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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of D.A. Davidson Trust Company and denying Valentine Weisz’s motion for partial summary judgment but reversed the order ordering sanctions against Valentine’s legal counsel, Henning, Keedy & Lee, holding that the district court abused its discretion when it ordered the sanctions. Valentine, who created the Valentine E. Weisz Living Trust and named Davidson as successor trustee, accused Davidson of inappropriately seizing control of the Trust. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err when it determined that Davidson properly assumed the role of successor trustee; (2) the district court did not err when it denied Valentine’s motion for partial summary judgment; but (3) the district court abused its discretion in sanctioning Valentine’s legal counsel. View "Weisz v. D.A. Davidson Trust Co." on Justia Law

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Kimberly Blalock appealed a circuit court order holding Crimson Sutphin was the rightful beneficiary of a policy insuring the life of Loyd Sutphin, Jr. ("Loyd"), issued by New York Life Insurance Company. Loyd took out a $250,000 individual whole life-insurance policy, naming his daughter, Sutphin, as the sole beneficiary. In October 2012, Loyd married Blalock, and they lived together at his home in Henegar. Soon after, in December 2012, Loyd submitted a change-of-beneficiary-designation form to New York Life, designating Blalock and Sutphin each as a 50% beneficiary under the policy. A few years later, in February 2016, Loyd and Blalock divorced; however, the life-insurance policy was not addressed in the divorce judgment, and Loyd never changed the beneficiary designation following the divorce. Loyd died later that year on December 23, 2016. In April 2017, Sutphin filed a action seeking a judgment declaring that she was the rightful beneficiary of the entire proceeds of the New York Life policy because, she asserted, pursuant to section 30-4-17, Ala. Code 1975, Blalock's beneficiary designation had been revoked upon her divorce from Loyd. Blalock moved to dismiss the action, arguing that Tennessee, not Alabama, law should govern and, thus, that the DeKalb Circuit Court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the case. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss; Blalock filed a motion to reconsider the denial. At an evidentiary hearing on her motion to reconsider, Blalock again argued that the DeKalb Circuit Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction but also asserted that the application of 30-4-17 in this instance violated section 22 of the Alabama Constitution of 1901; the circuit court denied Blalock's motion to reconsider. The case proceeded to a bench trial, at which Blalock argued that she and Loyd had established a common-law marriage after their divorce and before his death, thereby reviving her beneficiary designation under the policy. The circuit court heard testimony from numerous witnesses on this issue, most of whom testified on Blalock's behalf. In 2018, the circuit court issued a final order in the case, holding that Sutphin was the rightful beneficiary under the policy because Blalock's beneficiary designation had been revoked by virtue of 30-4-17 and no common-law marriage existed to revive that designation before Loyd's death. Finding that Blalock's beneficiary designation was revoked under 30-4-17 by virtue of her divorce, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court. View "Blalock v. Sutphin" on Justia Law

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Evangela Skelton ("Angel"), as personal representative of the estate of Brian Lee Skelton, Sr. ("the estate"), requested the Alabama Supreme Court issue a writ of mandamus directing the Circuit Court (1) to vacate its order denying her motion to dismiss an action filed in the circuit court by Joshua Council ("Joshua") and (2) to enter an order dismissing Joshua's action on the ground of abatement. Frederick Skelton, Jr. ("Frederick Jr."), died on June 7, 1979. Frederick Jr. was survived by his wife, Rheta Skelton ("Rheta"), and four children: Brian Lee Skelton, Sr. ("Brian Lee"), Frederick Tildon Skelton III ("Frederick III"), Loretta Skelton ("Loree"), and Cindy Skelton ("Cindy"). The original trustee of the trust was Rheta. The trust named Frederick III as successor trustee to Rheta and Brian Lee as successor trustee to Frederick III. The trust named no successor trustee to Brian Lee. Rheta died on December 13, 2015. Rheta was predeceased by Frederick III, who died on January 1, 2014. Thus, Brian Lee became the successor trustee of the trust following Rheta's death. However, Brian Lee died on July 2, 2016, before dividing the trust property into shares and distributing those shares pursuant to the terms of the trust and before making a final settlement of the trust. Brian Lee was survived by his wife, Angel, by two adult children, Brian Lee Skelton, Jr. ("Brian Jr."), and Taylor Skelton Madsen ("Taylor"), and by a minor child, Olivia Jade Skelton ("Olivia"). Brian Lee's adult children sought appointment such that the Family Trust shares could be distributed. Joshua, as beneficiary, petitioned for termination, alleging that the trust should have terminated on Rheta's death, and asked the circuit court to distribute the trust assets. Angel moved to dismiss, which was ultimately denied. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the circuit court erred in denying Angel's motion, reversed the Circuit court and directed it to enter an order dismissing Joshua's action. View "Ex parte Evangela Skelton, as the personal representative of the Estate of Brian Lee Skelton, Sr., deceased." on Justia Law

