Vechiola v. Fasanella
Claims that the holder of a power of attorney dissolved the grantor's Totten trusts and returned the money to the grantor's bank accounts are sufficient to allege breach of a fiduciary duty. In 2004 and 2007, the plaintiff's decedent, Marie Milano, provided control of her finances to her nephew, the defendant, Frank Fasanella, pursuant to a power of attorney. Fasanella discovered that Milano had created so-called Totten trusts for the benefit of another relative, William Vechiola. Connecticut General Statutes §36a-269 provides that if the named beneficiary survives the depositor, title vests in the beneficiary when the depositor dies. About a month prior to Milano's death, Fasanella withdrew money from the Totten trusts and returned the money to his aunt's bank accounts, making the money available to Fasanella, as a beneficiary of his aunt's estate. After his aunt passed away, Vechiola sued, alleging that Fasanella breached his fiduciary duty. Fasanella moved for summary judgment. As the holder of the power of attorney, Fasanella possessed the obligation to act in the best interests of his aunt. There was a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether he acted in his aunt's best interests. The court denied his motion for summary judgment. Vechiola also alleged tortious interference with the expectancy of an inheritance. When she arranged the Totten trusts, "Milano," wrote the court, "is conclusively presumed to have intended that the monies be received by the named beneficiary at the time of her death." A factfinder could conclude that Fasanella's conduct was tortious, and that he acted contrary to Milano's wishes. There was a genuine issue of material fact. The court denied Fasanella's motion for summary judgment on tortious interference with the expectancy of an inheritance. Absent evidence that Fasanella deposited his aunt's funds into his own bank account, or commingled his aunt's assets with his own, Fasanella was entitled to summary judgment on counts alleging statutory theft and conversion. There was no evidence Fasanella issued a false representation, as a statement of fact, to Vechiola or his aunt. The court granted Fasanella's motion for summary judgment on a fraud count.