ANDREW BASSFORD ET AL.
FRANCES Z. BASSFORD ET AL.
December 4, 2017
appeals from the orders of the Probate Court for the district
of Middletown admitting a certain will and determining, inter
alia, the revocability of a certain trust, brought to the
Superior Court in the judicial district of Middlesex, where
the court, Domnarski, J., granted the
plaintiffs' motion to consolidate; thereafter, the matter
was tried to the court, Hon. Barbara M. Quinn, judge
trial referee; judgments dismissing the appeals, from which
the plaintiffs appealed to this court. Affirmed.
Carmine Perri, for the appellants (plaintiffs).
A. Hourihan, with whom, on the brief, were Teresa Capalbo and
Annette Smith, for the appellee (named defendant).
Lavine, Alvord and Bear, Js.
plaintiffs, Andrew Bassford, Zelda W.B. Alibozek, and
Jonathan Bassford, appeal from the judgments of the trial
court, dismissing their consolidated appeals from the Court
of Probate for the district of Middletown. On appeal, the
plaintiffs claim that the trial court erred as a matter of
law by concluding that the decedent, William W. Bassford, an
involuntarily conserved person, (1) was competent (a) to
revoke a certain trust he had settled and (b) to receive and
retain interest in real property, (2) had the testamentary
capacity to execute a will, and (3) was not under the undue
influence of the defendant Frances Z. Bassford.We affirm the
judgments of the trial court.
following procedural history underlies the appeal to this
court. The decedent, a physician and World War II veteran,
died on February 19, 2014. The plaintiffs are children of the
decedent and his first wife, who predeceased him. The
defendant is the decedent's third wife and, at the time
of his death, had been married to him for more than thirty
to his death, the decedent suffered increasingly from
physical and psychiatric ailments, which required
hospitalizations in the Institute of Living in Hartford,
where he responded well to medical treatment. In October,
2011, the defendant filed an application for the appointment
of a conservator of the decedent's person and estate.
Although the plaintiffs agreed that a conservator should be
appointed for the decedent, they disagreed that the defendant
should be his conservator. On November 14, 2011, following a
hearing, the Probate Court appointed the defendant to be the
decedent's conservator. Conflict between the parties
the decedent had executed a last will and testament many
years prior to his death, he executed a new will on May 7,
2012 (2012 will). In his 2012 will, the decedent distributed
various items of personal property to Andrew Bassford, Zelda
W.B. Alibozek, and certain of his grandchildren, and $1 to
Jonathan Bassford. The remainder of his estate he left to the
defendant. The plaintiffs contested the admission of the will
to probate and challenged its validity on the basis of the
decedent's alleged lack of testamentary capacity and the
alleged exercise of undue influence on the part of the
defendant. Following a two day hearing, the Probate Court
found that the 2012 will had been executed properly, that the
plaintiffs had failed to prove by clear and convincing
evidence that the defendant had exercised undue influence
over the decedent in executing the 2012 will, and that the
decedent had the testamentary capacity to execute the 2012
will. The Probate Court admitted the 2012 will to probate and
named the defendant executrix of the decedent's estate.
7, 2006, the decedent settled the William W. Bassford
Irrevocable Trust (trust) that held title to the home in
which he and the defendant resided and to an individual
retirement account, but on June 25, 2012, the trustees
reconveyed the property in the trust to the decedent.
Following the decedent's death, the plaintiffs asked the
Probate Court to determine title to the trust's holdings.
Specifically, the Probate Court was asked to determine
whether the trust was irrevocable, thus invalidating the
trustees' conveyance of the real property back to the
decedent, and whether the decedent had the capacity to revoke
the trust and receive property from it. The Probate Court
found, pursuant to the articles of the trust, as opposed to
the title of the trust instrument, that the trust was
revocable and that the decedent, despite being a conserved
person, was capable of receiving the property in the trust.
