Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

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Winget created the Trust, retaining the right to revoke the Trust at any time and to receive income generated by the trust property during his lifetime. He also served as the trustee with broad powers. Venture (a company owned by Winget) sought a loan from Chase. Winget guaranteed the loan both in his individual capacity and as a representative of the Trust. Venture defaulted on the loan, Chase sued. During one of six previous appeals, the Sixth Circuit held that the guarantee agreement limited Winget’s personal liability to $50 million but did not limit the Trust’s liability. Winget paid Chase $50 million; the Trust has not satisfied its obligation and now owes $750 million. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that Chase could recover that money from the Trust property. Under Michigan law trusts can enter into contracts and satisfy their contractual obligations through the trust property. Creditors can sue to recover from the trust property, just like with any other contract. Under Michigan law and the trust agreement, Winget had the power to enter into contracts on behalf of the Trust. The court rejected Winget’s argument that he “owns” the trust property because he can revoke the Trust and pays taxes on the trust property and that Chase cannot take the property to satisfy the Trust’s obligation. The trust property would not be used to satisfy Winget’s personal liability but would be used to satisfy the Trust’s liability. View "JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget" on Justia Law

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Decedent Sophia Krasinski died testate in 2006. The primary assets of her estate included three parcels of real estate. The Executor was one of the Decedent’s four children, who also included Eleanor Krasinski, James Krasinski, and Patricia Krasinski-Dunzik. Decedent’s will directed that each of her four children were equal beneficiaries of the residue of the estate. In 2010, the Executor filed a petition to permit the private sale of real estate to heirs. The orphans’ court granted the Executor’s petition to permit the sale. Dunzik and her husband sued the estate based upon an alleged oral contract with the Decedent regarding the property. After a nonjury trial, the trial court ruled that there was no enforceable oral contract between Dunzik and Decedent and dismissed the case. This trial court order also lifted a stay on the orphans’ court’s prior order approving the private sale of the Decedent’s lands. Dunzik did not appeal the trial court’s rulings. The sale proceeded; the Executor, James and his wife, and Dunzik attended, at which time Dunzik stated that she would not be bidding because she believed that she already owned the properties. Dunzik again challenged the completed sales. This discretionary appeal presented the Pennsylvania Supreme Court with an opportunity to clarify the proper scope of Rule 342(a)(6) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure, which provided for an appeal as of right from an order of the Orphans’ Court Division that “determin[es] an interest in real or personal property.” The statute further provided that the failure of a party to immediately appeal an order appealable under, inter alia, Rule 342(a)(6), constitutes a waiver of all objections to the order. The Supreme Court concluded Dunzik waived all objections to the orphans’ court’s order approving the private sale. View "In Re: Estate of Krasinski" on Justia Law

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Sharron and Jennifer Jensen appealed district court orders: (1) admitting a copy of Jacquelynn Blikre’s will to formal probate; (2) ruling Blikre’s will was valid; and (3) denying a petition for formal probate of Blikre’s alleged holographic will. Blikre executed a will in 2005 leaving her estate, including real property and minerals, to her sister, Sandra Nordahl, and named Nordahl personal representative of the estate. Blikre’s other sister, Sharron, was excluded from the will. In April 2016, Blikre was hospitalized after suffering from several health issues. In May 2016, she was moved to a Bismarck nursing home and resided there until her death in September 2016. While she was hospitalized, Blikre appointed Sharron as Blikre’s attorney-in-fact for financial matters. Blikre had also appointed Sandra's husband, Jean Nordahl, as Blikre’s attorney-in-fact under a durable power of attorney in March 2016. After Blikre’s death, Sandra petitioned for formal probate of Blikre’s will, attaching a copy the petition because the original will was missing. Jensen objected to Nordahl’s petition, claiming Blikre’s will should have been considered revoked because the original was missing. The district court appointed Nordahl personal representative subject to a decision on whether the copy of Blikre’s will would be admitted to probate. Sandra died after her appointment as personal representative. Jean petitioned for appointment as successor personal representative. Sharron also petitioned for appointment. At an October 2017 hearing, the parties presented evidence on the existence of Blikre’s will and whether she intended to revoke it before her death. In February 2018, the district court entered an order finding sufficient evidence existed to rebut the presumption that Blikre intended to revoke her will. The court ordered formal probate of the copy of the will and appointed Jean as personal representative. In April 2018, Sharron appealed the district court’s order, and Jennifer petitioned for formal probate of a holographic will and to vacate the February 2018 order admitting the copy of Blikre’s will to probate. Jennifer's petition alleged Blikre wrote instructions in 2016 relating to her estate. Jensen claimed the handwritten documents were a holographic will that revoked the 2005 will and distributed Blikre’s estate to her sisters and nieces. In December 2018, Jennifer and Sharron moved for partial summary judgment. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court dismissed Jensen’s petition, finding Blikre’s handwritten documents did not express her testamentary intent to distribute her estate and did not revoke her 2005 will. The court also found Blikre’s 2005 will was valid because credible evidence showed the will was executed in front of two witnesses. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Estate of Blikre" on Justia Law

