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Decision and Order Granting Summary Judgment Dismissing Case in Real Estate/Constructive Trust Matter

Mon 21 November 2022 News & Press

Todd Hesekiel recently successfully represented the defendant executor of an estate, along with the executor’s two siblings, in a real estate litigation matter that arose when the executor sought to sell real property and distribute 50% of the proceeds to his sister (the plaintiff) and 50% to the defendants (himself and his two other siblings). 

In June 1992, the plaintiff, her now-deceased husband, and the parties’ now-late mother purchased a home in Massapequa, New York. The plaintiff and her husband owned 50%, and the mother owned the other 50%. The plaintiff alleged that, in August 1994, the parties decided to refinance the home and, to secure a lower interest rate, the plaintiff and her husband deeded their share of the property to the mother, pursuant to an alleged agreement that the mother would be holding that share in trust for plaintiff (and her now late husband) and would reconvey the 50% share of the premises back to them after the refinancing was complete. The refinancing occurred in 1994; however, the transfer never occurred.

The parties’ mother died in late 2021, leaving a will that bequeathed the house 50% to the plaintiff and 50% to the three remaining siblings. In early 2022, the executor of the mother’s estate offered the plaintiff her right of first refusal (per the terms of the will), but the plaintiff chose not to exercise it. The executor then attempted to sell the property. Still, the plaintiff interfered with the process and commenced an action in which she sought to impose a constructive trust over 50% of the property and sought an accounting to give her credit for her alleged share of the down payment, mortgage payments, and improvements made to the property. The plaintiff urged that she was entitled to 50% of the property via the constructive trust, plus another 50% of the 50% that her mother owned and bequeathed to the plaintiff via her will. In sum, the plaintiff urged that she was entitled to a 75% interest plus an offset for all of the alleged payments she made from 1994 to the present. 

Mr. Hesekiel moved for summary judgment on behalf of his clients, urging, among other things, that the plaintiff’s claims, even if true, were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The Supreme Court agreed, finding that both the constructive trust and accounting claims were time-barred since, even assuming the parties’ mother made the alleged promise, the duty of restitution with respect to the constructive trust began to run when the refinancing was completed in July 1994 and was subject to a six-year statute of limitations that would have expired in 2000. A six-year statute of limitations also applied to the action for an accounting that began to accrue on the date when the duty to pay arose, which was also at the instance of the constructive trust.