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George Bates and David Joyner appealed a circuit court order approving a final judicial accounting of the administration of a trust pursuant to 19-3B-205, Ala. Code 1975. Because the trial court did not certify its order as final pursuant to Rule 54(b) and because its order contemplated further action on behalf of the trustee, the Alabama Supreme Court determined the order at issue here was not a final appealable order. Accordingly, the Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain Bates and Joyner's appeal. View "Bates v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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The probate court did not err in adopting the report of a referee and imposing a constructive trust on Plaintiff’s interests in real property, but remand is necessary for the probate court to enter an appropriate judgment. Plaintiff, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Stephen E. Libby, filed a complaint against her brother. Plaintiff’s brother filed a counterclaim against Plaintiff. A referee concluded that Plaintiff committed constructive fraud and recommended the imposition of a constructive trust on certain real estate. The probate court adopted the referee’s report and ordered judgment “entered in the record.” The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the probate court did not err in adopting the referee’s report; but (2) the court’s docket entry did not comply with rules 58 and 79 of the Maine Rules of Probate Procedure regarding the entry of judgment. The court remanded with directions that the probate court enter an appropriate judgment. View "In re Estate of Stephen E. Libby" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Michigan Supreme Court in this case is whether plaintiff, arguing that venue was improper, could avail herself of MCR 2.223(A), which permitted a court to order a venue change “on timely motion of a defendant,” MCR 2.223(A)(1), or on the court’s “own initiative,” MCR 2.223(A)(2). This case arose out of a fatal automobile accident in Lake County between defendant Rodney Hall and decedent James Armour II. Plaintiff Joanne Dawley, Armour’s spouse, sued Hall in Wayne County in August 2014. Defendant moved to transfer venue to Mason County or Lake County, alleging among other things that he conducted business in Mason County by owning and operating Barothy Lodge. The Wayne Circuit Court granted the motion and transferred venue to Mason County in March 2015. Ten months later, plaintiff moved under MCR 2.223 to change venue back to Wayne County, alleging that discovery had revealed that defendant did not, in fact, own the resort in his name; he was merely a member of Hall Investments, LLC, which owned the resort. Therefore, according to plaintiff, venue in Mason County was improper because defendant did not conduct business there. The trial court disagreed, but the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for transfer of venue to Wayne County. Defendant appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing among other things that MCR 2.223 did not permit a plaintiff to move for transfer of venue. The Supreme Court found that because plaintiff’s motion was neither a motion by defendant nor an action on the court’s “own initiative,” it held plaintiff could not file a motion for a change of venue under MCR 2.223(A). Accordingly, the Court vacated the Court of Appeals’ decision ordering transfer of venue. View "Estate of James Armour II v. Hall" on Justia Law

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Appellant Jadwiga Melton (“Jadwiga”), challenged a district court’s determination that Respondent Heinz Alt (“Heinz”), filed a timely claim against the Estate of Robert Ernest Melton (“Robert”) and Hedwig Melton (“Hedy”). Hedy died in 2008, and in 2010 Robert married Jadwiga. In 2013, Robert died. Jadwiga commenced joint probate proceedings for both Hedy and Robert, pursuant to Idaho Code section 15-3-111, because Hedy’s will was never probated. Heinz filed a creditor claim against the estate for approximately to the penny $102,574.50, alleging that he loaned money to Hedy and Robert to build a home and in exchange they agreed to execute wills that would leave their estate to him. Jadwiga filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that Hedy was the only one who signed the promissory note and Heinz failed to bring a claim within three years of Hedy’s death. The magistrate court determined that, because Heinz failed to bring the claim against Hedy’s estate within three years of her death, his claim was barred by Idaho Code section 15-3-803. Heinz appealed and the district court reversed the magistrate court, holding that Heinz’s claim was timely, pursuant to Idaho Code section 15-3-111, because Heinz brought his creditor claim within three years of Robert’s death. Upon review, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred when it construed the statutory language of 15-3-111 because the statute was not ambiguous. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Melton v. Alt" on Justia Law

