by
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Richard Hayes developed a subdivision called Mountain View Estates on land jointly owned by him and his wife, Nadine Hayes, in the Town of Manchester. The subdivision grew to include forty residential homes, a school building, and a chiropractic clinic on forty-four lots. From the sale of the first lot in about 1981 until his death in 2004, Richard Hayes paid for maintenance and plowing of the roads that ran through the subdivision and maintained the subdivision’s sewer system and the portion of the water system that he and his wife still owned, without charge to the homeowners. Following the Hayes’ deaths in 2004, a probate proceeding was opened and the Hayes’ adult children, Jeffrey Hayes and Deborah Hayes McGraw, were appointed coadministrators of their estates. The co-administrators sent a letter to the homeowners in the subdivision stating that effective immediately, the homeowners would be responsible for maintaining and plowing the subdivision’s roads. The homeowners refused to assume responsibility for the road maintenance. The homeowners intervened in the probate proceedings of the Hayes’ estates to protect their rights regarding the subdivision. The estates appealed the trial court’s decision that the estates were obligated, based on an agreement between the developers and the homeowners, to continue to maintain and repair the roads and water and sewer systems until the town accepted the dedication of the infrastructure. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the court’s findings and conclusions, and remanded the matter to the trial court for remand to the probate division for further proceedings. View "Hayes v. Mountain View Estates Homeowners Association" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the determination of the county court that Plaintiff, personal representative of the estate of Richard A. Hasterlik and an individual beneficiary, did not qualify for preferential inheritance tax treatment under Neb. Rev. Stat. 77-2004 on the ground that Plaintiff failed to prove that the decedent stood in the acknowledged relation of a parent to her. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the county court erred in finding that the evidence did not establish that Plaintiff was a person to whom the deceased, for more than ten years prior to his death, stood in the acknowledged relation of a parent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the county court’s factual determination was not clearly wrong. View "In re Estate of Hasterlik" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal from the county court’s order appointing a special administrator in this will contest, holding that the Court lacked jurisdiction over the appeal. Two siblings filed a petition in the county court contesting the validity of Marcia G. Abbott-Ochsner’s will presented for informal probate by their brother, who had been appointed as the personal representative of the estate. The personal representative transferred the will contest to the district court. Afterward, the county court granted the siblings’ request to appoint a special administrator for the estate pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 30-2425 pending resolution of the district court proceedings. The brother appealed, arguing that the county court lacked jurisdiction to appoint a special administrator because the case had been transferred to the district court. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the county court’s order did not affect with finality Appellant’s substantial rights, and therefore, the order appealed from was not a final order. View "In re Estate of Abbott-Ochsner" on Justia Law

by
At issue was how to construe a will’s residuary clause to determine what estate it granted to the testator’s wife (Wife) and whether Appellants were entitled to their attorneys’ fees under the doctrine of judicial instructions. Testator’s son filed a complaint asking the circuit court to construe the residuary clause as granting Wife a life estate in the residual property. The circuit court granted Wife’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that the intent of Testator was to devise and bequeath all of the rest and residue of the estate to Wife and that a life estate was not created. Despite this adverse ruling, Testator’s two sons (together, Appellants) moved for the circuit court to tax their attorneys’ fees against the estate on the ground that the meaning of the residuary clause required judicial instruction. The circuit court declined to do so. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) the residuary clause unambiguously granted Wife a life estate in the residual property; and (2) the circuit court properly refused to award attorneys’ fees under the doctrine of judicial instructions. View "Feeney v. Feeney" on Justia Law

by
Linda Nelson, Jill Mattson, Jeffrey Mattson, and Joan Louise Mattson appealed the district court's judgment quieting title to property in the Steven R. Mattson Living Trust and the Roald F. Mattson Living Trust (the "Trusts"), and awarding damages to Steven R. Mattson, the Steven R. Mattson Living Trust, and the Roald F. Mattson Living Trust (collectively, the "Mattsons"). Because the joint tenancy between Leif, Alf, and Roald Mattson was not severed prior to Leif Mattson's death, the North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court did not clearly err by quieting title to property in the Trusts. Further, the district court did not clearly err by awarding damages to the Trusts for the oil and gas lease payments under a theory of conversion. However, the district court erred by awarding damages to Steven Mattson for the amount he paid to Leif's heirs for the purported interest they owned in the surface of the property because unjust enrichment was unavailable and the voluntary payment doctrine applies. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Nelson v. Mattson" on Justia Law

