In Boyle v. Weiss, Case No. SJC-10933, 2012 Mass. LEXIS 33 (Feb. 16, 2012), the Supreme Judicial Court answered the following certified question: "May the holder of a beneficial interest in a trust which holds title to real estate and attendant dwelling in which such beneficiary resides acquire an estate of homestead in said land and building under G.L. c. 188, § 1?" Confining its answer to the 2004 version of the homestead statute, the Court answered NO.
First, under the 2004 version, the beneficiary is not an "owner," as that term is defined in the statute, because she is not a sole owner, joint tenant, tenant by the entirety or tenant in common. Therefore, she holds no direct ownership interest in the property. Second, her beneficial interest in the trust holding title to the property does not indirectly endow her with an ownership interest. Rather, her beneficial interest, which gives her a right to a share of trust income, is a personal property interest. Third, the language in the statute pursuant to which an estate of homestead may be acquired by someone who rightfully possesses the property "by lease or otherwise" does not give the beneficiary, who is occupying the property as a tenant at will, the privilege of claiming a homestead exemption.
Finally, the Court rejected the beneficiary's argument that the 2010 version of the homestead statute, which expands the definition of "owner" to include holders of life estates and holders of beneficial interests, was a mere clarification of the 2004 version. Instead, the Court held that this expanded definition is a change in the law to which the beneficiary could not avail herself, because she filed her homestead declaration one year before the 2010 version went into effect.
In Cassell v. Christian Science Board of Directors, Case No. 11-P-453, 2012 Mass. App. Unpub. LEXIS 173 (Feb. 15, 2012), a decision issued pursuant to Rule 1:28, the Appeals Court affirmed the probate court's dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Plaintiff was excommunicated from the First Church of Christ, Scientist. She filed suit in probate court against members of the church's board of directors, seeking reinstatement and an affirmative injunction that the board "abide by all terms and conditions of the Governing Documents, including the Deeds of Trust and Church Manual." Plaintiff argued that probate court was the proper forum for her complaint because Mary Baker Eddy founded the church as a trust, pursuant to a deed of trust, and thus that the board consists of trust fiduciaries.
The probate court disagreed, and the Appeals Court affirmed, holding that Mary Baker Eddy's deed of trust was for the purpose of conveying land, not to establish judicial policing of church membership. The Court also held that excommunication is a form of internal discipline covered by the "church autonomy doctrine," which provides that both congregational and hierarchical churches are entitled to autonomy over church disputes touching on matters of doctrine, canon law, policy, discipline and ministerial relationships, and that the First Amendment forbids courts from interfering with a church's internal governance or the excommunication of its members.
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.