Monday, November 11, 2013

In re Estate of Kurrelmeyer case brief

In re Estate of Kurrelmeyer case brief summary
895 A.2d 207 (2006)

In a probate proceeding, appellee son of the decedent objected to the exclusion of certain real property in the estate inventory completed by appellant widow of the decedent, and asked that a trust created by the widow be set aside and that the property at issue be included in the probate estate. The Chittenden Superior Court (Vermont) reversed an order of the probate court and granted summary judgment in favor of the son. The widow appealed.


The decedent executed a power of attorney designating the widow as his agent. Using the power of attorney, the widow created a trust, and transferred real property into the trust. The trust gave the widow greater benefits regarding that property than she had under the decedent's will. The trial court found the power of attorney ambiguous, and ruled that it authorized only maintenance of, and additions to, trusts already existing when the power of attorney came into being.


  • The appellate court disagreed. 
  • The power of attorney was unambiguous, and it expressly authorized the widow to create a trust. 
  • The power of attorney was "general" and broad. 
  • It did refer to a trust already in existence, but did not suggest lack of authority to create a new trust. 
  • The fact that the trust here was created by an agent did not affect its legitimacy. This interpretation of the power of attorney was not contrary to public policy. 
  • The question of whether the widow's actions breached her fiduciary duties remained. 
  • Although the widow had authority to create the trust, her authority was not limitless. 
  • The trial court did not reach the question of whether the trust was a breach of fiduciary duty.

The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings to consider whether there was a breach a fiduciary duty on the part of the widow, as agent, in light of all the relevant circumstances at the time the trust was executed.

Suggested Study Aids For Wills, Trusts & Estate Law

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