JEANNE S. REED TRUST; LAWRENCE E. REED as co-trustee and Individually; GEORGE P. REED IV, as co-trustee and individually Plaintiffs,
SALLY HUTCHINSON; JENNIFER REED; SHAUN GIBERSON; ANGELA GIBERSON; NISSA GIBERSON, Defendants
JUSTICE LANCE E. WALKER MAINE SUPERIOR COURT
filed a complaint on June 11, 2015 seeking "an order to
quiet title or an Order of partition that requires the sale
of real estate . . . ." Entries of default were
previously issued against all defendants except for defendant
Hutchinson. A bench trial was held on March 3, 2017.
subject real property is located in Gray, Maine on Little
Sebago Lake. Jeanne S. Reed (hereinafter "Mrs. Reed)
acquired the property in 1980 pursuant to two deeds.
(PL's Ex. 4.) The deeds each grant the properties to
"Jeanne S. Reed, her heirs and assigns forever."
23, 1997, Mrs. Reed executed her Last Will and Testament,
which provided in relevant part as follows: "All of the
property that I own at my death, . . . and any property that
I have the power to dispose of under my Will shall be
distributed to the Trustee of the Jeanne S. Reed Trust to be
administered and distributed as provided under that
Trust." (PL's Ex. 2.) The same date Mrs. Reed
executed a trust document and paid a nominal corpus to
establish the Jeanne S. Reed Trust (hereinafter "the
Trust"). (PL's Ex. 2.) Mrs. Reed's husband,
George Reed, III (hereinafter "Mr. Reed"), was
named as trustee. (Id.) Her sons, George Reed, IV
and Lawrence Reed, were named as successor co-trustees.
(Id.) Mrs. Reed died on July 26, 1997.
will was never probated. See 18-A M.R.S. §
3-108 (stating, except for some exceptions that do not apply
in the circumstances of this case, there is a three-year
statute of limitations for probating a will). Mrs. Reed is
still the record owner of the properties. Following her
death, Mr. Reed managed the Trust and paid all property taxes
and upkeep expenses. (PL's Ex. 5.) Mr. Reed passed away
on May 20, 2013. The Cumberland County Probate Court issued
an order determining Mrs. Reed's heirs on August 20,
2014. (PL's Ex. 1.)
memorandum considers whether the will is sufficient to
establish the Trust's title to the properties in light of
relevant statutes, case law, and the "joint motion to
accept stipulation of settlement" and "stipulation
of settlement" between plaintiffs and defendant
complaint, the Trust seeks relief pursuant to 14 M.R.S.
§ 6651. It did not expressly seek relief pursuant
to the Declaratory Judgment Act, but this court may treat a
quiet title claim as one for declaratory
judgment. See Ricciv. Godin, 523 A.2d 589,
591 (Me. 1987) (noting approvingly that the Superior Court
assumed 14 M.R.S. §§ 6655-6658 and 14 M.R.S. §
6701 claims in pleadings initiated actions for declaratory
judgment); see also 3 Harvey, Maine Civil
Practice 419-20 (3d, 2011 ed.). Declaratory judgment
actions are not a new cause of action, but rather
'"provide a more adequate and flexible remedy in
cases where jurisdiction already exists.'"
Hodgdon v. Campbell, 411 A.2d 667, 669 (Me. 1980)
(quoting CascoBank& Trust Co. v.
Johnson, Me., 265 A.2d 306, 307 (1970)).
Section 6651 reads as follows:
A person in possession of real property, claiming an estate
of freehold therein or an unexpired term of not less than 10
years, . . . may, if he or those under whom he claims or
those claiming under him have been in uninterrupted
possession of such property for 4 years or more, bring an
action in the Superior Court... in the county ... in which
said real property lies, setting forth his estate, stating
the source of his title, describing the premises, and
averring that an apprehension exists that persons named in
the complaint, or persons unknown claiming as heirs, devisees
or assigns, or in any other way, by, through or under a
person or persons named in the complaint, claim or may claim
some right, title or interest in the premises adverse to his
said estate; and that such apprehension creates a cloud upon
the title and depreciates the market value of the property;
and praying that such persons be summoned to show cause why
they should not bring an action to try their title to the
described premises. . ..
§ 6651 (2015). The Superior Court also enjoys concurrent
jurisdiction with the Probate Court over "all
proceedings in this State involving a trust." 18-B
M.R.S. § 203; see also 18-B M.R.S. §
201(1), (3) (2015) ("(1) The court may intervene in the
administration of a trust to the extent its jurisdiction is
invoked by an interested person or as provided by law. ...
(3) A judicial proceeding involving a trust may relate to any