgment for the defendant on the merits. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment rendered in AC 42919.")


Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Roy, Christopher

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=4245

AC41905 - Haydusky's Appeal from Probate ("The plaintiff, Marianne Haydusky, appeals from the judgment of the trial court denying her claims on appeal from the decision of the Probate Court, which rejected her claims for distribution of assets from her mother's estate. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court made clearly erroneous findings of fact, made erroneous evidentiary rulings, abused its discretion in a number of ways, including denying her request for a continuance of the trial, and misapplied the law. After carefully reviewing the briefs of the parties, in conjunction with their oral arguments and the record from the trial court, we conclude that the findings of the court are not clearly erroneous, that the court did not abuse its discretion as claimed by the plaintiff, and that the court's decision is correct in law.

The judgment is affirmed.")


Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Booth, George

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=4107

AC42922 - In re Probate Appeal of Nguyen ("The plaintiff, Michael Nguyen (respondent), appeals from the judgment of the Superior Court affirming the decision of the Probate Court for the district of Hartford ordering the involuntary commitment of the respondent to The Institute of Living (institute) for treatment of his psychiatric disabilities. On appeal,the respondent claims that the Superior Court erred in determining that his substantial rights were not prejudiced when the Probate Court (1) lacked jurisdiction and exceeded its statutory authority because the institute failed to comply with the notice requirements of General Statutes § 17a-498 (e), (2) improperly admitted a police report and two physician’s certificates into evidence, and (3) entered an order that was clearly erroneous, arbitrary or capricious, characterized by an abuse of discretion, or a clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion because it was based on inadmissible evidence. We affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.")


Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Booth, George

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=3994

AC42548 - In re Probate Appeal of Buckingham (Probate appeal; subject matter jurisdiction; fraud; "An unusual feature of Connecticut law involves the role of the Superior Court in probate appeals. In such appeals, the Superior Court sheds its status as a constitutional court of general jurisdiction and assumes the status of a statutory Probate Court of limited jurisdiction. See In re Probate Appeal of Knott, 190 Conn. App. 56, 61, 209 A.3d 690 (2019); State v. Gordon, 45 Conn. App. 490, 494–95, 696 A.2d 1034, cert. granted on other grounds, 243 Conn. 911, 701 A.2d 336 (1997) (appeal dismissed October 27, 1998). In the present case, we are asked to decide whether, while adjudicating a probate appeal, a Superior Court may entertain a direct challenge to a probate decree admitting a will to probate based on a claim of fraud. Because, in the context of the present case, such claim of fraud may be raised only by way of a separate equitable action and not a probate appeal, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court dismissing the probate appeal filed by the plaintiffs, Sheryl Buckingham and Darlene Dunn, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.")


Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Roy, Christopher

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=3969

AC42587 - Lamberton v. Lamberton ("The plaintiffs, Lance Lamberton and Roark Lamberton-Davies, appeal from the Superior Court's judgment in a de novo appeal from an order of the Probate Court for the district of Stamford awarding the defendant Rearden Lamberton, the nominated executor, legal fees incurred in the defense of a will in Probate Court, pursuant to General Statutes § 45a-294.The plaintiffs claim that the Superior Court (1) erroneously found that a nominated executor in a will not yet admitted to probate has standing to seek reimbursement of fees prior to being appointed as an executor by the Probate Court while a will contest is pending and (2) abused its discretion in awarding the fees prior to the conclusion of a hearing on the merits of an objection to the writing submitted to probate.

…We conclude that the court properly decided that § 45a-294 permits the award of legal fees as a reasonable expense incurred by a nominated executor to defend a will prior to admission of the will to probate. We further conclude that, in light of the reasons for appeal to the Superior Court and the paucity of the stipulation of facts, the court properly decided that the plaintiffs waived or conceded the issue of their reasonableness.")


Declaratory Judgment Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Roy, Christopher

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=3927

AC42251 - Vaicunas v. Gaylord ("The plaintiffs, David Vaicunas and Joseph Kobos, appeal from the judgment rendered by the trial court in favor of the defendants, Regina R. Gaylord, Kevin McGuire, Deborah Foster, John McGuire, and Scott McGuire, on the count of the complaint alleging undue influence exerted on Helen Rachel in amending The Helen K. Rachel Revocable Trust Indenture. The plaintiffs also appeal from the judgment of the trial court rendered after it granted the motion by the defendants to set aside the jury’s verdict in favor of Vaicunas on the count for adverse possession of certain real property owned by Helen Rachel. On appeal, Vaicunas claims that the court improperly set aside the jury verdict with respect to adverse possession, and both plaintiffs claim that the court (1) abused its discretion by declining to admit the plaintiffs’ offer of evidence as to the character of Helen Rachel, which was relevant to their claim for undue influence and (2) improperly charged the jury on the law of undue influence. We conclude that the trial court properly set aside the verdict on the claim for adverse possession and, as to the plaintiffs’ claim of undue influence, we reject their assertions of evidentiary and instructional error on the part of the court. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.")



Probate Law Appellate Court Opinions

   by Roy, Christopher

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=3878

AC41545 - Presto v. Presto ("The plaintiff Charles Presto, in his capacity as the executor of the estate of William Presto, and in his individual capacity, appeals from the judgment dismissing his declaratory judgment action against the defendants, Teodozja Presto, Andrzej Mazurek, and Stanislaus Mazurek, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the ground that the claims raised were not ripe for adjudication. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.")