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In re Estate of Fournier

Maine Supreme Judicial Court
902 A.2d 852 (2006)


Facts

George Fournier gave two boxes of cash containing a total of $400,000 to his friends, Mr. and Mrs. Josephat Madore. Fournier asked the Madores to keep the cash until his death and then to give the cash to his sister, Faustina Fogarty (plaintiff), after his death, and he explained to the Madores that he felt Fogarty had a greater need for the money than his sister, Juanita Flanigan. Pursuant to Fournier’s will, Fogarty was appointed personal representative of his estate after his death. Fogarty also met with the Madores after Fournier’s death and they gave her the $400,000. Fogarty then commenced an action for a declaratory judgment to determine that the $400,000 had been held by the Madores under an oral trust created by Fournier for Fogarty’s sole benefit. At trial, the Madores testified that Fournier instructed them to give the money to Fogarty after his death. Mr. Madore testified that Fournier said he wanted the money to go to Fogarty because she had a large family, his other sister Flanigan was already wealthy and he did not want his brother Curtis Flanigan to receive the money. Mrs. Madore provided similar testimony. However, Flanigan’s daughter testified that Fournier told her about the money and Flanigan testified that Fournier told her the Madores were holding the money for both Fogarty and Flanigan. The evidence also established that Fournier had paid $100,000 a few years after giving the money to the Madores. The Aroostook County Probate Court denied Fogarty’s declaratory judgment action finding that Fournier intended the $400,000 to be part of his estate because he told Flanigan’s daughter about the money and had paid Fogarty $100,000, which the court presumed was to address her financial need. Fogarty appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Dana, J.)

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