Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Estate of Libby

Supreme Court of Maine

January 9, 2018

ESTATE OF STEPHEN E. LIBBY

          Argued: November 15, 2017

          Thomas L. Douglas, Esq. (orally), and Sarah A. McDaniel, Esq., Douglas McDaniel & Campo LLC, PA, Westbrook, for appellants Sherryl L. Albert and the Estate of Stephen E. Libby.

          Charles E. Gilbert, III, Esq. (orally), Gilbert & Greif, P.A., Bangor, for appellee Stephen E. Libby II.

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          GORMAN, J.

         [¶1] Sherryl L. Albert, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Stephen E. Libby (Stephen Sr.), appeals from a purported judgment of the Penobscot County Probate Court [R. Bradford, J.) adopting the report of a referee and imposing a constructive trust on her interests in real property. Sherryl argues that the court erred because there was insufficient evidence to support the referee's conclusion that she committed constructive fraud. We hold that the court did not err in adopting the referee's report imposing a constructive trust, but we remand to the Probate Court with direction to enter an effective judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Stephen Sr. died in November of 2013 and his will, which named Sherryl as personal representative of his estate, was filed with the Penobscot County Probate Court in January of 2014. Stephen Sr. identified his five children, including Sherryl, in his will. At issue in this appeal are transfers of real property that took place in 2001, 2011, and 2013 from Stephen Sr. to Sherryl. As a result of these transfers, upon Stephen Sr.'s death, Sherryl was the sole legal owner of two properties, and she owned a one-half interest in six additional properties as a tenant in common with Nancy Libby, Sherryl's mother and Stephen Sr.'s estranged wife.

         [¶3] While the probate of Stephen Sr.'s estate was underway, Sherryl filed a complaint against Stephen E. Libby II (Stephen Jr.), her brother and Stephen Sr.'s son, and he responded by filing a nine-count counterclaim against Sherryl. By agreement of the parties and an order dated February 9, 2016, the Probate Court assigned a referee to hear Sherryl's claim and Stephen Jr.'s counterclaim.[1] 14 M.R.S. § 1151 (2017); M.R. Prob. P. 53; M.R. Civ. P. 53(b)(1).

         [¶4] Stephen Jr.'s counterclaim alleged, in part, that Stephen Sr. conveyed his property interests to Sherryl conditioned on her agreement that she would hold the property for the benefit of all his children and would convey her interests back to the estate or into an appropriate trust after Stephen Sr.'s death. Sherryl refused to convey her interests after Stephen Sr.'s death and Stephen Jr. argued that her refusal constituted constructive fraud. Stephen Jr. requested a judgment imposing a constructive trust on the property at issue.[2]

         [¶5] The referee held a two-day testimonial hearing regarding Stephen Jr.'s counterclaim on December 14 and 16, 2016. The referee's report, dated January 17, 2017, found in pertinent part that Stephen Sr. "held his daughter, Sherryl Albert, in a position of trust, " and found "by clear and convincing evidence that all of the Maine real estate conveyed to Sherryl for no consideration or payment was conveyed to her to hold in trust for [Stephen Sr.'s] children." The referee concluded that Sherryl committed constructive fraud and recommended the imposition of a constructive trust on all of the Maine real estate Stephen Sr. conveyed to Sherryl in 2001 and thereafter.

         [¶6] Sherryl filed a timely objection to the referee's report. See M.R. Civ. P. 53(e)(2). The Probate Court held a hearing on Sherryl's objections and, finding no errors, adopted the referee's report and ordered judgment "entered in the record." See 14 M.R.S. § 1155 (2017); M.R. Civ. P. 53(e)(2). Sherryl appeals. 18-A M.R.S. § 1-308 (2017); M.R. App. P. 2 (Tower 2016).

         II. DISCUSSION

         [¶7] "When a trial court accepts a report of a referee, the findings of the referee become the trial court's findings, and we review those findings directly." Wechsler v. Simpson,2016 ME 21, ¶ 12, 131 A.3d 909 (quotation marks omitted). The referee's "findings are entitled to very substantial deference because of the referee's opportunity to observe and assess the witnesses' testimony." Karamanoglu v. Gourlaouen,2016 ME 86, ¶ 11, 140 A.3d 1249 (quotation marks omitted). ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.