This Week's Decisions: Mass Lawyers Weekly (August 31, 2020):
Where a judge removed a plaintiff as a beneficiary of a trust, finding that the plaintiff had forfeited his right to the trust assets under the trust's "no contest" provision, that ruling must be reversed because the plaintiff did not challenge the validity of the trust or any of its terms.
"The plaintiff, Rocco Beatrice (Rocco), a beneficiary of the Avellino Ultra Turst, brought the underlying complaint in equity in the Probate and Family Court seeking to remove and replace defendant John W. Lombardi as trustee. Rocco's primary claims were that Lombardi had breached his fiduciaey duty to the trust beneficiaries and had failed to pay Rocco for services rendered to the trust. Rocco further alleged that his sister, defendant Ineria Beatrice Smith (Ineria), also a beneficiary of the trust, had conspired with Lombardi to dissolve the trust and had improperly withdrawn trust assets. Lombardi counterclaimed that Rocco had forfeited his right to the trust assets under the trust's 'no contest' clause. The counterclaim also sought a declaratory judgment that Mariannina Beatrice (Mariannina), Rocco and Inerria's mother, remained a beneficiary of the trust and that Lombardi was authorized to make payments from the trust for her care. Following a trial, the judge found for the defendants on all claims and counterclaims. Rocco challenges the judge's findings and appeals from the judgment. We conclude that the judge erred in removing Rocco as a contingent beneficiary of the Avellino Ultra Trust insofar as he found that Rocco forfeited his rights under the trust's no contest clause. In all other respects we affirm the judgment.