December 22, 2014, the plaintiffs commenced an appeal from
the Probate Court's decision regarding the trust, in part
claiming that the court erred in failing to find that the
trust was unambiguously irrevocable. On March 31, 2015, the
plaintiffs commenced an appeal from the Probate Court's
decision regarding the 2012 will, in part claiming that the
court erred in admitting the will to probate. Thereafter, the
plaintiffs filed a motion to consolidate the probate appeals,
which was granted by the court, Domnarski, J.
court, Hon. Barbara M. Quinn, judge trial referee,
tried the probate appeals in December, 2015. The issues
before the court were (1) whether the decedent lacked
testamentary capacity to execute the 2012 will, (2) whether
the trust was irrevocable and therefore its revocation was
improper, (3) whether the decedent lacked the capacity to
accept the deed for the property held by the trust, and (4)
whether the defendant had exercised undue influence in
securing the execution of the 2012 will. The court issued a
memorandum of decision on March 24, 2016, in which it found
in favor of the defendant on all of the issues and dismissed
the appeals. The plaintiffs appealed to this court.
claims raised by the plaintiffs in this court are the same
claims they raised in the trial court. We have examined the
record on appeal, the briefs and arguments of the parties,
and conclude that the judgments of the trial court should be
affirmed. Because the trial court's memorandum of
decision thoroughly addresses the arguments raised in this
appeal, we adopt that court's well reasoned decision as a
proper statement of the facts and the applicable law on the
issues. Bassford v. Bassford, Superior Court,
judicial district of Middlesex, Docket Nos. CV-15-6012903-S
and CV-15-6013338-S (March 24, 2016) (reprinted at 180
Conn.App. 335). It would serve no useful purpose for this
court to engage in any further discussion. See, e.g.,
Woodruff v. Hemingway, 297 Conn. 317, 321, 2 A.3d
857 (2010); Samakaab v. Dept. of Social Services,
178 Conn.App. 52, 54, 173 A.3d 1004 (2017).
judgments are affirmed.
BASSFORD ET AL.
Z. BASSFORD [*]
Court, Judicial District of Middlesex File Nos.
CV-15-6012903-S and CV-15-6013338-S
filed March 24, 2016
of decision on plaintiffs' appeals from orders of Probate
Court for district of Middletown determining revocability of
decedent's trust, title to certain real property and
admitting decedent's will. Appeals dismissed.
HONORABLE BARBARA M. QUINN, JUDGE TRIAL REFEREE.
these two consolidated cases, the plaintiffs, Andrew and
Jonathan Bassford and Zelda Alibzek, have appealed from the
admission of their father's will to probate and from the
revocation of a trust as well as the validity of a quitclaim
deed thereafter executed by the trustees, all in furtherance
of their father's estate plan. They claim that they are
aggrieved parties and that: (1) the decedent, their father,
Dr. William W. Bassford, lacked testamentary capacity at the
time of the execution of his last will and testament; (2) a
trust Dr. Bassford had earlier established was irrevocable,
and therefore, its revocation was improper and of no effect.
The trust assets could therefore not properly be conveyed and
become part of the decedent's estate; (3) that the
decedent lacked the capacity to accept the deed for property
held in the purportedly irrevocable trust; (4) and there was
undue influence exerted by the defendant, his surviving widow
and their stepmother, in securing the execution of the new
will. For the reasons set forth in detail below, the court
finds all issues in favor of the defendant and dismisses
the reliable, probative and credible evidence, the court
finds the following facts. The defendant, Dr. Bassford's
widow, is his third wife and at the time of his death on
February 19, 2014, Dr. and Mrs. Bassford had been married for
thirty-three years. The defendant, Frances Bassford, became
Dr. Bassford's conservatrix when he was involuntarily
conserved in November 2011. Dr. Bassford's three children
are his children from his first marriage, and by their
conduct at trial, were not close to their stepmother. Dr.
Bassford executed a will in 2006 in which the bulk of his
estate was left to his three children. On May 7, 2012, he
executed a new will in which he changed his estate plan to
leave the bulk of his estate to his wife, with certain
articles of personal property to two of his three children
and some of his grandchildren, and one dollar to his son,
Jonathan. The will of May 7, 2012, was duly admitted to
probate, after findings made by Judge Marino that Dr.
Bassford possessed sufficient testamentary capacity to
execute the new will. He also found that the will was
executed with the necessary statutory formalities. In
addition, he determined that there was no evidence of undue
influence by Frances Bassford, as claimed by Dr.
Bassford's children. This appeal ensued.
Dr. Bassford's children challenged the revocation of the
trust established by Dr. Bassford as well as his acceptance
of a deed to real estate from the trustees. Judge Marino held
the trust to be revocable and that Dr. Bassford could receive
the deed to the real estate in Cromwell on which his home was
located and in which he resided. An appeal was taken to the
Superior Court and the two appeals are now consolidated.