Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Reed v. Rowe

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

November 15, 2018

Aldray Reed, Appellant,
v.
Florine Rowe, Appellee.

          Argued October 16, 2018

          Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (LIT-6-13) (Hon. Erik P. Christian, Trial Judge)

          Darrel S. Parker for appellant.

          Hughie D. Hunt for appellee.

          Before Thompson and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Edelman, Associate Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia. [*]

          Thompson, Associate Judge.

         Plaintiff/appellant 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. Supp.).[1]

         For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         I.

         This 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.").

         The 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 her forties.

         On July 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, 2011.

         Much of 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][.]"

         By 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[.]"

         The 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.

         In 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.