Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

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N.G., Jr. ("father"); B.J.U., the father's legal guardian; and the N.G., Jr. Special Needs Trust, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief, to direct the Russell Juvenile Court to vacate an order transferring to the Russell Circuit Court a claim asserted by P.W. ("mother") alleging the fraudulent transfer of the father's assets in a case she filed seeking past-due child support. In 2005, the father was involved in an automobile accident and was rendered permanently disabled. His mother, B.J.U., was appointed as his guardian. Through B.J.U., the father commenced a personal-injury action seeking to recover compensation for injuries he sustained in the accident. The personal-injury action settled, and, in 2013, the settlement proceeds were placed in the special-needs trust. In August 2019, the mother filed a petition in the Russell Juvenile Court seeking to recover approximately $70,000 in past-due child support allegedly owed by the father. The mother also named B.J.U., in her individual capacity and as the father's guardian, as a defendant and alleged that she had secreted the father's assets. The mother asserted that placing the proceeds of the father's personal-injury settlement in the special-needs trust was a fraudulent transfer. She also added the special-needs trust as a defendant. The Alabama Supreme Court determined petitioners did not demonstrate the juvenile court was without power to transfer the mother's fraudulent-transfer claim to the circuit court. Accordingly, the Supreme Court denied the petition for relief. View "Ex parte N.G., Jr." on Justia Law

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Defendants below, Sam Smith, director of the Calhoun County Department of Human Resources ("CCDHR"); Pamela McClellan, an adult-protective-services caseworker with CCDHR; and Teresa Ellis, McClellan's supervisor (referred to collectively as "petitioners"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the circuit court to vacate its order denying their motion for a summary judgment in a wrongful-death action filed by William David Streip ("David"), as the personal representative of the estate of his sister, Jerrie Leeann Streip ("Leeann"), and to enter a summary judgment in their favor on the basis of immunity. Leeann suffered from numerous serious physical, mental, and emotional conditions since birth; those conditions were exacerbated by brain surgery in 2013. Following that surgery, Leeann was released to a nursing-home facility before being discharged into the care of her father. Leeann subsequently reported to a CCDHR social worker that her father had raped her. As a result, an adult-protective-services case was opened under Alabama's Adult Protective Services Act ("the APSA"), and McClellan was assigned as Leeann's caseworker. Upon the conclusion of the ensuing investigation, CCDHR removed Leeann from her father's care. Leeann was placed at a Leviticus Place, a boarding home where she remained for approximately one week. There were no concerns about Leeann's well being, but McClellan was notified Leann had left Leviticus Place and did not return. A body located in Birmingham was later identified as Leeann's; her cause of death remains "undetermined." After review, the Alabama Supreme Court determined petitioners established they were entitled to statutory immunity. They had a clear legal right to a summary judgment in their favor on that ground. The trial court was accordingly directed to vacate its order denying the petitioners' motion for a summary judgment and to enter a summary judgment in the petitioners' favor. View "Ex parte Sam Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court concluding that the Successor Trustee of The Phillip G. Jackson Family Revocable Trust lacked authority to sell real property held by the Trust for the care, maintenance and support of the surviving settlor, holding that the district court did not err as a matter of law.The Successor Trustee filed a complaint for declaratory judgment requesting a ruling that he could sell real property held by the Trust for the support of the surviving settlor, Phillip Jackson. The district court found that the Successor Trustee had no authority to eject Candyce Montoya, who had resided rent-free at the property for over forty years, from the property and to sell it for the benefit of Mr. Jackson during Montoya's life because the Trust granted Montoya a life interest in the property. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Montoya's interest in the property will not vest until the death of the remaining settlor; and (2) therefore, the Successor Trustee may sell the property for the benefit of the remaining settlor in accordance with the terms of the Trust. View "Jackson v. Montoya" on Justia Law

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Kelly Grenz, as personal representative of the Estate of Leo Grenz, appealed orders and judgments partially invalidating the will of Leo Grenz. The district court invalidated a portion of the will resulting from undue influence and gave effect to a portion of a contingent distribution clause the court found was consistent with Leo Grenz’s testamentary intent. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed, concluding the court properly applied the equitable doctrine of partial invalidity. View "Estate of Grenz" on Justia Law

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Berry Stephens petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Coffee Circuit Court to appoint him administrator ad litem of the estate of his mother, Louise Gennuso. The Supreme Court determined the estate's personal representative had an interest adverse to the estate. Therefore, the circuit court had a duty to appoint an administrator ad litem for the estate, but failed to do so. The Court thus granted Stephens' petition, and directed the circuit court to appoint Stephens as administrator ad litem for the estate of Gennuso. View "Ex parte Berry Stephens." on Justia Law

