September 2016 Archives

Changes to Rhode Island's Medical Marijuana Laws Are On the Horizon

Without a doubt, this Fall will be a decisive period for the United States as it relates to national cannabis policy. Voters in five states, Massachusetts among them, will have the opportunity to dictate whether cannabis will be legalized for recreational use, joining the likes of Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Additionally, electorates in a handful of other states will decide whether to join Rhode Island and the approximate two dozen other states in legalizing the medical use of cannabis. While the continued momentum of change at the national level has received significant media attention, local cannabis entrepreneurs, both presently involved in the Rhode Island medical cannabis industry, and those aspiring to become participants in the market place, should be aware of significant impending changes to Rhode Island's regulatory scheme. Regulatory change will be most prevalent in the arenas of medical marijuana cultivation and sale. Since the inception of Rhode Island's medical cannabis laws, patients, state-registered "caregivers" and qualifying "cooperative cultivations", were permitted to supply Rhode Island's state-sanctioned dispensaries with their excess medical marijuana and to seek remuneration from those dispensaries. The steady increase in the number of qualifying patients in the State since the commencement of the medical cannabis program, and the apparent inability of the State-sanctioned dispensaries to independently meet market demand, resulted in the emergence of a private - and profitable - cultivation market that was largely unregulated by the state. But Rhode Island's medical marijuana industry as historically conducted is about to change. Drastically.

RI Supreme Court Provides Long Awaited Guidance on Trust Attorneys' Duty to Beneficiaries

In December of 2015, the Rhode Island Supreme Court provided guidance on the duties an attorney advising a trustee owes to the trust's beneficiaries. Audette v. Poulin, 127 A.3d 908 (R.I. 2015). Audette, the beneficiary of a trust, brought claims of negligence and breach of fiduciary duty against the attorney who advised the trustee. Apparently, though the trust allowed Audette a life estate in certain property, the trustee objected to Audette living in the property. Audette also wanted his elderly parents to live with him, but the trustee objected to this as well. The trustee thereafter sought legal advice from an attorney who indicated that the terms of the trust did not permit Audette's parents to live at the property. Despite the trustee's objection, Audette and his parents moved into the property. The trustee later commenced an action to evict Audette and his parents. The attorney who had advised the trustee also represented the trustee in connection with the eviction suit. Audette then filed a complaint against the trustee, the successor trustee (who had at that time assumed trusteeship) and the trust. Later, he added claims against the attorney for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty (which the court interpreted as essentially claims for legal malpractice). The attorney filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that he did not owe Audette a duty of care while he represented the trustee. The attorney's motion was granted and Audette appealed.

Florida Court Rules Invalidated Will Does Not Revoke Prior Will

A Florida Court has recently applied the doctrine of dependent relative revocation to uphold a prior will where the later will was procured by undue influence. In re Estate of Murphy, 184 So. 3d 1221 (Fla. App. 2d Dist. Jan. 20, 2016). The testatrix, Virginia Murphy, was born in 1899 and died in 2006, at the age of 107, leaving behind an estate worth approximately $12 million. Between the years 1989 and 1994, Mrs. Murphy executed six different wills, all with the assistance of her attorney, Mr. Carey. All six of the wills left monetary bequests to Northwestern University, Mr. Carey, Mr. Carey's legal assistant, Ms. DuBois, Mrs. Murphy's accountant, Mr. Tornwall, and Mrs. Murphy's second cousin, Ms. Rocke. However, Mr. Carey and Ms. DuBois's shares of Mrs. Murphy's estate were increased from one will to the next, as Mrs. Murphy's health and mental awareness diminished.

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