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Matter of Piel

Court of Appeals of New York
884 N.E.2d 1040 (2008)


Florence Woodward established irrevocable trusts in 1926 and 1963. The trusts provided a lifetime benefit to Woodward’s daughter, Barbara Piel. After Piel’s death, the principal was to be distributed by the trustee, Fleet Bank (Fleet) (defendant), to Piel’s descendants as a class gift. The trusts did not specifically identify any of Piel’s descendants by name. Before marrying, Piel gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth McNabb (plaintiff), whom Piel gave up for adoption. It was unclear whether Woodward knew of McNabb’s birth or adoption. After Piel married, she had two other daughters, Stobie Piel and Lila Piel-Ollman (defendants). When Piel died in 2003, the trust principal was approximately $9.7 million. In October 2004, Fleet began proceedings to settle the trust and named Piel’s daughters Stobie and Lila as potential beneficiaries. McNabb was not identified in the proceedings, but she intervened with her two children (plaintiffs). The Surrogate’s Court dismissed McNabb’s claim, but its decision was reversed on appeal. Fleet, Stobie, and Lila appealed the decision of the intermediate appellate court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Kaye, C.J.)

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