Sunday, December 8, 2013

Matter of Piel case brief

Matter of Piel case brief summary
884 N.E.2d 1040 (2008)

Appellants, a trustee, a guardian ad litem, and two daughters of a trust's beneficiary, sought review of a decision of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Fourth Judicial Departments (New York), which reversed a surrogate court's decision that the class gift in the trust at issue did not presumptively include adopted-out children, such as respondent, an adopted-out daughter of the beneficiary.

The grantor created two irrevocable trusts, one in 1926 and one in 1963, for the lifetime benefit of the beneficiary, the grantor's daughter; upon the beneficiary's death, the principal was to be distributed to the beneficiary's descendants. The adopted-out daughter was granted permission to intervene in the two instant proceedings for judicial settlement of the final account for each trust, but her objections to each account were dismissed.


  • The appellate division reversed, and on further appeal, the court reversed. 
  • No evidence was presented of the grantor's intent to include or exclude a person from the class gift. 
  • While Domestic Relations Law § 117 was not amended until 1963 to terminate an adopted child's rights to inheritance and succession from the biological family unless expressly intended by the grantor, nothing in the pre-1964 legislative history or case law indicated that an adopted-out child would share in a class gift to a biological parent's issue, descendants, or children. 
  • The finality of judicial decrees would be compromised if adopted-out children were included in such class gifts.
The court reversed the appellate division's order and reinstated the surrogate court's decrees.

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