Matter of Totten Trust by Ishikawa

NEW YORK COUNTY
Trusts and Estates

New York Law Journal

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Surrogate Nora Anderson

In this action involving competing claims to a money-market savings account established by decedent, executor Aoki alleged the account was an asset of decedent's estate. Decedent's long-time friend Wess argued the account was a Totten Trust which designated him as the beneficiary, moving for summary judgment and dismissal of the complaint. Following decedent's death, Citibank released the account balance to Wess when he presented a death certificate, but he put the funds in an escrow once the account was the subject of this litigation. The court found despite not being able to use his own testimony regarding decedent's disclosure to him about the account, Wess presented proof establishing prima facie the account was maintained as a Totten Trust for his benefit, entitling him to the balance after decedent's death. It concluded that none of Aoki's theories, including that decedent forgot she established the account as a Totten Trust, and intended to dispose of it under her will, were supported by anything other than bare speculation, and failed to raise questions of fact sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion. Thus, Wess was granted summary judgment and the funds in escrow ordered released to him.

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