Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates
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The Court of Appeals recognized the tort of intentional interference with a prospective gift or inheritance and adopted the standards set forth in Section 19 of the Third Restatement of Torts.Petitioner, the residuary beneficiary of the Estate of Peter A. Castruccio, alleged that Respondent, Peter's widow, maliciously depleted her inheritance by forcing the Estate's expenditure of attorneys' fees to defend against Respondent's groundless lawsuits and efforts to initiate criminal charges. Petitioner alleged, as relevant to this appeal, intentional interference with an expectancy. The circuit court granted Respondent's motion to dismiss, ruling that the cause of action for intentional interference with an inheritance is not a cause of action under Maryland law. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) this Court recognizes the tort of intentional interference with an inheritance or gift; but (2) the allegations in Petitioner's complaint were insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. View "Barclay v. Castruccio" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals reversing the decision of the Comptroller of the Treasury assessing estate tax and penalties against a Maryland estate that included the value of a particular type of marital trust created in Michigan, holding that the value of the marital trust was subject to Maryland estate tax and that the tax court properly waived the late-filing penalty.The trust at issue consisted of qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) that was reported on the decedent's federal estate tax return but was omitted from the estate's Maryland estate tax return. The Court of Special Appeals concluded that the Comptroller lacked the authority to tax the trust assets as part of the Maryland estate and that, because no tax was authorized, no penalty could be charged against the estate. The Court of Appeals held (1) upon the death of the decedent's surviving spouse, the QTIP trust assets were deemed to be transferred upon her death, and the transfer of such property at death was subject to the Maryland estate tax; and (2) the tax court properly waived the late-filing penalty because the personal representative sufficiently demonstrated reasonable cause. View "Comptroller v. Taylor" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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At issue was the proper procedure before an orphans’ court when an interested party files a petition to caveat a will and when an interested party requests that the orphans’ court transmit an issue to the circuit court for a trial by jury.In this case, the Court of Appeals held (1) when it enacted Md. Code Ann. Est. & Trusts 5-207(b), the General Assembly intended to mandate a judicial probate hearing as the single procedure after a party files a petition to caveat, and as such, an automatic stay is not required when a petition to caveat a will is filed; (2) when an interested party in a caveat case makes a request to transfer undecided factual issues to a circuit court, the orphans’ court is required to transmit the issues to a court of law pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Est. & Trusts 2-105(b); and (3) in this case, the orphans’ court did not err in refusing to stay the judicial probate proceeding simply because a petition to caveat was filed, but the court did err when it refused a party’s request to transmit unresolved factual issues to a court of law, and the error was not harmless. View "Shealer v. Straka" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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At issue was to which of the decedent’s wives applied the provision of a trust agreement providing that a charitable foundation would be created unless the decedent was survived by his wife, in which case the foundation would not come into existence. After the decedent created the trust, his first wife died. The decedent remarried before he died. The Court of Appeals held (1) the decedent expressed a reasonably clear intention that the phrase “my wife,” as used in the contested provision, referred to his first wife rather than his second wife; and (2) therefore, the distribution to the foundation did not lapse, and the circuit court correctly accepted the trustees’ proposed restatement of the trust with respect to that issue. View "In re Albert G. Aaron Living Trust" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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The will submitted to probate in this case satisfied the statutory requirements for valid execution, particularly the requirement of attestation, and therefore, the circuit court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the testator’s estate. The challenger of the will petitioned the Court of Appeals for a writ of certiorari, arguing that the will did not satisfy the requirement of Md. Code Ann. Est. & Trusts 4-102(3) that the will be “attested…by two or more credible witnesses.” Specifically, the challenger argued that attestation requires that the witnesses sign, either upon the same sheet as the signature of the testator or on some sheet physically connected with it, and that the witnesses signed a page of the will not physically connected with the page the testator signed. The Court of Appeals held (1) when the testator and the witnesses sign on separate pages of a multi-page will, attestation does not require that the pages be “physically connected” at the time of signing; and (2) the circuit court properly found that the presumption of due execution attached to the will. View "Castruccio v. Estate of Castruccio" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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Three of four siblings who were beneficiaries under an irrevocable trust attempted to remove the fourth sibling as a beneficiary by relying on a provision of the irrevocable trust that permitted seventy-five percent of the beneficiaries to amend the terms of the trust. The Court of Appeals held (1) the plain language of the modification provision granting the modification authority to the beneficiaries of the irrevocable trust does not grant authority for three beneficiaries of the trust to remove the fourth beneficiary; (2) the trust clearly manifests the settlor’s intent for the trust to benefit the four beneficiaries equally; and (3) therefore, the amendment in which the three beneficiaries purported to divest the fourth beneficiary was impermissible under the terms of the trust. View "Vito v. Grueff" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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The well-known author Thomas Clancy (Decedent) died in 2013. Decedent was survived by his second wife (Mrs. Clancy), a minor child by that marriage, and four adult children from Decedent’s first marriage. Decedent left a will and various amendments. At issue in this case was which beneficiaries, if any, were obligated to pay a portion or all of federal estate taxes. Mrs. Clancy petitioned in the Orphans’ Court for a declaratory judgment in which she sought a determination that a Family Trust was not obligated to pay any estate taxes. The Orphans Court concluded that Decedent’s predominant intent was that the Family Trust be free of any federal estate tax liability. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the property conveyed in the Family Trust as identified in Decedent’s will and second codicil could not be burdened by the payment of federal estate taxes. View "Bandy v. Clancy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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Elizabeth Duvall died, having been predeceased by her son, Dennis Kelly, only weeks earlier. Respondents, Duvall’s surviving sons, filed a petition for construction of Duvall’s will, asserting that the will left the assets of Duvall’s estate to her living children only. The orphans’ court ruled in favor of Respondents. Petitioner, Kelly’s heir, appealed. The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Petitioner was permitted to inherit, as (1) the will does not express an intent to create a survivorship requirement as a condition precedent to inheritance; and (2) Duvall did not express an intent to negate Maryland’s anti-lapse statute, and therefore, the anti-lapse statute protected the devise from lapse. View "Kelly v. Duvall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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In 2008, twenty-two days before his death, Decedent amended his 2007 Living Trust. Petitioner, Decedent’s daughter, filed a complaint for inspection of records questioning the validity of the 2008 Living Trust. Petitioner subsequently requested access to a copy of the 2007 Living Trust. The trial court denied the request, finding that the unamended trust was subject to the attorney-client privilege. Thereafter, trial court found that the revisions to Decedent’s 2007 Living Trust were fair and reasonable. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court erred by failing to require that Decedent’s attorney produce the 2007 Living Trust pursuant to the testamentary exception to the attorney-client privilege, but the error was harmless. View "Zook v. Pesce" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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At issue in this case was the revocation by divorce statute, which provides that, "unless otherwise provided in the will or decree," a divorce revokes a pre-existing will's provisions "relating to" the spouse. Here Decedent and Respondent were divorced in 2006. Three years earlier, Decedent executed a will that devised property to Respondent. The circuit court held that the revocation by divorce provision applied in this case and that the exceptions did not apply, resulting in the revocation of the will's provision relating to Respondent. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that revocation was not triggered because the exceptions the statute recognized applied. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) revocation of provisions in a pre-existing will relating to the divorced spouse is effective upon the subsequent divorce unless there is provided in the will or decree a statement that the decedent intended the bequest even after the parties divorced; and (2) in this case, Decedent did not clearly or unequivocally state his intent in his will or in the divorce decree that Respondent should receive the property at issue even after the divorce. View "Nichols v. Suiters" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates