Christopher Weld Jr. and Seth J. Robbins persuaded the Massachusetts Appeals Court to uphold a 2010 jury verdict finding that their clients are 100 percent owners of oceanfront property in Gloucester, Mass. The ruling ended the 12-year-old litigation over the multi-million dollar real estate. (Kennedy v. Meagher, 2015 WL 5776099.)
The dispute centered on a widow's claim against her deceased husband's estate. The wife filed an action in Massachusetts Superior Court in 2003 based on alleged fraud and breach of trust by her deceased husband in the 1980s. The claims were, in large part, an effort to recover what she believed to be her 100 percent interest in the Gloucester property based on a right of survivorship she possessed in the late 1970s.
The case turned on the enforceability of various documents executed by the couple in 1980, which resulted in her relinquishing any beneficial interest in the trust (and its sole asset, the Gloucester property) in exchange for a lifetime beneficial interest in a separate trust. The net result of the 1980 exchange, as argued to the jury by Mr. Weld and Mr. Robbins, was that on the husband's death, the wife would hold no ownership interest in the property, and she would have no right to remain in the marital home following her husband's passing.
Instead, the wife was to receive an annual income stream for life from her interest in the separate trust, which her husband substantially funded for 22 years. She received a steady stream of tax-free income (at least $300,000 annually) until her death in 2013.
After a three-week trial, the jury found the 1980 exchange to be valid and enforceable, and rejected the wife's claim to ownership of the property. Following the Appeals Court ruling, the losing party unsuccessfully sought further appellate review.
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