by
This case involved a dispute between two sisters, Shauna Sandstead-Corona (“Corona”) and Vicki Jo Sandstead (“Sandstead”), over how to divide their mother Auriel Sandstead’s (“Auriel”) estate. Prior to her death, Auriel placed proceeds from the sale of the family’s farm into a multi-party bank account (“Wells Fargo”) on which Sandstead and Corona were also signatories, with the intent that the money would transfer to Sandstead and Corona outside of probate upon Auriel’s death. With Auriel’s permission, Sandstead later moved a large portion of the funds into different bank accounts (“Citizens Bank”) that Corona could not access. Auriel subsequently died, and the court appointed Sandstead as the personal representative of Auriel’s probate estate. Corona filed a motion to surcharge Sandstead for her use of the funds removed from Wells Fargo and placed in Citizens Bank. The probate court held a hearing on Corona’s surcharge motion and determined that Sandstead’s custody of the funds prior to filing a probate proceeding was “in the nature of an implied trust,” and that Sandstead failed to account properly for the funds, thus warranting a surcharge for the unaccounted amounts. In the course of the probate proceeding, a pour-over will and related revocable trust executed by Auriel and her late husband were discovered. Corona contested the will and trust on the ground that Auriel and her husband had revoked the trust. The trial court rejected this contention, however, and further concluded that under the trust’s no-contest clause, because Corona had contested the will and trust, she forfeited all property that she would have inherited under the will. Both Sandstead and Corona appealed. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court had erred in surcharging Sandstead for her use of the farm proceeds. The division also affirmed the trial court’s determination regarding the no-contest clause. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider: (1) whether an implied trust could be imposed on the farm proceeds placed in Citizens Bank; (2) whether the fiduciary oversight statute in the probate code permitted the trial court to sanction Sandstead for actions taken prior to Auriel’s death and prior to appointment as personal representative of Auriel’s estate; (3) whether the trial court erred in applying the no-contest clause; and (4) whether Corona had probable cause to contest the will. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's ruling: (1) the trial court properly imposed an implied trust over at least a portion of the farm proceeds; (2) because an implied trust is included in the fiduciary oversight statute’s definition of an “estate,” the trial court could properly surcharge Sandstead for her malfeasance as to the funds in the implied trust; and (3) although the no-contest clause in the trust was incorporated by reference into the will, by its plain language, that clause applied only to actions contesting the trust, not challenges to the will. Accordingly, the trial court erred in enforcing the no-contest clause against Corona based on her actions contesting the will. The Court did not need to reach the final issue on which it granted certiorari. View "Sandstead-Corona v. Sandstead" on Justia Law

by
This case involved a dispute between two sisters, Shauna Sandstead-Corona (“Corona”) and Vicki Jo Sandstead (“Sandstead”), over how to divide their mother Auriel Sandstead’s (“Auriel”) estate. Prior to her death, Auriel placed proceeds from the sale of the family’s farm into a multi-party bank account (“Wells Fargo”) on which Sandstead and Corona were also signatories, with the intent that the money would transfer to Sandstead and Corona outside of probate upon Auriel’s death. With Auriel’s permission, Sandstead later moved a large portion of the funds into different bank accounts (“Citizens Bank”) that Corona could not access. Auriel subsequently died, and the court appointed Sandstead as the personal representative of Auriel’s probate estate. Corona filed a motion to surcharge Sandstead for her use of the funds removed from Wells Fargo and placed in Citizens Bank. The probate court held a hearing on Corona’s surcharge motion and determined that Sandstead’s custody of the funds prior to filing a probate proceeding was “in the nature of an implied trust,” and that Sandstead failed to account properly for the funds, thus warranting a surcharge for the unaccounted amounts. In the course of the probate proceeding, a pour-over will and related revocable trust executed by Auriel and her late husband were discovered. Corona contested the will and trust on the ground that Auriel and her husband had revoked the trust. The trial court rejected this contention, however, and further concluded that under the trust’s no-contest clause, because Corona had contested the will and trust, she forfeited all property that she would have inherited under the will. Both Sandstead and Corona appealed. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court had erred in surcharging Sandstead for her use of the farm proceeds. The division also affirmed the trial court’s determination regarding the no-contest clause. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider: (1) whether an implied trust could be imposed on the farm proceeds placed in Citizens Bank; (2) whether the fiduciary oversight statute in the probate code permitted the trial court to sanction Sandstead for actions taken prior to Auriel’s death and prior to appointment as personal representative of Auriel’s estate; (3) whether the trial court erred in applying the no-contest clause; and (4) whether Corona had probable cause to contest the will. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's ruling: (1) the trial court properly imposed an implied trust over at least a portion of the farm proceeds; (2) because an implied trust is included in the fiduciary oversight statute’s definition of an “estate,” the trial court could properly surcharge Sandstead for her malfeasance as to the funds in the implied trust; and (3) although the no-contest clause in the trust was incorporated by reference into the will, by its plain language, that clause applied only to actions contesting the trust, not challenges to the will. Accordingly, the trial court erred in enforcing the no-contest clause against Corona based on her actions contesting the will. The Court did not need to reach the final issue on which it granted certiorari. View "Sandstead-Corona v. Sandstead" on Justia Law

