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Court Rules on Statutory Shares of an Estate

The Supreme Court of Connecticut recently ruled on a case involving a statutory share of an estate. Every state has laws regarding how much of an estate must be given to close family members, which is known as the statutory share. A person must petition for a statutory share of an estate when their spouse, child, parent, or other loved one leaves them nothing in the estate either through the will or by dying intestate.

Facts of the Case

In the case of Dinan v. Patten, et al, Althea Dinan was married to Albert Garofalo. He passed away in 2000 and left behind a will for his estate. The will left everything to his daughter, Anne Patten, and her three children Nicole, Aaron, and Alexis while leaving nothing for Ms. Dinan. After his death, Ms. Dinan petitioned the court for her statutory share of the estate pursuant to Connecticut law. In 2008, after years of being unable to agree upon the proper amount of her share, the executor of the estate asked the court to render a ruling on the issue.

In Probate Court, the judge ruled that the statutory share should be calculated based on the value of the estate after state and federal taxes. The court also ruled that for her distributions, Ms. Dinan should receive income based on the average yield of the estate between the date of death and the date of distribution. Finally, the judge ruled that the statutory share should be valued at the time that the final account is presented.

Ms. Dinan appealed to the trial level that then ruled that her share should be calculated before state and federal taxes while agreeing on all other points. In addition, it struck down Ms. Patten’s arguments that waiver, estoppel, and election of remedies barred Ms. Dinan from collecting her statutory share. Ms. Dinan and Ms. Patten appealed and cross-appealed the trial court’s ruling up to the state Supreme Court.

Ruling of the Court

The state Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the trial court in all parts. First, it held that the doctrines of waiver, estoppel, and election of remedies do not bar Ms. Dinan from her statutory share. Then, the Supreme Court turned to the statutory share laws for Connecticut. The law states that a statutory share is “a life estate of one-third in value of all the property passing under the will, real and personal, legally or equitably owned by the deceased spouse at the time of his or her death.”

The judges ruled that because state and federal taxes are not considered “debts and charges against the estate” under the law, the statutory share should be calculated before taxes. Furthermore, the value of the statutory share should be calculated based on the value of the estate on the day of the final accounting and not on the date of the estate holder’s death. Therefore, the trial court was affirmed and Ms. Dinan was awarded her statutory share.

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