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Sullivan v. Burkin

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
460 N.E.2d 572 (1984)


Facts

Ernest G. Sullivan died with a will that specifically disinherited his wife, Mary A. Sullivan (plaintiff), and left the residue of his estate to the trustee of a revocable trust that he created during his lifetime. Ernest was the sole trustee, and had the right to revoke the trust as well as receive the net income and invade the principal during his lifetime. Upon Ernest’s death, the trust principal and income were to be paid to George F. Cronin, Sr. and Harold J. Cronin (defendants). The trust was executed before a notary public but was not witnessed as required for execution of a will. Mary elected to take her spousal share of Ernest’s probate estate under G.L. c. 191, §15 and brought an action seeking to include the assets of Ernest’s revocable trust in the probate estate from which she would take her spousal share. To reach the trust assets, Mary claimed that the trust was an ineffective testamentary disposition for failure to comply with the requirements of the statute of wills and therefore its assets must pass by intestacy through the probate estate. The Suffolk County Probate Court dismissed Mary’s claim and Mary appealed to the Appeals Court, which reported the case to the Supreme Judicial Court.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Wilkins, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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