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.

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Probate Court Jurisdiction: A Recent Trial Decision

Ralph Holmes

Both the NH and MA Probate Courts are vested with exclusive jurisdiction over the composition of their probate estates.  What happens when this grant of exclusive jurisdiction is in conflict with the rights of a foreign court to decide title to property claimed by a NH or MA probate estate?

We represent the Trustee of a California trust in which the Trustee claims under California law that various assets, including NH real estate, is constructively titled in the trust, notwithstanding that formal title was never conveyed to the trust.  The Trustee brought an action in California to quiet title and the Administrator sought an Order from our Probate Court that it has exclusive jurisdiction to determine the issue.   In a very thoughtful Order, Judge Quigley, not only essentially agreed with our argument that the Probate Court does not have the authority under federal constitutional principles to purport to divest a foreign court of jurisdiction, but went further and held that the California court is in fact the more appropriate forum to decide the issues, given the provisions of the trust and the presence of the witnesses and evidence in California.