Probate & Trust Litigation

A resource for lawyers and the public in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for information on will contests, trust disputes, guardianships, conservatorships, elder exploitation, fiduciary duty claims, and other probate litigation disputes.

NH Probate Gifting Decision (Link to Order)

Ralph HolmesCongratulations to Dan Kalinski on his big win in Estate of McKenzie and thanks to Dan for sharing a copy of the order!  Sometimes following a death, disputes arise about the ownership of property between the administrator of the estate who claims that the item was owned by the decedent and therefore is part of the probate estate and someone else, usually a relative of the decedent, who claims that the the decedent gifted the property to them before death.  Presenting this scenario, McKenzie involved claims by daughters of the decedent that their father had gifted them valuable coins he kept in a safe deposit box titled in the name of the decedent and one of the daughters.  Justice Mark Weaver in a thoughtful order considered the evidence and held that the coins were the property of the probate estate, not the daughters.  In ruling in favor of the executrix, the Court cited that the daughters could not identify with particularity the claimed coins, the daughter listed as a co-owner of the safe deposit box did not have a key to the box and never accessed it, and credible testimony by the decedent’s longtime companion that the decedent saw himself as the owner of the coins.  The decision is an excellent discussion of the types of facts and circumstances and legal principles at play in these cases.