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Plaintiff appealed the probate court's order striking her petition to enforce a no contest clause in a trust under the anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16, and denying her motion to recover attorney fees. The Court of Appeal agreed with the probate court, and with a recent decision by Division Five of this district, that the anti-SLAPP statute applies to a petition such as plaintiff's seeking to enforce a no contest clause. However, the court held that plaintiff adequately demonstrated a likelihood of success under the second step of the anti-SLAPP procedure. In this case, defendant's judicial defense of the 2007 Amendment to the Trust that she procured through undue influence met the Trust's definition of a contest that triggered the no contest clause. Furthermore, under sections 21310 and 21311, that clause was enforceable against defendant. The court also held that plaintiff provided sufficient evidence that defendant lacked probable cause to defend the 2007 Amendment. The court held that the findings of the probate court concerning defendant's undue influence, which this court affirmed, provided a sufficient basis to conclude that plaintiff has shown a probability of success on her No Contest Petition. Finally, the court held that plaintiff had the contractual right to seek reimbursement of her attorney fees incurred in resisting defendant's appeal of the probate court's ruling invalidating the 2007 Amendment. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Key v. Tyler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the county court accepting the resignation of the trustee for a trust fund created for the perpetual care and maintenance of the Sunset Memorial Park Mausoleum, ordering the trustee to pay trustee fees, attorney fees, costs, and expenses incurred during the prosecution of the petition, and failing to provide for future trust management. The Trustee in this case sought to terminate the perpetual care trust due to circumstances not anticipated at the time the trust was created. Myrtle Hughbanks, Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery Association, Inc., and others opposed terminating the trust. The county court found that the Cemetery Association lacked standing and accepted the resignation of the Trustee. The Cemetery Association and Hughbanks appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the county court's denial of the parties' motions for attorney fees but reversed the order of discharge and associated award of fees, holding (1) in addition to Hughbanks, the Cemetery Association possessed standing; and (2) due to the perpetual nature of a mausoleum trust, the county court erred in granting the Trustee's request for resignation and discharge without the Trustee's having identified and requested the appointment of a successor trustee. View "Bank of the West v. Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery Ass'n" on Justia Law

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This case presented two issues for the Court of Appeals' review: (1) whether the nonmarital biological child of an absentee father who never openly held her out as his own have standing under Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60 to sue for his wrongful death if she failed to obtain a court order declaring paternity during his lifetime?; and (2) if she did not have standing, did section 377.60 violate the state or federal equal protection clauses? Upon the specific facts of this case, the Court concluded the child did not have standing, and there was no equal protection violation. "We cannot imagine the Legislature intended to confer wrongful death standing on a child who had no relationship whatsoever with the decedent to the exclusion of the decedent’s other family members with whom he did have a relationship." View "Stennett v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court that affirmed an order of the Randolph County Commission affirming the findings of its special fiduciary commissioner as to Joann Fussell's claims against the Estate of Roger G. Fussell and her objections to the estate appraisement, holding that the circuit court did not err. Specifically, the Court held that the circuit court correctly found (1) two bank notes obtained by Joann were just debts of the Estate; (2) Joann was not a creditor beneficiary of a life insurance policy on the life of Roger; and (3) Joann's fair market value written appraisals in West Virginia and Georgia were properly considered by the special fiduciary commissioner to establish fair market value. View "Estate of Fussell v. Fussell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court overruled its decision in Faris v. Faris, 138 S.W.2d 830, 832 (Tex. App. 1940) ruling that a devisee's default is imputed to his own devisee, even where the latter is not in default, holding that Texas Estates Code 256.003(a) holding that the applicant for the probate of the will is in default in failing to timely probate the will. Linda Ferreira, in her capacity as executor of her ex-husband Norman's estate, offered the will of Patricia Hill, whom Norman subsequently married, for probate nine years after Patricia's death. Douglas and Debra Butler, Patricia's intestate heirs, contested the probate of the will on the ground that it was barred by the four-year limitations period in section 256.003(a). The trial court granted summary judgment for the Butlers. The court of appeals affirmed, holding (1) Norman's default in probating Patricia's will applied to Linda, and (2) even if Linda had applied to probate the will in her individual capacity as a devisee of a devisee, Norman's default would bar her application under Faris. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that, under section 256.003(a), when an applicant seeks late probate of a will in her individual capacity, only the applicant's conduct is relevant to determining whether she was not in default. View "Ferreira v. Butler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgments of the probate court determining that the total expenditures made by, and deductions allowable to, Judith Gilbert, as the wife of John Gilbert and personal representative of John's estate, exceeded the value of the estate, and distributing the estate to Judith in kind, holding that the court did not err in its application of the law or in its important factual findings. On appeal, Nathan Gilbert, John's son, put forth fifty-one proposed findings of fact and seventeen proposed corrections of law regarding the value and distribution of the estate, arguing that the court made numerous errors in its findings of fact and its application of the law. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgments, holding that the probate court acted within its authority and with record support when it found Judith to be credible and did not err when it determined that Judith was entitled to the in kind distribution of the estate. View "In re Estate of Gilbert" on Justia Law

