132 A.3d 1178 (Me. 2016), Ken-15-136, Fiduciary Trust Co. v. Wheeler

Docket NºKen-15-136
Citation132 A.3d 1178, 2016 ME 26
Opinion JudgeMEAD, J.
Party NameFIDUCIARY TRUST CO. et al. v. MANCHESTER H. WHEELER JR
AttorneyOn the briefs: Michael L. Rair, Esq., Law Offices of Michael L. Rair, Bangor, R. Howard Lake, Esq., Lake & Denison, Winthrop, and John E. Nale, Esq., Nale Law Offices, Waterville, for appellant Manchester H. Wheeler Jr. Brendan P. Reilly, Esq., and Tudor N. Goldsmith, Esq. Jensen Baird Gardner & ...
Judge PanelPanel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.
Case DateFebruary 04, 2016
CourtSupreme Judicial Court of Maine

Page 1178

132 A.3d 1178 (Me. 2016)

2016 ME 26

FIDUCIARY TRUST CO. et al.

v.

MANCHESTER H. WHEELER JR

Ken-15-136

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

February 4, 2016

Argued November 3, 2015.

On the briefs: Michael L. Rair, Esq., Law Offices of Michael L. Rair, Bangor, R. Howard Lake, Esq., Lake & Denison, Winthrop, and John E. Nale, Esq., Nale Law Offices, Waterville, for appellant Manchester H. Wheeler Jr.

Brendan P. Reilly, Esq., and Tudor N. Goldsmith, Esq. Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry, Portland, for appellee Honora Haynes.

At oral argument: Michael L. Rair, Esq., for appellant Manchester H. Wheeler Jr.

Brendan P. Reilly, Esq., for appellee Honora Haynes.

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

OPINION

Page 1179

MEAD, J.

[¶1] Manchester H. Wheeler Jr. appeals from a summary judgment entered by the Superior Court (Kennebec County, Mullen, J. ) in favor of Fiduciary Trust Company on Fiduciary's complaint to determine the proper method of distributing the principal of a trust of which Wheeler is a beneficiary. On appeal, Wheeler contends that the Superior Court erred in concluding that the doctrine of res judicata did not control the construction of the disputed term of the trust. We affirm the judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

[¶2] The relevant facts in the summary judgment record are undisputed. Fiduciary is the acting trustee of the Elizabeth S. Haynes and Robert H. Gardner Trust, created in 1911 and amended in 1918. Pursuant to paragraph 1 of the trust, the trust's net income was to be paid to Elizabeth S. Haynes's two daughters, Hope Manchester Wheeler and Muriel Sturgis Haynes, or their issue. Paragraph 1 provides: During the continuance of the trust to pay the net income thereof as often as quarterly to Hope Manchester Wheeler and Muriel Sturgis Haynes in equal shares during their lives, and on the death of either of them who shall leave issue surviving her the share of said income which she would have received shall be paid to such of her issue by right of representation as shall from time to time be living at the respective times of payment and on the death of either of them leaving no issue surviving her as well as in the case of the issue of one of them becoming extinct, the whole of said income shall be paid to the other if living, or if she be dead to such of her issue by right of representation as shall from time to time be living at the respective times of payment.

(Emphasis added.) Thus, upon the death of either of Elizabeth S. Haynes's daughters, the deceased daughter's share of the income would be paid to her " issue."

[¶3] The death of Hope Manchester Wheeler in 1955 triggered the need to determine to whom her share of the income should be paid. Through the presentation of a bill in equity to the Supreme Judicial Court, Fiduciary petitioned for the Court to determine whether the income should be paid only to Hope Manchester Wheeler's biological son, Manchester H. Wheeler, or whether the income should be shared with Hope Manchester Wheeler's adopted child, Hope Wheeler Brown.1 Fiduciary Trust Co. v. Brown,

Page 1180

152 Me. 360, 361, 364, 131 A.2d 191 (1957). Fiduciary also asked that we make the same determination about where the income Muriel S. Haynes was receiving should be directed after her death, because Muriel had no biological children but did have two adopted children, Letitia Haynes and Honora Haynes. Id. at 364. We reviewed the trust as a whole and concluded that, by using the word " issue," the settlor, Elizabeth S. Haynes, intended that the trust's income distributions be made only to children born to her daughters, thereby excluding Hope Manchester Wheeler's adopted child.2 Id. at 378-79. We noted, however, that because Muriel was alive at the time of the decision, the contingency necessary to implicate a question concerning the redirection of her share of the income distribution had not arisen. Id. at 370.

