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In re IMO The Estate of Chambers

Court of Chancery of Delaware

August 29, 2019

IMO the Estate of Evelyn Chambers

          Draft Report: July 31, 2019

          Date Submitted: June 17, 2019

          Victoria D. Chambers, pro se.

          James D. Chambers, pro se.

          Sheldon S. Chambers, pro se.

          Selena E. Molina Master Judge.

         Dear Litigants:

         In this estate matter, two siblings filed a petition titled "Petition for Challenging Validity of a Will" naming their mother's estate and their third sibling, the current executor of their mother's estate, as respondents. The respondents' first motion to dismiss was granted, in part, dismissing the petitioners' challenges to the will's validity as time-barred but allowing other claims not addressed in the motion to dismiss to remain. The respondents have now moved for dismissal on the merits of the remaining claims. For the following reasons, I recommend that the second motion to dismiss be granted. This is my final report.

         I. Background

         As more fully developed in my March 26, 2019 Final Report, [1] which was adopted as an Order of this Court on April 11, 2019, [2] this estate matter boils down to a dispute between three siblings (Respondents Sheldon S. Chambers, Executor of the Estate of Evelyn Chambers, individually, and on behalf of the estate ("Respondents")[3] and Petitioners Victoria and James Chambers ("Petitioners")) as to the administration of their mother's estate.

         In the petition filed on August 23, 2018, Petitioners raised concerns about the will admitted to probate[4] and averred that after he was appointed as executor, Sheldon breached his fiduciary duties, breached agreement(s) with Petitioners, and failed to reimburse James for funeral expenses.[5] The former was dismissed as time-barred but the latter remained, surviving the first motion to dismiss without prejudice to Respondents' ability to file a second motion to dismiss within twenty (20) days of my Final Report becoming an Order of the Court.[6] Respondents timely filed their second motion to dismiss on April 12, 2019 and the motion was fully briefed and submitted for consideration on June 17, 2019.[7] I issued my draft report on July 31, 2019, recommending dismissal, and no exceptions were filed pursuant to Court of Chancery Rule 144.[8] This final report makes the same findings and my recommendations are unchanged.

         II. Analysis

         Pending before me is Respondents' second motion to dismiss. Using the forgiving eyes I urged Respondents to adopt in my first ruling, Respondents interpret the pro se petition to include claims for (1) breach of fiduciary duty, (2) failure to distribute non-probate assets, and (3) failure to pay for services rendered. Because Petitioners do not disagree with these characterizations and I, likewise, do not see any additional claims pled in the petition, I adopt them and address each in turn.

         A. Petitioners' Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claim Should Be Dismissed.

         Respondents argue that Petitioners' breach of fiduciary duty claim should be dismissed for failure to state a claim under Court of Chancery Rule 12(b)(6). The standards governing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim are well-settled:

(i) all well-pleaded factual allegations are accepted as true; (ii) even vague allegations are "well-pleaded" if they give the opposing party notice of the claim; (iii) the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party; and ([iv]) dismissal is inappropriate unless the plaintiff would not be entitled to recover under any reasonably conceivable set of circumstances susceptible of proof.[9]

         "I need not, however, 'accept conclusory allegations unsupported by specific facts or … draw unreasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.'"[10]

         "To plead a claim for breach of fiduciary duty, the Complaint must allege '(1) that a fiduciary duty exists and (2) that the fiduciary breached that duty.'"[11] In the probate context, executors, like Sheldon, stand as fiduciaries and "[t]he executor's duty is to carry out the wishes of the decedent as expressed in the will."[12] Executors also owe a "duty of loyalty and care to the estate's beneficiaries"[13] which ...


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