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In this case presenting the question of whether a handwritten codicil that referenced a provision of a self-proving will was valid the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals reversing the order of summary judgment in favor of a propounder, holding that the issue was not appropriate for summary judgment but instead presented a question of fact for the jury to resolve. Sometime after the testator executed a properly attested self-proving will a handwritten notation was added to the will. If a valid codicil, the notation modified the will and disinherited the caveators in favor of the proponent. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the proponent and ordered that the will be probated as modified by the codicil. The Court of Appeals reversed and directed the trial court to grant summary judgment for the caveators. The Supreme Court reversed, held (1) the self-proving will and the holographic codicil together clearly evidenced testamentary intent by simply referencing the applicable portion of the will to amend; but (2) a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the phrase “begin[n]ing 7-7-03” showed the testator’s then-present testamentary intent. View "In re Will of Allen" on Justia Law

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Amanda Meleski was injured when Albert Hotlen ran a red light and collided with her vehicle. Unfortunately, Hotlen was deceased at the time of the lawsuit, and he had no estate from which she could recover. However, Hotlen had purchased a $100,000 insurance policy from Allstate Insurance Company (Allstate) covering the accident. Meleski brought her action pursuant to Probate Code sections 550 through 555, which allowed her to serve her complaint on Allstate and recover damages from the Allstate policy, but limited her recovery of damages to the policy limits. Meleski attempted to settle the matter before going to trial by making an offer pursuant to section 998 for $99,999. The offer was not accepted, and at trial a jury awarded her $180,613.86. Because the offer was rejected and Meleski was awarded judgment in excess of her offer to compromise, she expected to recover her costs of suit, the postoffer costs of the services of expert witnesses, and other litigation costs. Meleski argued on appeal that she should have been able to recover costs in excess of the policy limits from Allstate, since it was Allstate that had refused to accept a reasonable settlement offer prior to trial. The trial court disagreed, and Meleski filed this appeal, arguing Allstate was a party within the meaning of section 998 for purposes of recovering costs, and that such costs were recoverable from the insurer despite the limitation on the recovery of “damages” found in Probate Code sections 550 through 555. The Court of Appeal agreed and reversed judgment: "Even though the decedent’s estate is the named defendant in actions under Probate Code sections 550 through 555, this is a legal fiction. The insurance company accepts service of process, hires and pays for counsel to defend the action, makes all decisions regarding settlement of the litigation, is responsible for paying the judgment in favor of the plaintiff if such judgment is rendered, and makes the decision whether or not to appeal an adverse judgment. There is no actual person or entity other than the insurance company to do any of this. This is a reality we will not ignore. Moreover, we find it manifestly unfair that section 998 could be employed by Allstate to recover costs from the plaintiff (which costs it would have no obligation to pay to the estate), but Allstate would have no corresponding responsibility to pay costs merely because it is not a named party." View "Meleski v. Estate of Hotlen" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Monica Anderson appealed a superior court decision dismissing her personal injury action against the defendant, the Estate of Mary D. Wood, as time-barred. Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident with a vehicle driven by Mary Wood. The complaint was mistakenly served on Wood’s daughter, who was also named Mary D. Wood. The daughter moved to dismiss on the grounds that Wood had passed away on January 22, 2015, and the plaintiff had no cause of action against the daughter, who was neither the administrator of Wood’s estate nor had any legal relationship with, or legal duty to, plaintiff. Plaintiff moved to amend her complaint to substitute the Estate of Mary D. Wood for Mary D. Wood as the defendant. Plaintiff’s motion alleged that she had filed a petition for estate administration for the Estate of Mary D. Wood and that she would serve notice of the action on the estate once the circuit court ruled on that petition. The trial court dismissed the action, ruling, sua sponte, that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction. The court noted plaintiff’s concession that she had filed the action against the wrong defendant, but concluded that it could not grant her motion to amend because there was “nothing in the record to suggest . . . that an Estate of Mary D. Wood presently exists.” The parties did not dispute that Wood died intestate and no estate had been opened immediately following her death. The court acknowledged the plaintiff’s allegation that she had sought to open an estate, but noted that plaintiff had not provided “any documentation demonstrating that the [circuit court] ever issued a grant of administration of said estate.” Accordingly, the court dismissed the action, ruling that “there is presently no legal entity that can be properly substituted for the current defendant such that this Court would possess subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to RSA 556:7.” In August 2016, a certificate of appointment was issued, naming an administrator of the Estate of Mary D. Wood. Plaintiff filed her complaint in the case underlying this appeal on April 4, 2017. Defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the statute of limitations had run on the claim. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined plaintiff’s claim was not time-barred by RSA 508:4 at the time of Wood’s death and her injury suit was brought within three years of Wood’s death. Therefore, the action was timely. View "Anderson v. Estate of Mary D. Wood" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing Appellant’s complaint for writs of mandamus and prohibition, holding that Appellant was not entitled to a writ of mandamus, nor was he entitled to a writ of prohibition. In his mandamus and prohibition complaint, Appellant alleged that the common pleas court and its judges unlawfully conveyed to another assets that Appellant’s deceased father had bequeathed to him. The court of appeals dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief because he failed to demonstrate that he lacked an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law and because he did not demonstrate that the courts lacked statutory jurisdiction over the matter. View "State ex rel. Evans v. Scioto County Common Pleas Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting Defendants’ motion to dismiss this claim brought by trust beneficiaries against third parties on behalf of the trust, holding that the trial court properly determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claim. Plaintiffs, beneficiaries of a trust, brought a breach of contract claim against Defendants, the financial advisor for the trust and the advisor’s employee. Plaintiffs argued that they fit within an exception to the general rule that beneficiaries of a trust lack standing to bring an action against a third party for liability to the trust, thus allowing them to bring this action because trustee improperly refused or neglected to do so. The trial court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the trustee improperly failed to sue Defendants for their alleged breach, and therefore, the allegations were insufficient to demonstrate that Plaintiffs had standing to sue. View "Browning v. Van Brunt, DuBiago & Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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In consolidated appeals, Randolph Clay Cooper ("Clay") appealed two summary judgments entered in favor of his siblings, Garland Terrance Cooper ("Terry") and Rebecca Cooper Bonner ("Becky"). Case no. 1170270 concerned a petition for letters of administration for the estate of Carol Evans Cooper ("Mrs. Cooper"), who was their mother. Case no. 1170271 concerned Clay's petition to distribute any assets remaining in a trust created by the will of their father, Nolan P. Cooper ("Mr. Cooper"). After review, the Alabama Supreme Court determined summary judgment was appropriate in Case no. 1170270, but that the district court erred in granting summary judgment in 1170271: in the 2012 litigation regarding the administration of his mother’s estate, Clay attempted to sue Becky in her capacity as "administratrix of the will and/or estate of Carol Evans Cooper," among other capacities. However, that attempt was ineffective because no administration of Mrs. Cooper's estate had yet been commenced and no estate administrator was appointed until after the 2012 litigation had concluded on October 1, 2014. The parties in the two cases were not the same or substantially identical (letters of administration had been previously granted to Harry D’Olive, Jr.), and the circuit court erred by entering a summary judgment in favor of Becky and Terry based on their argument that the administration of Mrs. Cooper's estate was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. View "Cooper v. Cooper" on Justia Law

