Byline: Barry Bridges
In a split decision, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has validated the last will and testament of a testator whose daughters disagreed on whether he remained subject to a temporary guardianship that precluded estate planning.
The guardianship decree prohibited Bartolomie Scire from "revoking or drafting any Last Will and Testament." But Scire's three daughters and potential beneficiaries plaintiffs Joyce Duffy and Donna O'Reilly, and defendant Carolyn Scire went to court for a determination of the date that the guardianship and its attendant restrictions were extinguished.
The debate was whether the relevant date was December 2010, when the Probate Court granted a petition to dismiss the guardianship, or whether the estate planning limitation ended in July 2012 when the guardian was formally discharged after submitting an accounting. The distinction was critical to the disposition of the elder Scire's assets, as the disputed will leaving his property to defendant Carolyn Scire was executed in 2011.
A Superior Court judge agreed with Carolyn's position that her father was free to execute the will in 2011 as it was after the dismissal order.
Four members of the Supreme Court joined in affirming that decision.
"After a careful review of the record, we have concluded that the last will and testament which Mr. Scire executed [in 2011] is not invalid as a result of the previous temporary guardianship because, on the date when he executed it, the Probate Court had already determined [in 2010] that Mr. Scire had the requisite capacity to make his own decisions and had granted the petition to dismiss the temporary guardianship," Justice William P. Robinson III wrote for the majority. "Accordingly, the earlier restriction imposed by the Probate Court limiting Mr. Scire's ability to execute a last will and testament had become inoperative."
But Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg dissented on several fronts, identifying an "abundance of reversible error on the face of [the] record." In her view, the majority overlooked the fact that the dismissal order had also appointed a conservator to continue in the "supervision of [Scire's] activities."
"Importantly, in the context of this case, there is no difference between a guardianship and a conservatorship," Goldberg wrote.
[box type="shadow" align="alignright" width="325px"]CASE: Duffy v. Scire, et al., Lawyers Weekly No. 60-103-19 (19 pages)
COURT: Rhode Island Supreme Court
ISSUE: Was a...