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Petitioner David Dudek appealed after the trial court sustained the demurrer of respondents Anne Kebisek Dudek, Tiffany Guzman, Jeanette Kebisek, Mary Kebisek, Guillermo Andrade, Maria Sanchez, Ora Day, Tonya Courtney, and Michael Quinn to David's petition to recover money distributed to the respondents in accordance with the beneficiary designation of Genworth Life Insurance Policy #5804946 (the Policy), which covered the life of J.D. Dudek (J.D.), Petitioner's brother. According to David, in late 2009, J.D. created and executed the J.D. Dudek Life Insurance Trust, naming David as the trustee. David asserted the Policy was listed as an asset of the Trust, to be held and administered in accordance with the Trust's terms. According to the Petition, J.D. prepared and submitted to the life insurance company the forms required by that company to change the ownership and beneficiary designations on the Policy in order to establish David, as trustee, as the sole owner and named beneficiary of the Policy. David was unaware that not long after J.D. submitted the forms, the insurance company rejected the ownership and beneficiary designation forms because J.D. had altered some of his entries without initialing the changes. David was also unaware that J.D. had failed to file corrected forms with the life insurance company after he was notified of the insurance company's rejection of his submitted forms. After J.D. died, David produced the Trust to the life insurance company and sought to obtain the proceeds of the policy. However, the life insurance company distributed the proceeds of the policy to the beneficiaries that it had on file, pursuant to the beneficiary designations that J.D. submitted prior to the alleged change. David subsequently sought an order directing the respondents to transfer the proceeds of the Policy to him as the trustee of the Trust. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court, finding that if David could establish the facts alleged in the Petition, then it would be clear that J.D. created an irrevocable trust, and properly funded it, when he delivered to David the transferring document. "If the Trust was created, then David's entitlement to the proceeds of the life insurance policy that was an asset of the Trust would be established, and he would be able to seek the court's assistance in having those proceeds conveyed to him in his capacity as trustee. The trial court therefore should not have sustained the respondents' demurrer to David's Petition." View "Dudek v. Dudek" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's exercise of diversity jurisdiction over an action stemming from the foreclosure of plaintiff's property. The panel held that the Supreme Court's decision in Navarro Savings Ass'n v. Lee, 446 U.S. 458, 458 (1980), which held that a trustee is a real party to the controversy for purposes of diversity jurisdiction when he possesses certain customary powers to hold, manage, and dispose of assets for the benefit of others, was still controlling and the Supreme Court's decision in Americold Realty Trust v. ConAgra Foods, Inc., 136 S. Ct. 1012 (2016), did not upset the holding in Navarro or the panel's precedent. In this case, HSBC and the other defendants were not, like plaintiff, citizens of California and therefore there was complete diversity. Accordingly, the court properly exercised diversity jurisdiction. View "Demarest v. HSBC Bank USA" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's denial of Defendant's motion for summary judgment, reversed the decision of the district court, and remanded to the district court for entry of summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that Plaintiffs' action was untimely. Plaintiffs, two beneficiaries of a trust, filed an action asking the district court to resolve a dispute with Defendant concerning the valuation date of the trust. Defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiffs' action was untimely and the terms of the trust clearly provided the valuation date. The district court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed the denial of summary judgment, holding that Plaintiffs failed timely to commence their action, and therefore, their claims were barred under Iowa Code 633A.4504. View "Konrardy v. Vincent Angerer Trust" on Justia Law

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Lieselotte Herzog (the Decedent) died intestate on October 17, 2013. In April 2014, the probate court issued letters of administration appointing Winnfred Herzog (Nephew) as the administrator of the estate. Kemp & Associates, Inc. (Kemp), a firm specializing in locating heirs, held a power of attorney for Maurene Schraff Nadj (Half Sister). In July 2016, Kemp petitioned the probate court for a determination that Half Sister was the Decedent’s sole heir. The probate court denied Kemp’s petition with prejudice for insufficient evidence. Kemp appealed, arguing the probate court erred: (1) by bifurcating the issue of whether Half Sister was the Decedent’s heir; (2) by concluding Kemp did not meet its burden of proof; and (3) by ruling Kemp’s evidence was inadmissible. In addition, Kemp contended Nephew lacked standing to oppose Kemp’s petition. Finding no reversible errors, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Estate of Herzog" on Justia Law