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In this challenge related to a decedent’s estate the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the county court determining that the evidence was insufficient to prove damages for the conversion of estate property allegedly caused by the personal representative who was removed for breaches of fiduciary duties. On appeal, the designees of the decedent’s estate argued that the county court erred by not (1) awarding damages for the former personal representative’s conversion, damage, or loss of property; (2) awarding fees to the successor personal representative personally against the former representative by way of surcharge; (3) awarding attorney fees and costs personally against the former representative by way of surcharge; (4) imposing sanctions against the former representative or his attorney for the destruction of a deed of conveyance of real estate; and (5) receiving into evidence a certain exhibit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the proceedings below. View "In re Estate of Graham" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice denying Petitioners’ petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 asking the court to address the issue whether a trustee can appear “pro se” to represent a trust, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief. Specifically, Petitioners asked the court to address the issue whether a “non-lawyer trustee” is “entitled” to “self-representation.” The single justice denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that this case did not present the type of exceptional circumstance that requires the exercise of this court’s extraordinary power of general superintendence pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Eresian v. Scheffer" on Justia Law

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Robert died in July 2015, owing a mortgage amount of $113,358.12 on his Detroit home; the monthly mortgage payments. For five months following his death, the mortgage went unpaid. Bayview Loan Servicing sent a delinquency notice to the home in December 2015, showing an unpaid balance of $5,813.95. In November 2016, Bayview foreclosed and purchased the home by sheriff’s deed at public auction. Bayview sold the home to Tran. In May 2017, Robert’s estate filed a complaint, alleging four causes of action against Bayview, including lack of standing to foreclose under the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982, 12 U.S.C. 1701j-3 and MICH. COMP. LAWS 445.1626. The district court held that the Garn-St. Germain Act does not authorize a private right of action and did not apply to the’ claims. The Sixth Circuit vacated, concluding that the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because the federal statute does not create a cause of action, and the federal issue nested inside the state law cause of action is not substantial. View "Estate of Cornell v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Willis S. Sheldon, individually as the father of Dezirae Sheldon, and as administrator of the Estate of Dezirae Sheldon, appealed the grant of summary judgment to defendant Nicholas Ruggiero, an administrative reviewer with the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF). Plaintiffs argued that defendant negligently failed to report an allegation that Dezirae’s stepfather Dennis Duby abused Dezirae, eventually leading to Dezirae’s murder at Duby’s hands. Plaintiffs presented alternative theories for defendant’s liability under: (1) Vermont’s mandated-reporter statute, which they argued created a private right of action; (2) common-law negligence; or (3) negligent undertaking. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court concluded that even if the mandated-reporter statute creates a private right of action, or alternatively, even if defendant had a common-law duty to report suspected abuse, plaintiffs’ negligent-undertaking claim failed because defendant acted reasonably and prudently in his role as a DCF administrative reviewer. In addition, the Court concluded that defendant never undertook DCF’s statutory obligation to investigate all potential sources of Dezirae’s injuries. View "Sheldon v. Ruggiero" on Justia Law