[¶4] Although paragraph 1 controls the distribution of trust income, paragraph 2--which is at issue here--governs the distribution of principal upon the trust's termination. Paragraph 2 provides, in pertinent part, " [t]wenty-one years after the death of the survivor of [Elizabeth S. Haynes's two daughters] and of Manchester Haynes Wheeler [Sr.] the principal . . . shall be paid over to the persons . . . to whom and in which it would then have been distributed under the intestate laws of Maine then in force. . . ." 3 (Emphasis added.) Unlike paragraph 1, paragraph 2 does not rely on the word " issue" ; instead, it defers to state intestacy laws to determine beneficiaries at the time of termination.

[¶5] The trust terminated on December 26, 2013. On February 21, 2014, Fiduciary filed a complaint in the Kennebec County Probate Court asking that court to determine whether adopted children are entitled to a share of the principal pursuant to paragraph 2. The case was subsequently removed to the Superior Court. On September 29, 2014, Fiduciary moved for a summary judgment on the ground that paragraph 2 invokes Maine intestacy laws applicable at the time of the termination, and 2013 Maine intestacy laws provided (and still provide) that adopted children inherit from or through their adoptive parents just as biological children inherit from or through their biological parents. See 18-A M.R.S. § 2-109(1) (2013) (" An adopted person is the child of an adopting parent . . . ." ).

Page 1181

[¶6] Thus, pursuant to Fiduciary's proposed distribution scheme, Honora Haynes, the only living adopted child of Muriel S. Haynes and the only living person in her generation, would receive one-third of the trust principal. Wheeler, the biological great grandson of the settlor,4 objected to this distribution, contending that our 1957 decision in Brown, through the doctrine of res judicata, precluded the trial court from applying 2013 Maine intestacy laws because it had already been determined that Elizabeth S. Haynes did not intend to benefit adopted children. On February 27, 2015, the Superior Court granted Fiduciary's motion for summary judgment, reasoning that res judicata did not prevent it from applying paragraph 2 of the trust because Brown only controlled paragraph 1. Wheeler appealed.

II. DISCUSSION

[¶7] Wheeler contends that the court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of Fiduciary because both the claim-and...

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3 practice notes
  • Doe v. Forino, 121520 MESC, Aro-20-128
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Judicial Court of Maine
    • December 15, 2020
    ...the failure to prove any individual prong means that the second litigation is not barred. See Fiduciary Trust Co. v. Wheeler, 2016 ME 26, ¶ 14, 132 A.3d 1178 (holding that claim preclusion was inapplicable when the defendant met prongs one and two but could not prove pro......
  • 170 A.3d 215 (Me. 2017), Cum-15-272, In re George Parsons 1907 Trust
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Judicial Court of Maine
    • September 5, 2017
    ...of law. M.R. Civ. P. 56(c). We review de novo the grant of a motion for summary judgment. Fiduciary Tr. Co. v. Wheeler, 2016 ME 26, ¶ 8, 132 A.3d 1178. A genuine issue of fact exists if " sufficient evidence supports a factual contest to require a factfinder to choo......
  • In re George Parsons 1907 Trust, 090517 MESC, Cum-15-272
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Judicial Court of Maine
    • September 5, 2017
    ...a matter of law. M.R. Civ. P. 56(c). We review de novo the grant of a motion for summary judgment. Fiduciary Tr. Co. v. Wheeler, 2016 ME 26, ¶ 8, 132 A.3d 1178. A genuine issue of fact exists if "sufficient evidence supports a factual contest to require a factf......
3 cases
  • Doe v. Forino, 121520 MESC, Aro-20-128
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Judicial Court of Maine
    • December 15, 2020
    ...the failure to prove any individual prong means that the second litigation is not barred. See Fiduciary Trust Co. v. Wheeler, 2016 ME 26, ¶ 14, 132 A.3d 1178 (holding that claim preclusion was inapplicable when the defendant met prongs one and two but could not prove pro......
  • 170 A.3d 215 (Me. 2017), Cum-15-272, In re George Parsons 1907 Trust
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Judicial Court of Maine
    • September 5, 2017
    ...of law. M.R. Civ. P. 56(c). We review de novo the grant of a motion for summary judgment. Fiduciary Tr. Co. v. Wheeler, 2016 ME 26, ¶ 8, 132 A.3d 1178. A genuine issue of fact exists if " sufficient evidence supports a factual contest to require a factfinder to choo......
  • In re George Parsons 1907 Trust, 090517 MESC, Cum-15-272
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Judicial Court of Maine
    • September 5, 2017
    ...a matter of law. M.R. Civ. P. 56(c). We review de novo the grant of a motion for summary judgment. Fiduciary Tr. Co. v. Wheeler, 2016 ME 26, ¶ 8, 132 A.3d 1178. A genuine issue of fact exists if "sufficient evidence supports a factual contest to require a factf......