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FCR filed suit against numerous defendants associated with the Life Investors Owners Participation Trust, alleging breaches of fiduciary duties and conversion. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, holding that Trust section 11.9 authorized the Trustees to deduct funds from the Trust accounts to reimburse Life Investors for the money it advanced to pay for the defense in the Maryland litigation; the Trustees did indeed incur "cost" in the form of attorney's fees in defending the Maryland action unsuccessfully brought by Corrado and FCR; the Trustees did not breach their fiduciary duties; there was no material dispute as to the reasonableness of the attorney's fees because plaintiffs failed to challenge the fees; and the conversion claim failed because plaintiffs were unable to prove the first element of conversion, that their interests were subject to the terms of the Trust. View "Corrado v. Life Investors Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Alabama Supreme Court granted Clifford Goodman Wright, the administrator of the estate of Mary Evelyn Wright, permission to appeal a circuit court interlocutory order. In that order, the trial court ruled that the $100,000 cap on damages set out in section 11-93-2, Ala. Code 1975, applied to Wright's claims against three nurses, Dawn Reid, Phyllis Harris, and Tuwanda Worrills, who were employees of the Cleburne County Hospital Board, Inc., d/b/a Cleburne County Nursing Home ("the Hospital Board"), at the times relevant to Wright's action. Section 11-93-2 governed "[t]he recovery of damages under any judgment against a [county or municipal] governmental entity." Because Wright sued the nurses seeking money damages in their individual capacities, the trial court erred in applying section 11-93-2 to Wright's claims. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Wright v. Cleburne County Hospital Board, Inc." on Justia Law

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Robert Wehle died in 2002. The will created a marital trust for Wehle's wife, Gatra Wehle, and a family trust for his daughters and Wehle's granddaughter, Debbie Kloppenberg. The personal representatives were named as cotrustees of both the marital trust and the family trust. In 2005, the personal representatives petitioned the probate court for final settlement of the estate. They also filed an accounting of their administration of the estate. The accounting indicated that the personal representatives had paid themselves total compensation of $1,964,367.82, which, they alleged was 5% of the value of Wehle's estate at the time the petition for final settlement was filed, and was consistent with the statutory allowance for such fees. Further, the personal representatives maintained the decedent intended for the fees to be approximately 5% of the value of his estate. The daughters filed an objection to the accounting, arguing, among other things, that, pursuant to 43-2-844(7), Ala. Code 1975, the personal representatives were required to obtain prior court approval before compensating themselves out of the assets of the estate. The daughters also argued that the amount of the compensation exceeded the "reasonable compensation" allowed by 43- 2-848(a), Ala. Code 1975. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the representatives' payment without prior authorization was not expressly authorized by the will, and the circuit court erred in granting partial summary judgment with respect to the fees. On remand, the circuit court held the $1,964,367.82 was "reasonable compensation" under 43-2-848(a), Ala. Code 1975. This award was appealed, with the Supreme Court rejecting the daughters' challenges to the reasonableness of the fees awarded to the personal representatives and the circuit court's refusal to remove a trustee. However, the Court agreed the circuit court erred in denying their claim seeking to recover interest from the date of the premature compensation payments through the date those payments were finally approved by the circuit court. The Court also agreed the circuit court erred "insofar as it determined the amount of the attorney fees" due the personal representatives in connection with their defense of the daughters' claims. Further, the Court held the circuit court had, as the daughters alleged, violated its mandate in the first appeal to tax the costs of the appeal in that case against the personal representatives. Still aggrieved, the parties appealed and cross-appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding that because the personal representatives failed to demonstrate that the circuit court erred in awarding only the fees the personal representatives demonstrated that they actually incurred, the Supreme Court affirmed that portion of the circuit court's judgment. View "Wehle v. Bradley" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted review to determine rightful title to a parcel of real property claimed by competing grantees, each of whom invoked a real or purported conveyance from the property’s owner. An additional issue under consideration was the application of res judicata and collateral estoppel during estate administration proceedings with regard to an earlier order of the Orphans’ Court determining the validity of a will. Relying upon a presumption that valid delivery of a deed occurs on the date of its execution and acknowledgment, the Superior Court held that title to the real estate vested in the grantee of the earlier, unrecorded instrument. The Superior Court further held that, where the Orphans’ Court determined that a will was valid and permitted a photocopy of that will to be probated, a participating party’s subsequent claim that the will was