In Comeau v. Coache, Case No. 09-P-1984, 2010 Mass. App. Unpub. LEXIS 101 (Jan. 24, 2010), a decision issued pursuant to Rule 1:28, the Appeals Court reversed a judgment of the probate court terminating the plaintiff's life estate in the trust property.
Plaintiff was granted a life estate in a home in Ipswich held in the Comeau Family Trust. The relevant provision of the trust allows plaintiff to "continue to occupy the dwelling as his principal residence, provided that he pay all real estate taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities for the premises." When plaintiff sought an order compelling the remaindermen to reimburse him for their proportional share of the cost of replacing certain windows, which he claimed to be a capital improvement, and for which he had already paid, the remaindermen sought to terminate plaintiff's life estate, arguing that the replacement of the windows constituted maintenance work for which plaintiff was solely responsible.
The probate court decided in favor of the remaindermen, finding that the window-replacement work constituted maintenance and terminating plaintiff's right to occupy the property. In reversing this decision, the Appeals Court held that, regardless of whether the replacement of the windows was a capital improvement or maintenance, plaintiff had in fact paid for the work, and his pattern of conduct over the years showed a continuing effort to preserve the integrity and value of the property. The Appeals Court also noted that although plaintiff's obligation to pay for maintenance work could be interpreted to be a condition subsequent, such conditions are not favored in the law. "[T]here is substantial doubt whether the trust document intended that [plaintiff] automatically forfeit his right to occupy the premises if he breached his duty to pay for maintenance."
Day Pitney Newsletter
Clifford Nichols wrote an article, "When Addressing Cybersecurity and Data Breach, Don't Forget eDiscovery," for New Jersey Law Journal. The article is about how companies should consider eDiscovery and litigation response issues when making policy or infrastructure changes to address cybersecurity and data breach risks.
Day Pitney Press Release
Rick Sanders is quoted in an article, "Business Groups Encouraged by Legislators," in NJBIZ, which addresses political activity behind a bill to phase out New Jersey's estate tax. Under the bipartisan bill, the estate tax, which currently applies to inheritances valued at $675,000 or more, would be eliminated gradually over a five-year period. "It affects such a small part of the population," Sanders said. "It just strikes me as unusual that all of a sudden, this bill came. I think it's not coincidental that the governor was campaigning for president at the time he called for the repeal. For years and years, there's been proposals to increase the exemption to $1 million and it never got any traction in New Jersey."
Boston, Mass., January 20, 2016 – Day Pitney is pleased to announce Jillian Hirsch, a partner in Day Pitney’s Litigation Practice, has been selected as one of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly’s 2015 Lawyers of the Year. Honorees were nominated by their colleagues, clients and other legal professionals for their outstanding professional accomplishments.
Boston, Mass. November 11, 2015 – Day Pitney is pleased to announce Leiha Macauley, a partner in Day Pitney’s Individual Clients Practice, has been selected as a 2015 Boston Rising Star by The National Law Journal.
Jillian Hirsch was quoted in an article, "Trust divisible in divorce despite possible new beneficiaries," in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. In the article, Hirsch, who represented the wife in the matter, explains why the Appeals Court's decision of Pfannenstiehl v. Pfannenstiehl is significant.
"It confirmed that an interest in a trust with an ascertainable standard--specifically one with a history of distributions woven into the fabric of the marriage--is a vested, presently enforceable interest and therefore properly included in a marital estate for purposes of equitable division of property in a divorce," she said.