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In re Estate of Walker

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

June 15, 2017

In re Estate of Frances Walker, Appellant,
v.
Stanley Stefan, Appellee.

          Argued November 1, 2016

         Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (ADM-1834-99) (Hon. Cheryl M. Long, Trial Judge) (Hon. Rhonda Reid Winston, Trial Judge) (Hon. John M. Campbell, Trial Judge)

          Howard Haley for appellant.

          Thomas J. Gagliardo for appellee.

          Before Easterly and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Ruiz, Senior Judge.

          McLEESE, Associate Judge

         Appellant, the estate of Frances Walker, challenges the trial court's ruling that appellee Stanley Stefan was entitled to funds from a bank account opened by Ms. Walker and Mr. Stefan. We affirm.

         I.

         The following facts appear to be undisputed. Ms. Walker and Mr. Stefan, who were long-time friends, jointly opened a savings account in July 1998. The account contained approximately $183, 000 at the time of Ms. Walker's death in September 1999. Only Ms. Walker contributed funds to the account. Mr. Stefan did not withdraw any funds from the account during Ms. Walker's lifetime, but he did withdraw funds from the account to pay for Ms. Walker's funeral expenses.

         In November 1999, the estate's personal representative -- Ms. Walker's great-nephew, Eulse Cee Young, Jr. -- transferred the funds from the savings account to the estate's separate account. Mr. Stefan sued the estate, claiming among other things that Ms. Walker intended for him to have the funds in the account upon her death. The trial court granted summary judgment to the estate. In In re Estate of Walker, 890 A.2d 216, 224-25 (D.C. 2006), this court concluded that summary judgment was not warranted, because there were genuine issues of material fact regarding Ms. Walker's intent in establishing the account. We therefore remanded for further proceedings. Id. at 226. We specifically directed the trial court to consider on remand whether the Nonprobate Transfers on Death Act, D.C. Code § 19-601.01 et seq., which went into effect in 2001, had any impact on the case. Id. at 221 n.5.

         On remand, the parties agreed that the Act applied, but they disagreed as to the proper disposition of the funds at issue. The trial court interpreted the Act to create a presumption of a right of survivorship in multiple-party accounts. The trial court further concluded that the presumption had not been rebutted, because there was no express disclaimer of a right of survivorship in the account documents. Thus, the trial court concluded that the funds passed to Mr. Stefan as the surviving party.

         The estate appealed, and we once again remanded, directing the trial court to make factual findings as to the parties' intent in establishing and maintaining the account. In re Estate of Walker, No. 08-PR-1638, Order (D.C. Jul. 30, 2010) (per curiam). We also noted that the trial court had not addressed whether Ms. Walker had given Mr. Stefan an interest in the account during her lifetime ("inter vivos"). Id.

         On the second remand, the parties agreed that no additional facts needed to be found and that the trial court should decide the case on the existing record. The trial court concluded that the clear weight of the evidence indicated that Ms. Walker intended for the funds in the account to pass to Mr. Stefan upon her death. The ...


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