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Walter owned and operated Control Master Products, a wire and cable business. After Walter’s death, Plaintiffs filed a petition to determine their status as beneficiaries under Walter's trust and to challenge Youngman’s right to inherit. Youngman, Walter’s long-time friend and tax attorney, had drafted Walter’s trust. The petition sought to have a condition, which made certain gifts contingent on being employed by Control at the time of the death of Walter and his spouse (Verla), stricken on various grounds, including impossibility. Walter had sold the company’s assets and its employees had been terminated. The probate court concluded the dispute was not ripe because Verla’s death had not occurred. On remand, the probate court found that Youngman and his family were “disqualified from any gift under the trust,” that Ostrosky’s gift lapsed because she had retired before the sale, and Schwan’s and Johnson’s gifts “remain valid and enforceable, but only after Verla[’s] death.” The court of appeal reversed and remanded for findings as to whether Ostrosky’s work for Custom satisfied the trust’s employment condition and modified the trial court decision so that the gifts to Schwan and Johnson remain valid and enforceable, only after Verla’s death, and only if they survive Verla. The court otherwise affirmed. View "Schwan v. Permann" on Justia Law

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In September 2005, the government assessed Chicorel $140,903.52 in income tax for the 2002 tax year. Chicorel died in 2006 having not paid the assessed taxes. On May 4, 2007, Behar, the estate’s personal representative, published a notice to creditors of the four-month deadline for presenting claims, but he did not mail the notice to the government despite it being a known creditor of the estate. In January 2009, the government filed a proof of claim in the probate proceeding concerning the tax assessment. Behar has not responded to the proof of claim; probate is ongoing. The government filed this collections proceeding in March 2016, seeking judgment on the 2005 tax assessment, which is the subject of the proof of claim. The district court granted the government summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the government’s 2009 proof of claim filing tolled the statute of limitations, 26 U.S.C. 6502(a), which provides that, after the government assesses a tax, “such tax may be collected by levy or by a proceeding in court, but only if the levy is made or the proceeding begun—(1) within 10 years after the assessment of the tax.” View "United States v. Estate of Chicorel" on Justia Law

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Patricia Campbell appeals from an order of the Mobile Circuit Court adjudicating J.R.C., J.L.C., R.L.C., and J.H.S., minor children, as the heirs of the estate of her son, Remano Campbell. Remano died intestate in October 2011, the victim of a homicide perpetrated by his wife, Eugenia Campbell. At the time of his death, Remano was the insured under a $200,000 life-insurance policy issued by United of Omaha Life Insurance Company ("Omaha"). Because Eugenia was not considered to be Remano's surviving spouse, the proceeds of the insurance policy would pass to Remano's issue; if there was no surviving issue, then to his parent or parents equally. Remano and Eugenia were legally married in June 2002. During their marriage, Remano and Eugenia had three children, J.R.C., J.L.C., and R.L.C. Eugenia also had another child, J.H.S., who was born approximately 18 months before her marriage to Remano and who lived with Remano and Eugenia throughout their marriage. In January 2017, the administrator ad litem of Remano's estate filed a complaint in the interpleader action, seeking a judgment declaring that the Campbell children and J.H.S. were Remano's heirs and thus were entitled to the life insurance proceeds. After a hearing, the circuit court entered an order adjudicating the Campbell children and J.H.S. to be Remano's heirs and further finding that Patricia lacked standing to challenge the paternity of the children. Accordingly, the circuit court ordered disbursement of the insurance proceeds in the interpleader action and directed that the estate administration be remanded to the probate court. Patricia filed a postjudgment motion, which was denied. This appeal followed. Finding no reversible error in the circuit court’s judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed adjudication of the children as Remano’s heirs. View "Campbell v. J.R.C." on Justia Law

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William Norvell appealed the grant of summary judgment in an action he filed against his brothers Carter and Samuel Norvell. This case arose from a dispute concerning a transaction in which their mother, Martha, sold Carter a certain house on lakefront property ("the lake house"). Martha established a revocable trust ("the trust") and executed a deed transferring title to the lake house to the trust. Carter was both the trustee and the beneficiary of the trust. Martha also executed a will that, because her husband has preceded her in death, divided her estate in equal shares among three of her four sons, Carter, Samuel, and Neal Norvell, expressly excluding William. A few years later, Martha executed a "revocation of trust agreement" pursuant to which she revoked the trust and expressed her desire to transfer title to the lake house from the trust to herself; shortly thereafter, Carter, as the trustee, executed a deed transferring title to the lake house to Martha. Martha also executed a codicil to her will to devise and bequeath her assets to Carter, Samuel, Neal, and William in equal shares and to appoint Carter and William co-personal representatives of her estate. The Alabama Supreme Court determined William failed to demonstrate the circuit court erred by entering a summary judgment in the defendants' favor on his "interference-with-inheritance-expectancy" and undue influence claims. Accordingly, the Court affirmed summary judgment with respect to those claims. However, the circuit court erred by entering a summary judgment in the defendants' favor based on William's lack of "standing" to prosecute his declaratory-judgment, breach-of-fiduciary-duty, and conspiracy claims. Accordingly, the Court reversed summary judgment with respect to those claims and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Norvell v. Norvell" on Justia Law