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Bank of America, N.A., et al. v. Babcock, et al. (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-176-14)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   SJC-11651   BANK OF AMERICA, N.A. & another,[1] trustees,[2]  vs. VICTORIA BABCOCK & others.[3] October 28, 2014. Trust, Taxation.  Taxation, Marital deduction.  Practice, Civil, Declaratory proceeding.      The trustees of the Indenture of Trust of Hollis W. Plimpton, Jr., dated June 24, 1964, as amended, also known as the Hollis W. Plimpton, Jr. Family Trust (trust), filed a complaint in the county court, pursuant to G. L. c. 231A, seeking a declaration that the trust as drafted correctly expresses the intent of Hollis W. Plimpton, Jr. (settlor) that his estate be eligible to obtain the optimal benefit of allowable Federal and State estate tax marital deductions.[4]  Alternatively, the trustees seek an order rewording a portion of the trust to ensure that it accomplishes the settlor’s intent, pursuant to G. L. c. 215, § 6.  A single justice of this court reserved and reported the case to the full court.   Litigants have sought reformation of trusts, and judicial declarations of rights in will and trust cases, from this court in a variety of situations under the Bosch rubric.  See Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Estate of Bosch, 387 U.S. 456 (1967).  The cases raise issues of State law, which the parties have asked us to resolve because of their Federal tax implications.  See Walker v. Walker, 433 Mass. 581, 582 (2001); Kirchick v. Guerry, 429 Mass. 215, 217 (1999) (court decides State law issues in Bosch cases, not Federal law issues).  “We have decided [such] cases . . . not only when the parties have been actively engaged in disputes with the Internal Revenue Service, but also, on occasion, when the parties have sought decisions that would enable them to plan their estates correctly and to prepare effectively for future tax consequences.”  Walker v. Walker, supra at 582-583 (2001).  See Shawmut Bank, N.A. v. Buckley, 422 Mass. 706, 709-710 (1996); Billings v. Fowler, 361 Mass. 230, 233-234 (1972).  In the latter category, our cases have involved situations where there is a clear mistake in the drafting or some real uncertainty about the meaning of an instrument that would lead inevitably to adverse tax consequences in the future.  See, e.g., Hillman v. Hillman, 433 Mass. 590 (2001).  See also Linehan v. Linehan, 453 Mass. 1017, 1018 (2009), and cases cited.   These features are noticeably absent from the case before us.  There is […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - October 29, 2014 at 2:25 am

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