Moore v. Connery
A trial court possesses jurisdiction over equitable claims for the imposition of a constructive trust. The plaintiffs alleged that their stepfather, W. Hudson Connery Jr., promised their mother, Ann Moore, that he would transfer an undivided 50 percent interest in real property in Milford to a trust for their benefit. The plaintiffs sued Connery in Superior Court and asked the court to impose a constructive trust. Connery moved to dismiss and argued that the Superior Court lacked jurisdiction, because the plaintiffs failed to file a claim in Probate Court or to object to the Probate Court inventory. Ann Moore and Connery purchased the real property with a trustee deed, as joint tenants with the right of survivorship, before they married. The real property was not included on the inventory in Probate Court, and the plaintiffs did not request that the Probate Court add the real property to the inventory. The Superior Court rejected the defendant's argument that the Probate Court had exclusive jurisdiction. The Probate Court is a court of restricted jurisdiction that lacks the power to impose a constructive trust. The subject real property passed by operation of law, pursuant to a joint tenancy with right of survivorship, to the defendant, Connery. After Moore passed away, the real property was not part of Moore's estate, and the Probate Court lacked the power to impose a constructive trust on the property. The Superior Court can properly exercise jurisdiction, because it possesses the equitable power to impose a constructive trust. The court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss.