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Expert Testimony Necessary On Standard Of Care? Maybe Sometimes, But Not Always.

January 4, 2017

Authors

Luke Lantta

Expert Testimony Necessary On Standard Of Care? Maybe Sometimes, But Not Always.

January 4, 2017

by: Luke Lantta

Whether a plaintiff needs an expert witness in a breach of fiduciary duty case to testify on the standard of care is a frequently debated topic.  In Heisinger v. Cleary, the Supreme Court of Connecticut weighed in on one side of that debate when it determined that no expert testimony was appropriate on the standard of care applicable to executors who seek professional advice to value the assets of an estate for preparation of estate tax returns.

A plaintiff brought claims that the executors of an estate breached their fiduciary duties to him, the decedent’s sole heir and the only beneficiary of a trust established under the decedent’s will, by, among other things, failing to supervise the work of others.  More specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the appraisers hired by the

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Why We Should Avoid Using Words With Multiple Definitions

July 1, 2014

Authors

Luke Lantta

Why We Should Avoid Using Words With Multiple Definitions

July 1, 2014

by: Luke Lantta

Words or phrases sometimes get passed on from one form to another without ever stopping to give too much thought about what they might actually might mean or could be construed to mean.  It’s later – when one of those words or phrases – comes into dispute that we really dig into the implications of choosing those words.  For example, in Heath v. Heath, the Appellate Court of Connecticut had to determine what the phrase “legal representatives” meant when the “Hembdt Trust” provided that upon the death of one of the beneficiaries (“Aloise”), her interests would pass to her “legal representatives, heirs-at-law or next of kin.”

Aloise’s will provided for the creation of several testamentary trusts, including a testamentary trust for the benefit of her husband and a testamentary trust for her children.  Upon Aloise’s

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No New York Inter Vivos Pet Trusts: but can you use a traditional trust to circumvent breed-specific laws?

July 17, 2013

Authors

Luke Lantta

No New York Inter Vivos Pet Trusts: but can you use a traditional trust to circumvent breed-specific laws?

July 17, 2013

by: Luke Lantta

Nearly every state now provides for companion animal trusts, also known as pet trusts.  We think of pet trusts as being used to care for an animal that outlives its owner.   A recent case from the federal court in Connecticut, Mittasch v. Reviczky, however, raises the question of whether an inter vivos pet trust can be used as a way to circumvent breed-specific laws or evade so-called ‘disposal orders’ calling for the animal’s euthanization.  And the case addresses the more basic question of whether inter vivos pet trusts are even valid trusts, at least under New York law.

A ‘disposal order’ was issued for Stella Blue, a Rottweiler that “nipped” a police officer during a confrontation at the dog owner’s home.  Eight months after Stella Blue was seized, the owner created an animal trust under New York law, the property of which

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Accountant Liability To Beneficiaries For Executor’s Breach Of Fiduciary Duty

July 3, 2013

Authors

Luke Lantta

Accountant Liability To Beneficiaries For Executor’s Breach Of Fiduciary Duty

July 3, 2013

by: Luke Lantta

Most fiduciaries can’t do everything alone.  That’s why they are usually given authority to hire outside professionals, such as accountants and lawyers.  So, what happens to these professionals if, for example, the executor who hired them breaches his fiduciary duties to the estate beneficiaries?

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Accounting Firm Not Required To Maintain Trust Records Or To Account For Financial Activities Of Trust

July 23, 2012

Authors

Luke Lantta

Accounting Firm Not Required To Maintain Trust Records Or To Account For Financial Activities Of Trust

July 23, 2012

by: Luke Lantta

Trustees aren’t always one-stop shops.  In some states, trustees can delegate certain investment decisions.  Also, most trust instruments allow trustees to hire people to help them perform certain activities, such as lawyers and accountants.  Occasionally, an aggrieved party sues these people hired to help the trustee.  In these circumstances, the question becomes what duty was owed by the person hired by the trustee.  That question can often be answered by figuring out what that person was hired to do for the trustee.

In Taylor v. Barberino, the Appellate Court of Connecticut recently considered that question as applied to an accounting firm.  A successor trustee sued an accounting firm that was engaged by the trusts to provide accounting services on the grounds that the accounting firm failed to accurately maintain records of the operation of the trusts and failed to properly account for the financial

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Testamentary Capacity Does Not Require Understanding Of Complex Financial Transactions

June 27, 2012

Authors

Luke Lantta

Testamentary Capacity Does Not Require Understanding Of Complex Financial Transactions

June 27, 2012

by: Luke Lantta

Testamentary capacity is a continuum.  Somewhere along the line, a testator slips from having the requisite capacity to execute a will to not having it.  Where that line falls, however, is the subject of much litigation.

In Deroy v. Estate of Baron, the Appellate Court of Connecticut helped clarify that line under Connecticut law.

A trial court had ruled that a testator lacked the capacity to make a will based on a neurologist’s report about the testator that stated:  “Given her cognitive impairments, it is unlikely that she would be able to make fully informed, thoughtful judgments regarding complex financial issues.”

This, however, was the wrong standard to apply.

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Connecticut Supreme Court Tackles Judicial Immunity For Conservators

April 16, 2012

Authors

Luke Lantta

Connecticut Supreme Court Tackles Judicial Immunity For Conservators

April 16, 2012

by: Luke Lantta

Before we jump into this landmark case from Connecticut, let’s take a very brief look at the procedural and factual history of Gross v. Rell (concurrence and dissent here).

Daniel Gross had a leg infection, which was treated in New York.  After being discharged from the New York hospital, he went to Waterbury to further convalesce.  He was admitted to Waterbury Hospital because of complications, and nine days later a hospital employee filed an application for appointment of conservator in Waterbury Probate Court.  An attorney was appointed for Gross in the involuntary conservatorship action.  A conservator was ultimately appointed, and a week or two later, the conservator placed Gross in the ‘locked ward’ of Grove Manor Nursing Home, Inc.

Gross filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which was granted.  A free man, Gross then brought a claim in federal

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Connecticut Conservator Of The Person Lacked Standing To Bring Lawsuit On Behalf Of Ward

December 21, 2011

Authors

Luke Lantta

Connecticut Conservator Of The Person Lacked Standing To Bring Lawsuit On Behalf Of Ward

December 21, 2011

by: Luke Lantta

Guardians and conservators don’t get appointed because things are going swimmingly for the ward.  In a good many of these cases, a guardian and conservator are appointed because there has been some type of financial exploitation of the ward.  Once the ward has been protected going forward, the question turns to how to try to recover what the ward has lost from the exploitation and who has standing to bring the claims on behalf of the ward?

When it comes to a ward’s financial losses, in Kawecki v. Saas, the Appellate Court of Connecticut clarified that it is the conservator of the estate – and not the conservator of the person (similar to a guardian in other jurisdictions) – who has standing to bring a lawsuit to recover the ward’s financial losses.

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Estate Beneficiary Prevented From Joining Lawsuit Against Caretaker

October 7, 2011

Authors

Luke Lantta

Estate Beneficiary Prevented From Joining Lawsuit Against Caretaker

October 7, 2011

by: Luke Lantta

As a general rule, the personal representative of a decedent’s estate is usually the only person who can pursue an action to recover estate property.  It’s one of the personal representative’s fiduciary duties to estate beneficiaries.  Occasionally, in very limited circumstances, another person interested in the estate may be able to pursue an action in the personal representative’s place.  The Connecticut Court of Appeals determined that those limited circumstances were not present in Litwin v. Ryan.

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