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Ciampa v. Bank of America, et al. (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-109-15)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.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   14-P-1179                                       Appeals Court   JAMIE CIAMPA, individually and as administratrix,[1]  vs.  BANK OF AMERICA[2] & another.[3] No. 14-P-1179. Essex.     June 3, 2015. – August 13, 2015.   Present:  Meade, Hanlon, & Blake, JJ.     Individual Retirement Account.  Mistake.  Trust, Beneficiary, Mistake.     Complaint for instructions filed in the Essex Division of the Probate and Family Court Department on May 5, 2010.   The case was heard by Susan D. Ricci, J.     W. Matthew Iler, Jr., for the plaintiff. Robert A. Delle for J. Edward Cotgageorge.      MEADE, J.  This case requires us to review the propriety of the allocation of a sixty-six percent share of an individual retirement account (IRA) of the decedent, Priscilla Cotgageorge (Priscilla).  Following her death, that share was to be paid to a named contingent beneficiary whose identity cannot be ascertained.  Both Priscilla’s daughter, the plaintiff Jamie Ciampa (Jamie), and her stepson, the defendant J. Edward Cotgageorge (Edward), claim to be that contingent beneficiary and, consequently, to be entitled to that share.  After a trial, a judge of the Probate and Family Court awarded the sixty-six percent share, as well as the other thirty-four percent share, to Edward.  Jamie appeals, and we vacate the decree. 1.  Background.  We summarize the facts found by the judge, supplementing with uncontroverted evidence in the record.  Yankee Microwave, Inc. v. Petricca Communications Sys., Inc., 53 Mass. App. Ct. 497, 499 (2002).  Priscilla died intestate in 2007; her husband, James Cotgageorge (James), had predeceased her.  Priscilla and James had two children during their marriage:  a daughter, Jamie, who enjoyed a close relationship with Priscilla, and a son, Michael.[4]  Edward was Priscilla’s stepson, and except for a few short visits and a summer spent living with her and James in Marblehead, Edward lived across the country and was generally uninvolved in the family affairs. At the time of her death, Priscilla owned an IRA held by the defendant Bank of America, doing business as Merrill Lynch Wealth Management (Merrill).[5]  Priscilla opened the account in November, 1997, by signing an IRA agreement form and funding the account.  The parties stipulated that while Priscilla had signed the form, the handwriting on the rest of the form was not hers.  The form named her husband, James, as the sole primary beneficiary,[6] and named two people as contingent beneficiaries:  “James Cotgageorge, Jr.” […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - August 14, 2015 at 3:44 am

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