October 16, 2018
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(LIT-6-13) (Hon. Erik P. Christian, Trial Judge)
S. Parker for appellant.
D. Hunt for appellee.
Thompson and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Edelman,
Associate Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
Thompson, Associate Judge.
Aldray Reed ("Ms. Reed") appeals from a June 5,
2017, judgment of the Superior Court, entered upon the
verdict in a bench trial, rejecting Ms. Reed's claim that
upon the death of her husband MC Reed ("the
decedent" or "Mr. Reed"), she, and not
defendant/appellee Florine Rowe, was entitled to the funds in
an investment account that had been opened by the decedent
years earlier as a joint account with rights of survivorship
titled in the names of Mr. Reed and Ms. Rowe. Resolution of
this matter requires us to apply the Uniform Nonprobate
Transfers on Death Act (the "UNTDA"), D.C. Code
§§ 19-601.01 - 604.19 (2012 Repl. and 2018 Cum.
reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the Superior
litigation arose out of competing claims to the funds in Mr.
Reed's RBC Wealth Management ("RBC Bank" or
"the Bank") investment account following Mr.
Reed's death on December 22, 2011. Mr. Reed opened the
account many years before his marriage to appellant, which
occurred on August 6, 2011. The investment account was a
joint account with rights of survivorship titled in the names
of Mr. Reed and Ms. Rowe, Mr. Reed's sister, but the
trial court found that Mr. Reed "contributed all the
funds in the RBC account[, ]" received monthly checks
from RBC Bank from the derivative income of the account,
periodically made withdrawals from the account, and, during
his lifetime, was the only person who made use of the funds
in the account. In short, he was (at least prior to the
events that gave rise to this litigation) the owner of the
account. See D.C. Code § 19-602.11 (b) (2012
Repl.) ("During the lifetime of all parties, an account
belongs to the parties in proportion to the net contribution
of each to the sums on deposit, unless there is clear and
convincing evidence of a different intent.").
testimony at trial established that appellant and Mr. Reed
met in the early 1990's, cohabited for a period of time,
and discussed the prospect of marriage as early as 1996,
notwithstanding their difference in age of approximately
fifty to fifty-five years: Mr. Reed was in his 90's when
the couple married in 2011, while appellant Ms. Reed was in
5, 2011, Mr. Reed executed a last will and testament, which
the trial court found was never superseded by a new will and
in which he bequeathed "any and all available funds in
[his] checking, savings and securities investment accounts[,
]" including his accounts at Industrial Bank and his
investment accounts held by RBC Bank, to Ms. Rowe, his
sister. However, after Mr. Reed's marriage to appellant
on August 6, 2011, Mr. Reed and appellant began commingling
their assets. For example, on August 12, 2011, Mr. Reed
closed the savings and checking accounts he held as primary
account holder at Industrial Bank, and on the same day, he
and Ms. Reed used the funds withdrawn from those accounts to
open a joint savings account and joint checking account at
Industrial Bank, both entitled in the names of Mr. Reed and
Ms. Reed with rights of survivorship. As another example, the
trial court found that Ms. Reed held an account at RBC Bank
as sole owner, and that she transferred the funds from that
account to open another account at RBC Bank titled in her
name and the name of Mr. Reed as joint tenants with rights of
survivorship. The trial court found that the RBC Bank form
used to accomplish that change was signed by Ms. Reed and Mr.
Reed on October 3, 2011. RBC Bank investment advisor Timothy
Stocker testified that he signed that form on September 28,
the testimony at trial focused on what occurred when the
Reeds went to RBC Bank on August 23, 2011, and met with Mr.
Stocker, who had been Mr. Reed's investment advisor since
1994. According to Ms. Reed's testimony, the couple went
to the Bank on that date to execute the necessary documents
to remove Ms. Rowe's name from the investment account at
issue here and to replace it with Ms. Reed's name as the
joint owner of the account with a right of survivorship.
Appellant testified that Mr. Stocker gave Mr. Reed the
bank's form (the "Transfer Form") to be used to
cancel the existing RBC account and to transfer ownership of
the account and create a new joint account with rights of
survivorship, and that Mr. Reed signed the Transfer Form
during the August 23, 2011, meeting with Mr. Stocker.
According to appellant, Mr. Reed and she asked Mr. Stocker to
mail the Transfer Form to Ms. Rowe for her signature, which
was required under the Bank's policy. The record
indicates that Ms. Rowe received the document on or before
September 2, 2011, but refused to give her signature
relinquishing her interest in the account, stating that her
refusal was "[i]n the best interest of [Mr. Reed], due
to his sometimes lapse in memory and judgement [sic][.]"
contrast, Mr. Stocker testified that the Reeds' visit to
his office on August 23, 2011, was for the purpose of
converting appellant's solely owned account to a joint
account in the names of Mr. and Ms. Reed. Mr. Stocker
testified that he had no recollection "of any other
business being conducted" with the Reeds during the
August 23, 2011, meeting. Mr. Stocker testified that he
"definitely" and "absolutely" did not
"[receive] any written authorization signed by M.C. Reed
to retitle his account in any way[.]"
trial court found that Mr. Stocker prepared the Transfer
Form, that Mr. Reed signed it on August 23, 2011, and that
appellant mailed the signed Transfer Form to Ms. Rowe for her
signature. The court also found that Ms. Rowe received the
form and thereafter sent Mr. Stocker her letter dated
September 2, 2011, stating that she would not sign the form
out of concern for Mr. Reed's "sometimes lapse in
memory and judgement [sic][.]" The court also found that
later, pursuant to a request from Mr. Reed via telephone, Mr.
Stocker sent a second (unsigned) Transfer Form to Ms. Rowe.
Ms. Rowe refused to sign the second Transfer Form as well.
light of Mr. Reed's request by telephone, the court found
that Mr. Stocker recognized that Mr. Reed wanted to remove
Ms. Rowe's name from the RBC account, i.e., "had
actual notice of Decedent's intent to discontinue
[Ms. Rowe's] joint
ownership title to the RBC Account." The trial court
also found, however, that while RBC Bank "had actual
notice of Decedent's intent to change the title ownership
of the RBC Account," appellant, "failed to show
that RBC Bank received the required signed written notice and
thus . . . failed to show that title ownership of the RBC
Account was altered." In addition, the trial court
determined that Ms. Reed had failed to prove that the RBC
account was given to Ms. Reed as an inter vivos
gift. The ...