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Paul Herman appealed a judgment entered in favor of the trustees of a family trust [collectively the Trustees] following the district court’s granting of the Trust’s motion for summary judgment. Herman argued the district court erred by finding the 120 day period to challenge the actions of the Trustees expired before he initiated these proceedings without providing him an opportunity to conduct discovery. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the 120 day limitation period under N.D.C.C. 59-10.1-03(1) did not begin until receipt of the notice of the Trustees actions, reversed the judgment of the district court, and remanded with instructions to allow Herman additional time to conduct discovery pursuant to his request under N.D.R.Civ.P. 56(f). View "Herman v. Herman, et al." on Justia Law

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In this appeal arising from a 2014 petition by the Bank of Hawai'i (BOH) to resign as trustee for a trust comprised of several parcels of land underlying the Discovery Bay condominium complex in Waikiki, the Supreme Court vacated in part and affirmed in part the intermediate court of appeals' (ICA) judgment on the appeal, holding that the ICA erred when it decided that Michael David Bruser and Lynn Bruser were liable for the trustee's fees. The Brusers, who held the leasehold commercial unit in the condominium, and several trust beneficiaries objected to BOH's petition to resign as trustee. The probate court permitted BOH to reform the trust agreement and determined that a $9,850 monthly trustee's fee was reasonable. The ICA determined that the Brusers were responsible for paying the trustee's fees and that the monthly trustee's fee was reasonable. The Supreme Court held (1) the ICA erred in concluding that the Brusers were liable for the trustee's fees when the probate court did not address the issue; and (2) the ICA properly affirmed the probate court's conclusion that a $9,850 monthly trustee's fee was reasonable. View "In re Trust Agreement dated June 6, 1974" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of the Estate of Kenneth Stoebner in this breach of fiduciary duty claim against Curtis Huether, who served as Stoebner's attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney, holding that summary judgment was properly granted. Under his role of Stoebner's attorney-infant Huether executed a sale of Stoebner's real property to himself four days before Stoebner died. Stoebner's Estate commenced this action for breach of fiduciary duty, alleging that Huether engaged in an act of self-dealing when he executed the purchase agreement and warranty deed in his own favor as the attorney-in-fact for Stoebner. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the Estate and ordered that the sale be declared null and void. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that no genuine disputes of material fact existed regarding Huether's fiduciary duty to Stoebner to not engage in acts of self-dealing under the provisions of the power of attorney. View "Estate of Stoebner v. Huether" on Justia Law

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Edward Robin (Testator) had ten children: five from his first marriage to Doris Robin–Chris, Don, Brad, Edward, Jr., and Donna Robin; three from his second marriage to Thaslia Robin–Marcela Dardar, Elizabeth Locicero, and Lee Robin; and two other children–Chantel Viada and Chad Robin. On November 4, 2004, Testator executed a notarial testament before Notary Public Todd Villarrubia and two witnesses. In that testament, Testator bequeathed his gun collection and hunting equipment to Lee and the remainder of his estate to Brad and Don. His other seven children were not included in the testament. Brad and Don were named in the testament as co-executors of the estate. Testator also executed a “REVOCATION OF ANY AND ALL PRIOR WILLS AND CODICILS” before Notary Villarrubia and two witnesses–Ralph Litolff, Jr. and Monique Hardy. That document (the act of revocation) was not dated and consisted of one sentence, which stated: “I, EDWARD JOHN ROBIN, SR., revoke any and all prior Wills and Codicils that I may have made as pursuant to La. Civ. Code Ann. Art. 1607.” Testator died on August 22, 2017. Pursuant to a petition for appointment of an administrator, premised on an allegation that Testator died intestate, Chantel was appointed administratrix. Brad (Legatee) opposed Chantel's appointment, arguing Testator did not die intestate. In his petition, Legatee alleged that Testator left a testament in notarial form dated November 4, 2004, recognized that an act of revocation had been executed by Testator, and urged that the act of revocation, which had not been dated by Notary, was ineffective because it did not satisfy the authentic act requirement of La. C.C. art. 1607. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether the revocation was valid. The Court found that because extrinsic evidence regarding the date on which the act of revocation was executed did not “negate or vary” the content of the act of revocation, the lower courts improperly applied La. C.C. art. 1848 to preclude the admission of such evidence. "The extrinsic evidence establishes that the act of revocation was executed after the testament at issue in this case. Because the testament was revoked by the testator," the trial court’s judgment was reversed, and this matter remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Succession of Edward Robin, Sr." on Justia Law

