Massachusetts State House.
Policy Library

Bird Decision is Another Victory for T&E Attorneys

August 30, 2012

Tuesday’s  SJC decision in Rachel A. Bird Anderson vs. BNY Mellon, N.A. trustee and others, helped reinforce our belief that there’s no one tool for achieving public policy goals. When we failed to secure the passage of legislation that would repeal an overly broad 2009 amendment to the adopted children statute yielding unintended consequences, we turned our energies to an amicus brief. Our brief identified the confusion resulting from the 2009 amendment; in its decision in Bird, the SJC provided essential clarification.

It’s rewarding to read the SJC’s decision on many levels.  It settles a family dispute, provides trustees with much needed assurances and also means that the BBA won’t need to re-file legislation we’ve supported since 2009.  The BBA’s bill, An Act to Repeal the Adopted Children Statute, was drafted as a statutory fix to the problem that the Bird decision just solved.

When this issue was first brought to our attention, the BBA worked quickly to file legislation that would repeal language that had broad and far reaching implications on trust instruments dealing with adopted children.  As we described in Issue Spot, the BBA succeeded in obtaining a one year postponement of the original effective date of this new law and has been working since then to repeal it.

This past legislative session, the BBA’s repeal of the adopted children statute became part of a number of pieces of legislation to address various trusts and estate problems.  These bills included a proposed Massachusetts Uniform Trust Code (MUTC), technical corrections to the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (MUPC), and an estate tax patch.  Now that the SJC has weighed in on the adopted children statute, we can claim victory for all but a small portion of our trusts and estates agenda. Earlier this summer Issue Spot reported on the passage of the MUTC and technical corrections to the MUPC.

Our success is particularly gratifying because it can be difficult to catch the attention of the Legislature on trusts and estates matters.  They aren’t splashy or as headline grabbing as, say, casinos or health care reform. Our dedicated and highly knowledgeable members deserve the credit for volunteering their time to testify, meet with legislators and draft impeccable amicus briefs. We will next focus our trusts and estates energies on the estate tax patch and any other emerging issues in this area.

– Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association