Kafka v. Hess

2017 WL 2439142 (2017)


P is retired and living in North Carolina. P is the only son of Dorothy J. Smith (Smith), who passed on March 31, 2015. Smith executed a durable power of attorney on September 17, 1999, appointing P as her agent. P knew that Smith and her husband, Emory, who was P's stepfather, planned for P to become sole owner of all their property upon their deaths. The Smiths made P a joint owner of their bank account at Bay-Vanguard Federal Savings Bank, and a joint owner of their money market account, also at Bay Vanguard. P was also made a beneficiary of an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) at Bay Vanguard and a beneficiary of the Smiths' insurance policies. Emory passed away on June 2, 2009, making Smith the sole owner of their residential property. Smith executed a deed, which had been drafted by her attorney, Raymond Rudacille, granting herself a life estate in the Property with the remainder to P. That deed was recorded by the attorney on April 30, 2010. Prior to the stepfather's death, P and Smith withdrew $209,051.08 from the jointly held money market account at Bay Vanguard. P deposited the money in his bank account in North Carolina. Smith asked her son to bring the funds back to Maryland. P wrote a check to Smith and helped her to deposit it back into their joint account at Bay Vanguard.  'The amount of the check was $198,000. On January 25, 2010, P received a letter indicating that P's durable power of attorney for Smith had been revoked. P was also put you on notice that if he attempts to convert any of Smith's funds or continue to call her after she has asked you not to, appropriate legal action will be taken. P was restricted from seeing or communicating with Smith 'in every way' by his mother's sister, D. D notified P of Smith's death and indicated there was no need for Kafka to come to the funeral, but P did come, driving all night to get there. P saw that most of the valuable personal property in Smith's home was missing. D demanded P leave the home. P learned D was trying to sell the Property. A title search revealed the deed in P's favor. P tried to sell the property, but a 2011 deed for the Property made title underwriters unwilling to ensure the title. The 2011 deed by Smith purported to convey a life estate to Smith and the remainder to D, contingent upon Smith's not having exercised her reserved power of disposition during her lifetime. D then wrote a letter to P stating her position that she should receive 50% of the net proceeds from the sale of the property, in addition to reimbursement for the monies she has spent on the property since Smith's death in March of 2015. D concedes that the D Deed was filed in the land records after the P Deed.' D states that she believed Smith's home belonged to her after Smith's death and, based on that belief, she spent money 'maintaining the Property, as well as getting the Property ready to be placed on the market for sale.'