Case Study Decision: Change In Circumstances – Gagnon v. Coombs


Francis Gagnon was an elderly man who, with his wife, owned a farm in Shelburne, Massachusetts and land in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. They had two children, Joan Coombs and Frank Gagnon. Joan suggested that her parents sign powers of attorney appointing her as their agent so that she could take care of them and their property. Frank was furious when he found out about Joan’s power of attorney. He convinced his father to revoke the power. Francis did so, but never told Joan explicitly. Two months later, Mrs. Gagnon died and Mr. Gagnon signed a purchase and sale agreement for the Shelburne farm. He gave the property in Hillsborough to Frank. When Mr. Gagnon told Joan about the sale of the land and his intention to move to Hillsborough to live with Frank, she crafted her own plan. Not realizing that her power of attorney had been revoked, she used it to transfer the Shelburne property to a trust that she had created and that she controlled. Mr. Gagnon’s lawyer wrote to Joan demanding that she return the Shelburne property to him, and she refused. The trial court found that Joan had the authority under the power of attorney to convey the Shelburne property to the trust. Mr. Gagnon appealed.

This case study will assess how well you understand the agency relationship. Begin by reading the facts of the case above (Gagnon v. Coombs), then decide:

Did Joan have the right to convey the Shelburne farm to a trust that she had established? Does the property belong to the trust or to Mr. Gagnon?