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Probate Law

Business Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Oumano, Emily

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=5829

AC45631, AC45632 - Lyons v. Birmingham Law Office, LLC (“The plaintiff, Justine Lyons, appeals from the judgment of the trial court dismissing the underlying action against the defendants Birmingham Law Office, LLC, and Attorney Matthew Birmingham (Birmingham defendants); and Marylou Scofield, PC, and Attorney Marylou Scofield (Scofield defendants), for lack of personal jurisdiction. The plaintiff claims that the court improperly concluded that (1) personal jurisdiction over the defendants was not conferred under our state’s long arm statute, General Statutes § 52-59b, and (2) exercising jurisdiction over the defendants would violate the due process requirements of the United States constitution because they have insufficient ‘‘minimum contacts’’ with the state. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.”)


Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Carey, Sean

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=5770

AC45758 - Vecchiarino v. Potter (“In this appeal from the judgments of the Superior Court approving the settlement agreement, the defendant Elizabeth Isenburg, a former romantic partner of the decedent, who is neither a named beneficiary under the contested will nor an heir-at-law of the decedent, claims that she is a ‘‘[person] interested in the estate’’ pursuant to General Statutes § 45a-434 (c) and that the court should not have approved the settlement agreement without her participation in it. We are not persuaded by her claim and, accordingly, affirm the judgments of the Superior Court.”)


Tort Law Supreme Court Opinion

   by Agati, Taryn

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=5656

SC20676 - Barash v. Lembo ("The primary issue in this appeal is whether the trustee of an inter vivos trust that is the residuary beneficiary of the estate of the settlor-decedent has a duty to protect and collect assets that have not yet been transferred to the trust. After providing for the payment of debts and taxes and setting forth a number of specific bequests, the will of the decedent, Richard Ripps, who died in 2006, bequeathed the residue of his estate to an amended and restated revocable trust benefiting his three children, the plaintiffs Jennie R. Ripps, Michael J. Ripps, and Elizabeth J. Ripps (trust beneficiaries).The present action and five other consolidated cases concern the proper administration of that portion of the decedent's residuary estate that has not yet been distributed to the trust. In particular, the undistributed assets consist of a 49 percent interest in certain commercial real estate development projects (residuary assets), including properties owned by Evergreen Walk, LLC (Evergreen Walk), Northern Hills, LLC (Northern Hills), and M/S Town Line Associates, LLC (M/S Town Line Associates) (collectively, commercial assets).

Approximately seventeen years later, the estate has not yet settled. In 2018, the trust beneficiaries and their mother, the plaintiff Susan Shapiro Barash, one of three cotrustees of the Richard Ripps Amended and Restated Revocable Trust Dated February 8, 2008, filed this action in the Superior Court, alleging that the defendant and cotrustee, Barbara Lembo, breached her fiduciary duty as trustee by failing to protect and collect trust property, to investigate or ask questions regarding the alleged misconduct of the executor of the estate, Laurence P. Rubinow, and to seek recovery from and hold Rubinow accountable for any damages sustained by the trust as a result of the alleged misconduct. The plaintiffs sought damages and the removal of the defendant as cotrustee. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of the defendant, who was the decedent's widow, on the basis of its conclusion that the defendant, as a trustee, had no duty, prior to the distribution of the residuary assets, to take any action against Rubinow with respect to those assets—including investigating, questioning or monitoring Rubinow's administration of the estate, or, as the trial court stated, to "[s]hap[e]" or "gather" the property that has not yet poured over into the trust.

We agree with the plaintiffs that the trial court incorrectly concluded that, as a matter of law, no material issue of fact remained as to whether the defendant owed the trust beneficiaries a duty to collect and protect the prospective trust property in the residuary estate. We also conclude that the complaint sufficiently alleges a cause of action against the defendant for breach of her fiduciary duty as trustee. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.")


Probate Law Supreme Court Opinion

   by Carey, Sean

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=5610

SC20701 - Salce v. Cardello (“In this certified appeal, we consider the extent to which in terrorem, or no-contest, clauses in will and trust documents are enforceable against a beneficiary who has challenged certain aspects of the performance of a fiduciary, namely, the executor of the will or the trustee of the trust. The plaintiff, John Salce, appeals, upon our grant of his petition for certification, from the judgment of the Appellate Court, which affirmed the trial court’s judgment for the defendant, Joan Cardello, dismissing his probate appeal. See Salce v. Cardello, 210 Conn. App. 66, 68, 82, 269 A.3d 889 (2022). On appeal, the plaintiff principally contends that the Appellate Court incorrectly concluded that enforcement of the in terrorem clauses in the decedent’s will and trust agreement against the defendant would violate public policy when she challenged the executor’s refusal (1) to remove her personal bank account from the estate’s Connecticut estate and gift tax return, and (2) to deduct the outstanding mortgages from the value of the estate on the return. Consistent with this court’s venerable decisions in South Norwalk Trust Co. v. St. John, 92 Conn. 168, 101 A. 961 (1917), and Griffin v. Sturges, 131 Conn. 471, 40 A.2d 758 (1944), because the defendant’s actions were based in good faith, we conclude that enforcement of the in terrorem clauses in the present case would violate the public policy embodied by our statutes requiring probate courts to supervise fiduciaries. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.”)



Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Booth, George

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=5510

AC44507 - Haydusky's Appeal from Probate (Probate appeal; subject matter jurisdiction; motion to dismiss; application for reconsideration; "The self-represented plaintiff, Marianne Haydusky, appeals from the judgment of the Superior Court granting the defendants' motion to dismiss, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, her appeal from an order of the Probate Court. We affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.")


Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Carey, Sean

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=5417

AC44316 - Wolfel v. Wolfel (“The plaintiffs, Kenneth and Rodney, appeal from the judgment of the Superior Court affirming in part and reversing in part the decree of the Probate Court holding that they, as cotrustees of the trust, violated their fiduciary duties and ordering them to reimburse Lawrence, the defendant, for his equal share of the trust assets. On appeal, the plaintiffs claim that the Superior Court (1) exceeded its authority by addressing issues that they did not raise in their appeal from the decree of the Probate Court, and (2) erroneously found that Kenneth failed to prove that he had paid $552,271 into the trust to reimburse it for distributions made to him for his personal benefit. 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=5388

AC45034 - Sacramone v. Harlow, Adams & Friedman, P. C. ("In this probate matter, the defendants, Harlow, Adams & Friedman, P.C. (law firm), and Ronald Milone, appeal from the judgment of the Superior Court vacating a decree of the Probate Court awarding attorney's fees in the amount of $97,979.60 in connection with the administration of the estate of Joseph F. Latella, Sr. (estate), and ordering the law firm to return these fees to the estate. The defendants claim that the Superior Court, in an appeal filed by the plaintiff, Frank Sacramone, Jr., the successor administrator of the estate, erred in concluding that the Probate Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to award those fees after disallowing them in an earlier decree. We affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.")


Probate Law Supreme Court Opinion

   by Roy, Christopher

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=5377

SC20584 - Derblom v. Archdiocese of Hartford ("The sole issue in this certified appeal is whether the plaintiffs, who are the putative beneficiaries of a testamentary bequest, have standing under the special interest exception to the common law rule, codified at General Statutes § 3-125, that the attorney general has exclusive authority to enforce the terms of a charitable gift, to enforce the terms of a bequest from Fred H. Rettich to Our Lady of Mercy School (OLM) in Madison. The plaintiffs appeal, upon our granting of their petition for certification, from the judgment of the Appellate Court, which affirmed the trial court’s granting of the motion to dismiss filed by the defendant, the Archdiocese of Hartford. Derblom v. Archdiocese of Hartford, 203 Conn. App. 197, 217, 247 A.3d 600 (2021). On appeal, the plaintiffs claim that the Appellate Court incorrectly determined that they lacked standing to bring this action. We conclude that the plaintiffs do not come within the 'special interest' exception to the attorney general’s exclusive standing to bring an action to enforce the terms of a charitable gift. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.")


Tort Law Supreme Court Slip Opinion

   by Agati, Taryn

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=5293

SC20597 - Solon v. Slater ("This appeal requires us to decide the scope of the preclusive effect, in a subsequent tort action in the Superior Court, of an unappealed Probate Court decree admitting a will to probate. The plaintiff, Linda Yoffe Solon, filed the present lawsuit against the defendants, Joseph M. Slater and Joshua Solon, alleging that they tortiously interfered with her contractual relations and right of inheritance by exercising undue influence over her husband, Michael Solon (decedent), with respect to two different legal instruments, a proposed amendment to an antenuptial agreement and a testamentary will. The trial court rendered summary judgment in favor of the defendants, concluding in pertinent part that both of the plaintiff’s tortious interference claims were barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel because the Probate Court previously had admitted the decedent’s will to probate after rejecting the plaintiff’s claim that the decedent executed the will as a result of the defendants’ undue influence. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. See Solon v. Slater, 204 Conn. App. 647, 665, 253 A.3d 503 (2021).

The issue before us is whether both of the plaintiff’s tortious interference claims in her civil tort action are barred by either the doctrine of collateral estoppel, as the courts below concluded, or the doctrine of res judicata, which the defendants have raised as an alternative ground for affirmance. We conclude that neither preclusion doctrine bars the plaintiff from litigating her tortious interference with contractual relations claim, which relates to the proposed amended antenuptial agreement, because the Probate Court did not actually or necessarily determine whether the defendants tortiously interfered with that contract and the plaintiff lacked an opportunity to litigate her claim in the Probate Court. We arrive at a different conclusion with respect to the plaintiff’s tortious interference with her right of inheritance claim because the Probate Court actually and necessarily determined that the defendants had not tortiously interfered with the execution, alteration, or revocation of the will admitted to probate, and the plaintiff therefore is collaterally estopped from relitigating that claim. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court in part and remand the case for further proceedings on the plaintiff’s tortious interference with contractual relations claim.")


Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

   by Roy, Christopher

 https://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=5275

AC45085 - Tunick v. Tunick ("The plaintiff, Stephen M. Tunick, appeals from the judgment of the trial court rendered in favor of the defendant Barbara Tunick. On appeal, the plaintiff contends that the court improperly granted the defendant's (1) motion to strike and (2) motion for summary judgment. We agree with the first claim and disagree with the second claim. Accordingly, we reverse in part and affirm in part the judgment of the trial court.")


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.")