Manzo v. Nugent
A court can vacate a Probate Court order that created trusts, if there was no hearing, prior to the Probate Court's order, notice was inadequate and the trusts were inconsistent with estate plans. In May 2009, the Probate Court authorized the defendant, John Nugent, in his capacity as the conservator of Josephine Smoron, to establish trusts for the benefit of Smoron. Nugent immediately transferred Smoron's real property into one trust and Smoron's assets into another. Smoron passed away on June 20. Plaintiff Samuel Manzo was a minor beneficiary of Smoron's 1996 will, which explicitly provided that she did not want to benefit Catholic churches. He was also the major beneficiary of Smoron's 2004 will. Manzo appealed the Probate Court's decision to establish trusts and argued that notice of the Probate Court's hearing was insufficient. Allegedly, none of the beneficiaries of Smoron's 2004 will received notice. "As the creation of the Trusts had the effect of disinheriting them," wrote the court, "they clearly had an interest in Nugent's application." Also, the Commissioner of Administrative Services and the Commissioner of Social Services did not receive notice. Manzo also argued that the Probate Court did not hear any testimony. "Even if it determined that the application was sufficient as submitted," wrote the court, "the probate court was not permitted to simply ignore the statute's requirement that a hearing be conducted." On the merits, the court found that the creation of the trusts could have left Smoron's conservator without sufficient income to meet Smoron's expenses of approximately $15,000 per month. Any trusts should have been revocable, to permit the conservator to invade the principal to meet medical expenses. The trusts, which designated Catholic churches as beneficiaries, were inconsistent with Smoron's estate plans. One of her wills indicated that she did not want to leave any bequest to Catholic churches. The court vacated the Probate Court's order and declared the trusts void ab initio.