Joseph Bierwirth Comments on SJC Decision Permitting Creditor’s Access to Spendthrift Trust Assets After Death

October 29, 2020

Joseph L. Bierwirth, chair of the Litigation group at Hemenway & Barnes, was quoted in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly’s article, “Victims’ son can access murderer’s spendthrift trust.”

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled in De Prins v. Michaeles, et al. that a creditor could reach the assets of a spendthrift irrevocable trust governed by Massachusetts law. “To prevent the son of two murder victims from financially recovering for their wrongful deaths while protecting the murderer’s assets for his beneficiary would contradict the well-established public policy of this Commonwealth and condone the actions of a settlor who, it can be inferred, thought he could use the protection of a trust to shield his assets from the consequences of his violence,” Justice Elspeth B. Cypher wrote for the court.

Joe noted that, “the case is consistent with past precedent, most notably the SJC’s 1954 Ware v. Gulda decision and its 2018 ruling in Calhoun v. Rawlins, both of which hold that self-settled irrevocable trusts are not protected from the settlor’s creditors. The only ‘new’ issue on which the SJC has now definitely spoken is that the settlor’s death after the plaintiff’s cause of action arises does not change the equation.”

To read the full article, please click here: Victims’ son can access murderer’s spendthrift trust