Chris Lazarini Discusses Resolution for Competing Demands for Decedent’s Assets

March 20, 2019
Securities Online Litigation Alert

Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Chris Lazarini discussed a case in which a brokerage firm filed a complaint for interpleader seeking judicial resolution of a challenge to a deceased client’s assets. Upon the client’s death, the firm transferred assets to the surviving spouse, the designated beneficiary. However, the daughter of the client – the surviving spouse’s stepdaughter – challenged the legitimacy of the beneficiary designation form. After several court exchanges, the surviving spouse moved for summary judgment to which the daughter did not respond. Since the daughter did not prove there is a genuine issue for trial, the court directed the firm to proceed with disbursing the assets to the surviving spouse.

Chris provided the analysis for Securities Online Litigation Alert (SOLA). The full text of the analysis is below and used with permission from the publication. If you would like to receive additional content from the SOLA, please visit the SOLA website to sign up for the newsletter.

UBS Financial Services, Inc. vs. Ulrick, No. 1:18-cv-178 (S.D. Ohio, 1/23/19)

A party opposing a motion for summary judgment may not rest upon her Answer or allegations in other pleadings, but must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial.

Faced with competing demands for a deceased client’s assets, UBS filed a complaint for interpleader seeking judicial resolution of the dispute.

The decedent had two UBS accounts; both were “transfer on death” accounts with the decedent’s spouse being the designated beneficiary. Upon receipt of proper notice of the decedent’s death, UBS closed his accounts and transferred the assets into accounts opened by his surviving spouse. Soon thereafter, however, the decedent’s daughter (the surviving spouse’s step-daughter) filed a complaint in state court, claiming the decedent’s signature on the beneficiary designation form for one account had been forged. She claimed entitlement to 50% of the assets in that account under a prior beneficiary designation form. By agreement of the parties, the assets at UBS were frozen. Ultimately, the state court action was dismissed at the daughter’s request, but without a resolution having been reached.

The surviving spouse then directed UBS to transfer the assets to another firm. The daughter continued to press her claims with UBS, however, so the firm filed this interpleader action. The surviving spouse answered and filed a counterclaim against UBS and cross claim against the daughter. The daughter answered, after which the surviving spouse moved for summary judgment. UBS filed a response taking no position. The daughter did not respond and did not participate in two pre-trial conferences held by the Court. The only evidence before it being the surviving spouse’s uncontested declaration that she was the proper beneficiary, the Court finds no issues of fact, grants the motion, and directs UBS to transfer the assets to her forthwith.