by
Petrus Family Trust and Edmond Petrus, Jr., individually and as trustee of the Petrus Family Trust (collectively, Petrus) sued Chris Kirk d/b/a Kirk Enterprises (Kirk) and several other parties for claims arising from Petrus’s purchase of a home Kirk built in McCall. Kirk moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted the motion in Kirk’s favor. The district court also awarded attorney fees to Kirk under Idaho Code section 12-121, apportioning the award so as to award Kirk fees only insofar as Kirk was required to defend against a frivolous claim. Petrus appealed. As relevant here, Kirk moved for summary judgment contending, in part, that: (1) Petrus’s conspiracy-to-defraud claim was unsupported; and (2) Petrus’s breach of the implied warranty of habitability claim was untimely under Idaho Code section 5-241(b). Petrus responded that the breach of implied warranty of habitability claim was timely under section 5-241(a) because it arose in tort, not in contract, and did not address the conspiracy-to-defraud claim. The district held a hearing on Kirk’s summary judgment motion, at which Petrus conceded summary judgment for Kirk was proper on the conspiracy-to-defraud claim, leaving only the breach of the implied warranty of habitability claim. The district court then granted summary judgment to Kirk, concluding Petrus’s breach of the implied warranty of habitability claim arose in contract and was therefore untimely under section 5-241(b). Even if Petrus’s claim arose in tort, the district court concluded it would be barred by the economic loss rule. Petrus timely moved for reconsideration, but the district court denied the motion after concluding Petrus had not offered any new argument or evidence that would warrant a different result. Thereafter, the district court awarded attorney fees to Kirk under Idaho Code section 12-121, apportioning the award so as to award fees to Kirk only insofar as he was required to defend against Petrus’s conspiracy-to-defraud claim. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court was correct that a breach of the implied warranty of habitability arose in contract, making Petrus’s claim untimely. "This conclusion, however, is not to say that a home buyer is left without a tort remedy when a builder negligently constructs a home and causes tort damages. In that scenario, an appropriate tort claim may be asserted, and our ruling today does not foreclose that claim." Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment entered in favor of Kirk and appointment of attorney fees. View "Petrus Family Trust v. Kirk" on Justia Law

by
Donald Frizzell (“Frizzell”) appealed the dismissal of his complaint. Frizzell and defendants Edwin and Darlene DeYoung (collectively, the “DeYoungs”), were parties to an existing trust, with Edwin serving as trustee and Frizzell and Darlene as beneficiaries. The parties entered into an agreement pursuant to the Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act (“TEDRA agreement”). The TEDRA agreement was designed to modify the existing trust terms and also resolve issues related to Edwin’s administration of the trust in his role as trustee. Two years after the TEDRA agreement was filed with the district court, Frizzell filed suit against the DeYoungs alleging Edwin was breaching the TEDRA agreement and his fiduciary duties. The district court granted the DeYoungs’ motion to dismiss based on provisions in the TEDRA agreement that purported to hold Edwin harmless for any actions taken in his role as trustee. The district court also stated Frizzell was bound by the TEDRA agreement to pursue nonjudicial dispute resolution, rather than file a lawsuit for Edwin’s breach of duty. Frizzell appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found the district court erred in dismissing the complaint because the parties were not able to waive future claims for negligence or breach of fiduciary duty. Frizzell was not prohibited by TERDA or the agreement from seeking judicial action based on Edwin's alleged breaches of the agreement. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order dismissing Frizzell’s complaint and remanded for further proceedings. View "Frizzell v. DeYoung" on Justia Law

by
This appeal involved an intra‐family dispute over who owns a residential house. The Second Circuit held that the district court properly granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on the pleadings with respect to plaintiffs' adverse possession claim where the affirmative complaint did not contain any affirmative facts that plaintiffs did anything that constituted a distinct assertion of a right hostile to defendants. However, with regard to the constructive trust claim, the court held that there may be a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether an implied promise was made and as to whether defendants' refusal to honor this promise unjustly enriched them. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Jaffer v. Hirji" on Justia Law