Tuesday, November 12, 2013

National Academy of Sciences v. Cambridge Trust Co. case brief

National Academy of Sciences v. Cambridge Trust Co. case brief summary
346 N.E.2d 879 (1976)

Petitioner beneficiary sought revocation of payments made by respondent bank to decedent's widow after the decedent's wife had remarried. The Appeals Court (Massachusetts) affirmed the probate court's decision, which ordered the bank to restore the erroneous payments. However, it struck the probate court's decision that permitted the bank to charge the estate for legal services the bank incurred in a recovery action. The bank appealed.


In his will, the decedent directed that all his real and personal property was to be held in a trust by the bank. The net income of the trust was to be paid to his wife during her lifetime so long as she did not remarry. Furthermore, the will provided that if the decedent's wife remarried or died then the remains of the trust would have been paid to the beneficiary. After the decedent passed away, the bank started to make trust payments to the decedent's widow. Unbeknownst to bank, the decedent's widow remarried soon after the decedent's death and continued to receive trust payments until death. It was not until the death of the widow that the bank discovered that she had remarried. 

  • On appeal, the court noted that the bank made the disputed payments for 22 years and during that time made no effort to ascertain if the decedent's widow had remarried. 
  • Therefore, the court held that marital status of the decedent's wife fully justified the reopening of the accounts. 
  • With respect to the surcharge, the court held that the bank was liable to the beneficiary to make restitution. The court also saw no reason to disturb the probate court's award of attorney fees.

The court affirmed the appellate court's decision that affirmed and modified the probate court's decision.

Suggested Study Aids For Wills, Trusts & Estate Law

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