Connecticut Supreme Court upholds Order for Specific Performance of Contract to purchase Estate Property

Connecticut Supreme Court upholds Order for Specific Performance of Contract to purchase Estate Property  
Bender v. Bender, 292 Conn. 896; 975 A.2d 636 (2009)

The plaintiffs filed a complaint in Superior Court for specific performance and damages for breach of contract against the defendants, the executors of the Estate of Edward Stebner (the “Estate”).  The complaint arose out of a contract entered into by the plaintiffs and the defendants for the plaintiffs’ purchase of real property from the Estate.  The plaintiffs tendered a deposit in accordance with the contract but the defendants subsequently indicated that they were unwilling to complete the transaction.  The Superior Court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim for damages but entered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs on their claim for specific performance of the contract.

The defendants appealed claiming that res judicata barred the plaintiffs from pursuing the breach of contract claim and bringing an action for specific performance in Superior Court because the Probate Court had denied the petition brought by the plaintiffs for specific performance of the contract.  Also, the defendants argued that the action should not have proceeded without the residuary beneficiaries of the decedent as named in the will, that the contract was invalid and that the contract could be avoided under several defenses.

The Supreme Court concluded that res judicata did not bar the action because the Probate Court lacked jurisdiction under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-98(a)(3) over the claims brought in the Superior Court.  In addition, the Superior Court correctly ordered specific performance because the defendants had authority to sell the property as executors of the Estate pursuant to a valid contract that could not be avoided.  Finally, the Supreme Court ruled that the action could proceed without the residuary beneficiaries.  Therefore, the judgment of the Superior Court was affirmed.

Should you have any questions relating to wills, trusts, estates or probate issues generally, please feel free to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, managing partner in the firm’s Westport, Connecticut office in Fairfield County by telephone at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at jmaya@mayalaw.com.