June 2020

Posted June 19, 2020

IMO the Estate of Evelynn Chambers, Register of Wills Folio No. 168119 (June 12, 2020)

       In this case, Master-in-Chancery Molina, ruled on exceptions to an estate accounting brought by two of the decedent’s children (“Exceptants”), brother and sister of the Personal Representative. The Exceptants filed four exceptions to the Personal Representative’s first accounting of the estate. These exceptions included that the Personal Representative (I) failed to provide sufficient information, including expenditures and receipts, in the first accounting, (II) failed to include the decedent’s home in the accounting, (III) misused estate assets in relation to decedent’s funeral expenses, and (IV) impermissibly charged attorney’s fees and expenses to the estate.

       The Master found that the Personal Representative, though not using the most effective method, had met his duty of care with regard to the support he provided for his expenditures. Next, the Master determined that the decedent’s home had passed to the Personal Representative through decedent’s will, not as part of the estate. Thus there was no need to account for the home’s sale or mortgage pay-off. 

       The Master did, however, conclude that the Personal Representative had mismanaged assets of the estate. Specifically, Decedent had a State Employee Pension Plan that designated $7,000 to be used toward funeral expenses.  Instead of apply the benefit to decedent’s funeral, the Personal Representative had charged the funeral expenses to the estate and accepted the benefit as if he were the personal beneficiary.  

       Finally, the Master found that attorney’s fees owed by the Personal Representative, in his capacity as such, are properly paid from the estate because the attorney is providing a benefit to the estate and its beneficiaries.

       Based on these findings, the Master recommended that exception I, II and IV be overruled. As to exception III, the Master recommended that the Personal Representative be surcharged for his retention of the benefit in the amount of $7,000 and that that amount should be repaid to the estate within sixty days.


Posted June 19, 2020

Jerita Hill, et al. v. Judy L. Myers, et al., C.A. No. 2018-0160-SEM (June 15, 2020)

       In this case, family members (“Plaintiffs”) of decedent filed an action against decedent’s attorney-in-fact (“Defendant”) for breach of fiduciary duty and undue influence, among other things, stemming from the sale of property owned by decedent. Especially pertinent to the Master’s final report are Counts I, II, and III of Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint which allege breach of fiduciary duty, undue influence, and declaratory judgment.  Defendant filed a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Count I for lack of standing and failure to state a claim, and Counts II and III for failure to state a claim.

       As to Count I, because the Master found that Defendant owed a fiduciary duty to decedent and that Plaintiffs had adequately pleaded facts alleging a breach of that duty, the Master concluded that Plaintiffs had alleged a cognizable claim. Further, the Master held that because the Plaintiffs were either intended beneficiaries of decedent’s will or, at the very least, intestate heirs, they had legal standing to pursue their claims against the Defendant. Thus, Count I survived the motion to dismiss.

       On Count II, the Master found that although the Defendant may be able to show that the sale of the property was appropriate, Plaintiffs had adequately pleaded that decedent had consistently refused pre-hospitalization sale of the property, and Defendant effectuated a previously rejected sale. As such, Count II also survived the motion to dismiss.

       Plaintiffs’ Count III requested that the court declare that the lack of a residuary clause in the will should be interpreted such that the residuary would pass via intestate succession to Plaintiffs.  Defendant argued that a paragraph in decedent’s will should be interpreted as a residuary clause. But the Master found that either conflicting interpretation of that ambiguous section could be reasonable and, thus, she deemed dismissal of Count III inappropriate.