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Regina Norwood and Rita Patelliro appealed a probate court order. Josephine Mary Damico ("the testator") executed a will, devising the entirety of her estate to her sister, Sarah Frances Cox. The testator expressly disinherited all of her other heirs. When the testator died in 2017, Elise Barclay filed a petition for probate of the will and a petition for letters testamentary. Shortly thereafter, Norwood and Patelliro, the testator's nieces, filed a "motion for letters of instruction" in which they asserted that the sister had predeceased the testator, they were the sister's two surviving children, and that, as the sister's surviving children, they were entitled to receive the testator's estate in place of the sister pursuant to the antilapse statute. The personal representative filed a response in which she asserted that the testator's estate should pass through intestacy. The Alabama Supreme Court found that although the testator expressly disinherited all of her heirs with the exception of the sister, her will was executed while the sister was living. The testator could foresee that, if she devised the entirety of her estate to her sister, the sister could thereafter devise it, upon her death, to her own issue, the nieces. "Moreover, the testator could foresee that, if her sister predeceased her, as happened, the nieces would inherit the sister's share pursuant to the antilapse statute. If the testator wanted to prevent the nieces from inheriting her estate, she could have included language in her will preventing the application of the antilapse statute. The testator gave no indication in her will that the antilapse statute should not apply." Thus, the Court determined the antilapse statute applied in this case and the nieces were entitled to take the sister's share of the testator's estate. View "Norwood v. Barclay" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court overruled Barto v. Weishaar, 692 P.2d 498 (Nev. 1985), and its conclusion that a suggestion of death emanating from the deceased party must identify the deceased party's successor or representative to trigger the deadline set forth in Nev. R. Civ. P. 25(a)(1) to file a motion to substitute, holding that Barto expanded rule 25(a)(1) beyond its plain language. James McNamee was sued for damages. During the litigation, McNamee died. Counsel for McNamee filed a suggestion of death without naming a successor or representative. Thereafter, the probate court appointed Susan Clokey as special administrator to defend the negligence suit. McNamee's attorney later filed a motion to substitute Clokey as the party defendant in the negligence suit. The district court denied the motion and named Fred Waid as general administrator of McNamee's estate. McNamee's attorney moved to dismiss the personal injury case because his motion to substitute had been denied. The district court denied the motion and substituted Waid as the defendant in place of McNamee. The Supreme Court held (1) a suggestion of death that is properly served triggers the deadline for filing a motion to substitute regardless of whether it identifies the deceased party's successor or representative; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Petitioner's motion to substitute. View "McNamee v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit certified a question of law to the Oregon Supreme Court on whether a constructive trust arises at the moment of purchase of a property using fraudulently- obtained funds, or if it arises when a court orders that a constructive trust be imposed as a remedy. Ronald Talmage ran a Ponzi scheme. Plaintiffs were victims of that scheme. Much of the money Plaintiffs invested with Talmage went to pay for a property he and his wife acquired, “RiverCliff.” When the Talmages divorced, a portion of moneys Plaintiffs invested with Ronald. Talmage failed to pay his taxes one year, and the IRS recorded tax liens on the property, leading to the underlying suit involving the constructive trust. The Oregon Supreme Court answered the first part of the Ninth Circuit’s question by clarifying that a constructive trust arises when a court imposes it as a remedy, but that the party for whose benefit the constructive trust is imposed has an equitable ownership interest in specific property that predates the imposition of the constructive trust. The Court answered the second part of the question by explaining that, in the circumstances of this case, plaintiffs had a viable subrogation theory that allowed them to seek a constructive trust based on equitable interests that predate all tax liens on the property. View "Wadsworth v. Talmage" on Justia Law