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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

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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