April 2012 Newsletter



After several delays and postponements, on March 31, 2012, the MUPC (Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code) G.L. c. 190B, took effect. According to Chief Justice Paula Carey of the Probate & Family Court, the code will "dramatically alter probate and estate administration practice in Massachusetts." Most of the prior laws relating to probate law have been repealed, replaced by the Code, consisting of some one hundred fifty (150) pages. There are new court forms, procedures, and revised filing fees involved, and anyone filing probate and/or estate matters should be aware of significant changes. Cases filed prior to March 31, 2012, may require filing supplemental forms. Anyone concerned as to how the Code impacts the status of any probate matter should refer to Amended Standing Order 5-11, which relates to estate cases pending as of March 31, 2012. The Probate and Family Court Department has posted information and notices regarding the Standing Order 5-11, the MUPC, the Code, forms, instructions, and reference materials on their website. Forms and information may also be found at the Plymouth Probate & Family Court website.


Friday, May 11, 2012, Paula, Rachel, and Attorney Ryan will be attending an all-day seminar on the MUPC in Taunton, MA. The seminar, sponsored by MCLE (Continuing Legal Education), includes a faculty composed of numerous Probate & Family Court judges, court personnel, and attorneys.


Please note that while Attorney Ryan and staff will be at the seminar that day, the office will be open for regular business. Our former legal intern, Melaney Hodge, will be in the office to assist clients, and answer all telephone calls.





In a January 2012 Appeals Court decision, Mary Moe, a mentally ill person appealed from an order of a Probate Court judge appointing her parents as guardians for the purpose of consenting to the extraordinary procedures of abortion and sterilization.  Moe, thirty-two years old, mentally ill, suffers from schizophrenia and/or schizoaffective disorder and bipolar mood disorder, and has been hospitalized numerous times for mental illness.  Moe was pregnant, and the Department of Mental Health filed a petition to have Moe's parents appointed as temporary guardians for purposes of consenting to an abortion.  Citing "several and substantial delusional beliefs," the judge found Moe incompetent to make a decision about an abortion and a guardian ad litem (GAL) was appointed to investigate the issue of substituted judgment, G.L. 190B, ยง 5-306A, and to submit a written report.  After an investigation, the GAL concluded on a substituted judgment analysis that Moe would decide against an abortion if she were competent.  Without conducting a hearing, the judge concluded to the contrary, ordering Moe's parents be appointed as co-guardians and that Moe could be "coaxed, bribed, or even enticed ... by ruse" into a hospital where she would be sedated, and an abortion performed.  Sua sponte, and without notice, the judge directed that any medical facility that performed the abortion should also sterilize Moe at the same time "to avoid this painful situation from recurring in the future."  The Appeals Court reversed the lower court's order directing Moe's sterilization, as the required procedural requirements had not been met.  The Court also vacated the portion of the order requiring Moe to undergo an abortion and remanded the case for a proper evidentiary inquiry and decision on the issue of substituted judgment.




On February 21, 2012, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts addressed the issue of whether to enlarge the scope of social host liability by extending a duty of care to an underage host who does not provide alcohol to underage guests, but provides a location where they consume it.  The case, Juliano, et al v. Simpson, et al, involved a sixteen year old girl, Rachel Juliano, who suffered serious injuries as a passenger in a car driven by Christian Dunbar, age nineteen, when the car hit a telephone pole, immediately after they left a party hosted by nineteen year old Jessica A. Simpson.  Dunbar consumed alcoholic beverages he had obtained earlier that night, and had brought them to the Simpson residence.  Simpson's parents were not present at the time of the party, and Jessica was in control of the premises.  While Jessica did not provide alcohol to either Juliano or Dunbar, they (Juliano and Dunbar) alleged that Simpson was liable under common-law host liability.  The Court declined to impose such a duty of care in the absence of "clear existing social values and customs" supporting such a step, also citing the Legislature's subsequent refusal to add a civil liability component to the statute challenging that view, suggesting there is not a "community consensus" regarding the proposed expansion of social host liability.  See Schofield v. Merrill, 386 Mass. 244, 248 (1982).  So although underage drinking, combined with driving, are significant social problems, the Court found Simpson was not liable, as she did not supply the alcohol herself, and reaffirmed that liability attaches only where the social host either serves alcohol, or exercises effective control over the supply of alcohol.   


Issue: 32

scales of justice

In This Issue
The New Massachusetts MUPC
Recent Decisions of Interest
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April 15, 2012, marks Paula's 10th year anniversary with the office. Initially working part-time, within weeks, Paula became the office's first fulltime employee. She is currently the office manager, overseeing many varied tasks, including bookkeeping, preparation of the monthly office newsletter, and maintaining Attorney Ryan's calendar. Additionally, she continues as an administrative assistant to Attorney Ryan, working closely with numerous clients, attorneys, and court personnel. Paula's organizational skills, technology knowledge, and calm demeanor, have been instrumental in helping the office expand in many ways in order to better meet the needs of all the clients. Her commitment, loyalty, and dedication to the office, other staff members, and clients are outstanding. Please join all of us at the office in congratulating Paula for a job well done. We look forward to another great ten years together!
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If anyone has a topic that would be of general interest, please do not hesitate to contact the office and let us know what items would be of general interest to the readers of this newsletter.
Susan C. Ryan, Esq.
Law Office of Susan Castleton Ryan, PC
(781) 982-8850

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The information in this newsletter is intended solely for your information .  It does not constitute legal advice, and it should not be relied on without a discussion of your specific situation with an attorney.