In Rochalski v. Sklodowski, Case No. 10-P-1750, 2012 Mass. App. Unpub. LEXIS 12 (Jan. 6, 2012), a decision issued pursuant to Rule 1:28, the Appeals Court affirmed the probate court's judgment voiding certain transactions on grounds of lack of capacity and undue influence.
The decedent's native language was Polish, with her knowledge of English being limited. She also suffered from mental illnesses, among them hoarding. Despite these limitations, she was able to accumulate a considerable estate, including a six-family residential building in Boston.
The decedent lived in an apartment on the property until 2002, when the building was condemned and put into receivership. The decedent contested the receivership and became embroiled in legal proceedings in an attempt to rehabilitate the property. She was assisted by an attorney, her guardian, and the defendant, who acted as the decedent's interpreter. The attorney developed a plan for the property that required the decedent to deed one-half of her interest to a developer, who would rehabilitate the property and then allow the decedent to live in one of the apartments rent-free for the remainder of her life. The defendant intervened, however, persuading the decedent to deed the entire property to him for one dollar.
Thereafter, the defendant rehabilitated the property but rented the apartment meant for the decedent to a third party. The defendant also assumed control of the decedent's finances, using a general power of attorney to withdraw money from the decedent's accounts and cashing her Social Security checks, and isolated her from her family and guardian. Moreover, the defendant arranged for the decedent to execute a new will, which the defendant hand-wrote, naming himself as executor and the beneficiary of almost the entire estate.
The defendant admitted that he had emptied the decedent's accounts, but argued that he did so at the decedent's request. He also claimed that he sent $150,000 to a purported guard who had allegedly helped the decedent escape from a concentration camp in Siberia, even though the defendant conceded that he did not believe this had actually happened.
After trial, the probate court found the decedent had been incompetent and the victim of undue influence, voiding the deed, invalidating the will, and ordering the defendant to return funds to the decedent's estate. The probate court also found that the defendant had violated his common law duties associated with a power of attorney, including by sending $150,000 to a person whose identity the defendant himself had questioned. The Appeals Court affirmed on all counts, and further ordered the defendant to pay the plaintiff administratrix's costs and fees on appeal pursuant to Rule 25 of the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure.
Day Pitney Partner Angela Titus McEwan authored an article, "The UTC and the Duty to Inform and Report," published in Trusts & Estates.
Keith Bradoc Gallant and Rebecca Iannantuoni authored an article, "When a Client Lacks Legal Competency, Who Files for the Divorce?," for Family Advocate, a publication of the American Bar Association Section on Family Law.
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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.
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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.