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In this case involving disputes over how several related Delaware statutory trusts should be governed and how they should operate the Court of Chancery held that the Trusts have no beneficial interest in the student loans that serve as collateral for the debt instruments (Notes) and that the holders of residual beneficial interests in the Trusts (the Owners) owe certain fiduciary duties to the indenture trustee, the note holders, and the reinsurer for certain of the notes (Indenture Parties).When several constituents brought separate operational controversies in separate lawsuits the actions were consolidated. At issue were offshoots of the National Collegiate Student Loan Master Trust I (the Trusts), each of which were Delaware statutory trusts formed for the purpose of acquiring and servicing a portfolio of student loans (the Student Loans). The Trusts acquired the Student Loans with the proceeds from the issuance of Notes and then entered into an Indenture granting interest in the Student Loans to the Indenture Trustee. The Indenture made Clea that the Trusts transferred the Student Loans for the benefit of the Noteholders. The Trusts then promised to service the Student Loans. The Owner Trustee, which possessed the right to act on behalf of the Trusts, found itself in the middle of a dispute between the Owners and the Indenture Parties, who had various economic interests in the Trusts. The Court of Chancery held as set forth above. View "In re National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts Litigation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the district court confirming Third Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to a Survivor's Trust and denying a challenge to the settlor's capacity, holding that the district court failed to comply with the requirements of Nev. Rev. Stat. 164.015.Here, the settlor's daughter, Amy Wilson, challenged the settlor's capacity to execute amendments to the Trust in accordance with Nev. Rev. Stat. 164.015. Under the statute, the district court must hold an evidentiary hearing, make factual findings, and issue an order binding in rem on the trust and appealable to the Supreme Court. The district court entered an order denying the objections and confirming the amendments. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred when it did not hold an evidentiary hearing or provide factual finding regarding the settlor's mental capacity prior to approving the amendments to the trusts. View "In re Frasier Family Trust" on Justia Law

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Michael Holt, the coexecutor of the estate of Geneva Holt, deceased, and the defendant in an action involving the estate, appealed a circuit court's judgment in favor of the plaintiff and coexecutor of the estate, Jere Holt. In October 2007, Jere and Michael's mother, Geneva Holt, died. In May 2008, Jere and Michael filed a petition to probate their mother's will. In August 2016, Jere filed a petition in the Walker Circuit Court to remove the proceedings from the probate court. In a separate motion, Jere asked the circuit court to construe the provisions of the will to allow the remaining assets in Geneva's estate to be used to satisfy a $140,000 cash bequest to him in Geneva's will. Michael filed a response to Jere's motion in which he asserted a counterclaim seeking a judgment declaring that the specific bequest to Jere had adeemed. In 2019, the circuit court entered an order in favor of Jere, holding that the cash bequest to Jere could be satisfied by selling assets of the estate. Michael appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court determined there was no order of removal from probate to circuit court. Without such order, the circuit court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over the administration of Geneva's estate. The Supreme Court concluded the 2019 circuit court order was void, and this appeal was therefore dismissed. View "Holt v. Holt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees from the unrepresented parties in her partition suit under Va. Code 8.01-92 and denying Plaintiff's requests to share the costs for bringing the action and for an award of the rental value of the subject property from the parties who occupied it, holding that the trial court did not err.Plaintiff and her four siblings inherited real property from their mother. Plaintiff later brought suit to partition the property and requested that the trial court compel its sale and divide the proceeds according to the parties' respective rights and interests after subtracting the expenses of Plaintiff's suit. Two siblings appeared at trial pro se. The trial court ordered that the property be sold and the proceeds be split equally among all five siblings and denied Plaintiff's request for fair rental value. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court (1) did not err in refusing to award Plaintiff reasonable attorney's fees out of the shares of the unrepresented siblings in the proceeds of the sale of the property; (2) did not err in failing to divide the costs of the partition suit equally among the siblings; and (3) did not err in failing to award fair rental value. View "Berry v. Fitzhugh" on Justia Law

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Six Delaware statutory Trusts acquired student loans, issued notes for the acquisitions, and pledged the student loans as collateral for the notes. This “securitization” works well when the students do not default. The Trusts initially did not provide for servicing delinquent loans; under a subsequent “Special Servicing Agreement,” U.S. Bank became the Indenture Trustee and the “Special Servicer” but allegedly failed to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in delinquent loans. The holders of the Trusts’ equity ownership interests hired an additional loan servicer, Odyssey, and submitted invoices from Odyssey for payment from the trust estate.The district court held that the Trust documents were not violated by hiring Odyssey and Odyssey’s invoices were payable. The Third Circuit reversed in part. Several provisions of the Odyssey Agreement violate the Trust documents by impermissibly transferring to the Owners of the Trusts rights reserved for the Indenture Trustee. The Odyssey Agreement supplements and modifies several provisions of the Trust documents, requiring consent not obtained from the Indenture Trustee. The court remanded for a determination of whether the Odyssey invoices are nonetheless payable, which may include reconsideration os a self-dealing issue. View "In re: National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts" on Justia Law