Edinburg v. Edinburg
Massachusetts Appeals Court
42 N.E.2d 1164 (1986)
Dorothy Edinburg (plaintiff) was an art collector with three children. In 1963, she established trusts for each of her children, with her then-husband (defendant) and his relatives acting as trustees. In 1981, Dorothy and her husband filed cross-complaints for divorce. During divorce proceedings, Dorothy sought an accounting of the children’s trusts. In 1982, her husband submitted the requested accounts and Dorothy objected, asserting that the accounts failed to include 19 artworks that she said were the property of the various trusts as a result of inter vivos gifts. In 1983, Dorothy’s husband died, mooting the divorce complaints. At this point, Dorothy’s children intervened in the action, seeking to iron out the issues related to their trusts. At around the same time, Dorothy changed her position on the paintings, asserting that she had not actually gifted them to the trust, but had only been trying to shield them from her husband’s access in the divorce proceedings. The court held a trial on the issue of the proper ownership of the paintings, at which several witnesses testified that Dorothy told them she had given the artworks to her children’s trusts. Evidence submitted at trial also demonstrated that although the artworks were delicate and difficult to transfer in physical form, Dorothy had labeled and stamped the artworks with markings attributing their ownership to the trusts and that she had directed her son to generate a document categorizing each artwork and the corresponding trust to which she had given it. Additionally, the trial revealed that Dorothy had a history of gifting artwork to her children’s trusts, as well as of keeping that artwork in her own vault after executing the gifts. The trial judge ruled that the artworks belonged to the children’s trusts. Dorothy appealed, arguing that there had been no effective delivery because she still retained the key to the vault where the paintings were kept.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Greaney, C.J.)
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