C. J., MILLER, P. J., and REESE, J.
Rabun (hereinafter "the widow") appeals from an
order of summary judgment in favor of her stepson, Timothy
Rabun ("the executor"), in the widow's action
to impose a constructive trust on assets transferred to the
executor from Elwood Rabun, Sr. ("the decedent")
during the decedent's lifetime. The widow also seeks
review of that portion of the trial court's order that
awarded certain properties in her possession to the executor.
For the reasons set forth, infra, we affirm the grant of
summary judgment as to the trial court's refusal to
impose a constructive trust, but reverse that portion of the
order directing the return of certain personal property to
the evidence in the light most favorable to the widow, as the
nonmoving party,  the evidence shows that the decedent, the
widow's husband of 17 years, died testate on April 20,
2014, after a battle with lung cancer that had lasted several
years. The will which the decedent had executed in November
2012 granted a life estate in the marital residence to the
widow, with the remainder to go to the executor, and devised
adjacent property to the executor's
siblings. The will left the remainder of the
decedent's estate to the executor.
to the filing of the widow's complaint in the superior
court, a probate court had awarded the widow as year's
support "all of the decedent's interest
in the household furniture and furnishings, appliances, and
all other personal property located at the marital
residence." The probate court found that the widow was
in poor health and was being cared for by her daughter (the
decedent's stepdaughter) at the daughter's home and
that, at the time the will was probated, it was questionable
whether the widow would be able to return to the marital
residence in which she had been devised a life estate.
decedent and the widow had maintained a joint checking
account in which the executor claimed no interest; the
account balance was approximately $41, 000 at the time of the
decedent's death. In addition, the decedent's estate
included three accounts with SunTrust Bank: (1) a joint
checking account in the names of the decedent, the executor,
and the widow (the "three-party account"); (2) a
money market account in the names of the decedent and the
executor (the "two-party account"); and (3) an
individual money market account with a provision that the
proceeds were payable on death to the executor (the
estate also included a life insurance annuity worth
approximately $88, 000, a $5, 000 life insurance policy, and
a life insurance annuity worth approximately $50, 000. Each
of these designated the executor as the sole beneficiary.
complaint, the widow alleged that, after she and the decedent
both became ill, the decedent rewrote his will and
transferred substantial assets to the executor with the
intent that the executor would provide and care for the widow
after the decedent's death. The widow contended that, as
a result, the executor held more than $200, 000 in cash and
various accounts in a constructive trust for the benefit and
use of the widow.
executor moved for summary judgment, arguing that he was the
sole owner of the financial assets and that the insurance
policies, annuity contracts, and bank deposit documents
created no legal obligation for him to care for the widow as
a matter of law. The executor also sought the return of
various estate items in the widow's possession that the
executor contended had neither been devised to the widow nor
included in the year's support.
superior court granted summary judgment to the executor,
finding that there had been no constructive trust imposed on
any of the SunTrust accounts or life insurance policies and
annuities. The court also directed the widow to return
certain estate items, as requested in the executor's
summary judgment motion.
A party is entitled to summary judgment if there is no
genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. On appeal from the
grant of summary judgment, [the reviewing court] construe[s]
the evidence most favorably toward the nonmoving party, who
is given the benefit of all reasonable doubts and possible
affirm the grant of summary judgment if it is right for any
reason. With these guiding principles in mind, we
turn now to the widow's specific claims of error.
widow argues that the trial court erred in granting summary
judgment in favor of the executor because factual disputes
remained as to the existence of a constructive trust.
constructive trust is a trust implied whenever the
circumstances are such that the person holding legal title to
property, either from fraud or otherwise, cannot enjoy the
beneficial interest in the property without violating some
established principle of equity."
record on appeal includes the deposition of the widow's
daughter, Janet Bennier. Bennier testified that, in 2010,
after the widow suffered a second stroke and was in failing
health, the decedent came to visit Bennier in West Virginia,
where she was then living. According to Bennier, the decedent
told her that the executor would take care of the widow
because the executor lived closer to the widow than did
Bennier or her children. The decedent added that he had taken
"care of everything" and that the ...