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Bettez v. Bettez

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

April 29, 2015

William A. Bettez
v.
Robert A. Bettez et al

Appeal from Superior Court. Providence County. (PP 12-4239). Associate Justice Daniel A. Procaccini.

For Plaintiff: Jonathan L. Stanzler, Esq.

For Defendants: Barry J. Kusinitz, Esq.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

OPINION

Page 83

Maureen McKenna Goldberg, Justice.

This case came before the Supreme Court on April 8, 2015, pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not summarily be decided. The plaintiff, William A. Bettez (William),[1] appeals from a Superior Court judgment in favor of the defendants, Robert A. Bettez (Robert), Ronald A. Bettez (Ronald), and Attorney Daniel Stone (Attorney Stone) as co-executors of the estate of Rudolph T. Bettez (collectively, defendants), dismissing the plaintiff's appeal and sustaining the decision of the Probate Court of the Town of Scituate allowing the last will and testament of Rudolph T. Bettez (Rudolph). After considering the arguments advanced by counsel, we are satisfied that cause has not been shown and that the appeal may be decided at this time. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

Facts and Travel

Rudolph passed away on December 4, 2010. He was survived by his three sons--Robert, Ronald, and William--as well as his second wife, Joyce Bettez (Joyce). Rudolph also had a daughter, Deborah Bettez, who predeceased him but left two children, Sarah Vernon and Jesse King. Rudolph's four children were from his first marriage, to Barbara Bettez (Barbara), who passed away in December 2003. Before Barbara passed away, she and Rudolph had entered into a joint revocable trust agreement on February 13, 2003 (Bettez Trust). The Bettez Trust was drafted by Attorney Stone. The Bettez Trust became an irrevocable trust when Barbara passed away.

After Barbara's death, the relationship between Rudolph and William steadily deteriorated, to the point, according to William, that he became the " black sheep" of the family. William testified at his deposition that " if it wasn't for my mama, I would have beat the [****] out of [Rudolph] after he hit [Barbara]." In addition to the animosity arising from the alleged domestic discord, the relationship between Rudolph and William was strained based on their financial dealings. On December 23, 2003, William executed a promissory note in favor of his father, whereby William was to repay a loan made in the amount of $130,200 that was paid to a company controlled by William--Global Industries & Technologies, Inc. (Global). In order to obtain the funds necessary to loan the money to Global, Rudolph secured a bank loan. The terms of the loan were the same terms that were extended to William in the promissory note. However, William failed to make the monthly payments in accordance with the terms of the promissory note; and, in 2006, Rudolph settled the debt owed to the bank by using proceeds from the sale of a general store he owned.

Further tension arose because of William's chronic failure to pay rent that was owing to Rudolph, his landlord, in a timely manner. William rented both a residential and a commercial property from his father. Rudolph--through Attorney Stone--communicated with William regarding the terms of the lease for the two properties. On August 12, 2008, Attorney Stone wrote that the continued nonpayment or late payment of rent would no longer be tolerated by Rudolph. William subsequently entered into a new lease agreement with Rudolph in November 2009, which provided

Page 84

that William would pay a reduced rent on a weekly basis. Despite the new agreement, William continued to pay rent sporadically.

There were also other nonrecurring financial dealings that caused further tension between Rudolph and William. For example, William maintained an outstanding account at a general store owned by Rudolph. When the store eventually was sold, William claimed that Barbara " forgave" the outstanding debt owed at the store. Also, in early 2009, William received $18,000 from Rudolph to refurbish a truck. Further evidence suggests that William received an ...


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