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Forbis v. Neal

649 S.E.2d 382 (2007)

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Forbis v. Neal

North Carolina Supreme Court

649 S.E.2d 382 (2007)

Facts

Bonnie Newell and Augusta Sustare were sisters. Each sister left most of her estate to the other sister in her will. Each sister also executed a power of attorney authorizing their nephew, Beverly Neal (defendant), to help them manage their finances but not to gift any property to himself. At Neal’s urging, Newell signed documents setting up two bank accounts: (1) a payable-on-death account that named Neal as the beneficiary and (2) a joint account that listed Newell and Neal as co-owners and gave Neal a right of survivorship, i.e., ownership of the entire account at Newell’s death. Later, without Newell’s involvement, Neal used the power of attorney to set up a third account for Newell, this time at an investment bank. Neal again listed himself as a joint account owner with a right of survivorship. Neal then sold much of Newell’s real estate and deposited the money into the investment account. When Newell died, Neal automatically owned the approximately $250,000 in the three accounts. What remained of Newell’s assets passed to Augusta through Newell’s will. A year later, Augusta was having financial difficulty and asked Neal for financial help. Neal refused. Augusta then revoked her power of attorney naming Neal as her agent and executed a new power of attorney naming Augusta’s niece, LaMarr Forbis (plaintiff), as Augusta’s agent. As Augusta’s agent and a co-executor of Newell’s estate, Forbis sued Neal for fraudulently adding himself to all three of Newell’s accounts. Neal moved for summary judgment, arguing that Newell had voluntarily given him the property in the accounts. The trial court entered summary judgment for Neal, and Forbis appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Martin, J.)

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