revoked was barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel. The Supreme Court determined the Orphans’ Court’s decision was supported by competent evidence, the court applied the correct principles of law in evaluating the question of delivery, and the court did not abuse its discretion in determining who possessed superior title to the property at issue by virtue of the 2006 Deeds. In reversing the Orphans’ Court’s decision on that issue, the Superior Court erred. When the parties litigated the alleged dissipation of estate assets, they did so within the context of those same estate administration proceedings. The Supreme Court concluded that a party’s challenge to the Orphan’s Court’s order did not arise within the context of subsequent litigation following a “final order,” but, rather, was advanced within the same proceedings as the challenged order; neither res judicata nor collateral estoppel served to preclude her claim. In this regard as well, the order of the Superior Court was reversed. View "In Re: Estate of Plance; Appeal of: Plance" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was a matter of first impression: the effect of 20 Pa.C.S. 7710.2 (enacted in 2006) upon the scope of the assets used to calculate the pretermitted spousal share. The named beneficiaries of the Trust upon Decedent’s death were his then-wife Joanne, and the children born to Decedent and Joanne. Pursuant to the terms of the Trust, Decedent had the prerogative to receive any portion of the trust income during his lifetime, to draw any amount of the trust principal for his own welfare, comfort, and support, and to terminate the Trust. Joanne died on August 15, 2010. On December 13, 2010, Decedent prepared a Last Will and Testament. Approximately one year later, on December 30, 2011, Decedent married Appellee Mary Jo Kulig. Since the will had been executed before his second marriage, it made no provision for Kulig, nor did the will include any indication that Decedent had contemplated remarriage when he executed it. On February 3, 2012, barely one month after marrying Kulig, Decedent died, survived by Kulig and by appellants (his children), Carrie Budke and James Kulig. By the terms of the Trust, if Joanne predeceased Decedent, the balance of the Trust corpus was to be divided and distributed to Children according to the Trust’s terms. Kulig undisputedly was entitled upon Decedent’s death to an ERISA benefit plan. The parties stipulated that Kulig, a pretermitted spouse under Pennsylvania law, was entitled to receive the same share of Decedent’s estate to which she would have been entitled had he died intestate. The Children filed a petition for declaratory judgment before the Orphans’ Court seeking a declaration that the Trust was excluded from Kulig’s pretermitted spousal share. Kulig opposed the petition, arguing primarily that, in calling for the application of the same interpretive principles to trusts that apply to wills, Section 7710.2 of the Code established that inter vivos trusts, like other assets, must be considered part of the intestate estate for purposes of calculating the pretermitted share. The Superior Court held Section 7710.2 mandated application to the Trust of the same presumption applicable to the will under Subsection 2507(3). Accordingly, the estate comprising the pretermitted spousal share necessarily included the Trust corpus. The Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court’s determination that the revocable inter vivos trust at issue should have been included in Decedent’s estate for purposes of discerning the pretermitted spouse’s statutory entitlement under 20 Pa.C.S. 2507. View "Re: Trust Under Deed of D. Kulig; Apl of Budke" on Justia Law

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Appellants Tomeka and Marlon McElroy appealed a circuit court judgment denying their will contest. In 2010, Tracy McElroy filed a petition to probate the will of Clifton McElroy, Jr. Tracy was the executrix; the will was self-proving in accordance with the requirements of section 43-8-132, Ala. Code 1975. The probate court admitted the will to probate and issued letters testamentary to Tracy. Later that year, appellants filed a will contest in the probate court, alleging that Clifton's signature on the will was forged and that, therefore, the will was not properly executed. Appellants were both Clifton's heirs and beneficiaries under his will, and demanded that their will contest be transferred to the circuit court pursuant to 43-8-198, Ala. Code 1975. Tracy moved to dismiss the will contest, arguing that because the will had already been admitted to probate, the contest could not ben filed pursuant to 43-8-190, Ala. Code 1975. Generally, "[o]nce the administration and settlement of an estate are removed from the probate court, the probate court loses jurisdiction over the estate, and the circuit court obtains and maintains jurisdiction until the final settlement of the case." However, in this case, the administration of Clifton's estate was not properly removed from the probate court; therefore, the circuit court never obtained jurisdiction over the administration of Clifton's estate. Thus, the circuit court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to consider the will contest, and the judgment entered by the circuit court on the will contest was void. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed. View "McElroy v. McElroy" on Justia Law