Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

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Petitioner Christopher Dow appealed a probate court decision finding he was not a pretermitted heir under his mother’s, Marie G. Dow’s, will. He argued the probate division erred in failing to apply New Hampshire’s pretermitted heir statute to her will, and that, under New Hampshire law, he was a pretermitted heir and, thus, entitled to his intestate share of his mother’s estate. Respondent Leslie Dow, the testator’s ex-daughter-in-law and primary beneficiary of her will, countered that the probate division properly applied Massachusetts’ pretermitted heir statute to the will in accordance with the will’s provision that “[the] estate is to be administered and enforced according to the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” Following oral argument before a 3JX panel, the case was submitted to the full court for decision. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the probate division’s decision to apply the Massachusetts pretermitted heir statute in determining whether the petitioner was a pretermitted heir under the will, and reversed the probate division’s conclusion that the petitioner was not a pretermitted heir. The Supreme Court held that petitioner was a pretermitted heir under New Hampshire law, as properly applied, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "In re Estate of Marie G. Dow" on Justia Law

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Bernard and Sheila created the Family Trust and transferred their home to themselves as trustees. The trust became irrevocable upon the death of the surviving spouse, when the estate would be distributed to Sheila’s 13 children, including Bohnett. Sheila died in 2003. Bernard died in 2008. The property was rented out. The rent was deposited into the trust’s bank account. In 2012, the trustee filed a successful Claim for Reassessment Exclusion for Transfer Between Parent and Child (Proposition 58 claim), listing Sheila and Bernard as transferors, her children as transferees, and the date of Bernard’s death as the date of transfer.In 2013, the property was transferred by the trustee to Bohnett. A Preliminary Change of Ownership Report listed the trust as the seller/transferor, stated that the purchase was a transfer between parent(s) and child(ren), and listed the sale price as $1,030,000. The trustee distributed the money in equal shares to the 13 siblings. A second Proposition 58 claim listed Sheila and Bernard as transferors and Bohnett as transferee, leaving blank the date of transfer.The county found that there was a 12/13 change in ownership and reassessed the property from $157,731 to $962,873 for 2012/2013, and $963,114 for 2013/2014. Bohnett filed unsuccessful Applications for Changed Assessment. The court of appeal affirmed in favor of the County. The purchase by one beneficiary from his siblings and co-beneficiaries was not a parent-child transfer exempt from reassessment for property tax purposes. View "Bohnett v. County of Santa Barbara" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's grant of judgment as matter of law in favor of Defendant, individually and as trustee of The Gilbert F. Roy, Jr. Residence Trust - 2005, holding that the trial justice did not err.Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that Defendant was holding property in a constructive trust for their benefit and asked the superior court to order Defendant to convey a co-tenancy interest to them. Plaintiffs requested monetary damages and asserted claims of promissory estoppel and unjust enrichment. The trial justice granted Defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not misapply the law of constructive trusts to the facts; (2) there was no error in the trial justice's finding that Plaintiffs failed to establish a valid promissory estoppel claim; and (3) the trial justice did not err in her analysis of Plaintiffs' unjust enrichment claim. View "Sousa v. Roy" on Justia Law

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Kenneth Rogers appealed a chancery court order granting authority to the executor of the Estate of Costas E. Pavlou (the estate) to disburse funds to the estate’s attorneys. The chancellor found that Rogers lacked standing to challenge the disbursement because he had not probated a claim against the estate. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found it had jurisdiction over the appeal, but Rogers did not designate the documents on which he based his appellate challenge to the chancellor's decision. Because the Supreme Court was unable to review Rogers' arguments due to his not having designated relevant portions of the record, the chancery court order was affirmed. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Costas E. Pavlou" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the county court determining as a matter of law that testator Michael R. Brinkman's will was ambiguous with regard to the status of his daughter, Nicole Brinkman, and that Nicole was included under the will as a child, an issue, and an heir of Michael, holding that there was no error by the county court.After Michael died, Nicole sought a declaration of her rights under her father's will, claiming that she was entitled to one-half of the residual share of her father's testamentary estate. Michael's son, Seth Michael Brinkman, and the personal representative for the estate claimed that Michael had disinherited Nicole. The county court determined that the will was patently ambiguous with regard to whether Michael specifically intended to disinherit Nicole and that Nicole was entitled to inherit under the provisions of the will. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the county court correctly found that Nicole was not disinherited and that she should receive as a child, an issue, and an heir of Michael pursuant to the terms of the will. View "In re Estate of Brinkman" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, trustees and beneficiaries of a trust established in 1982 by their now deceased parents, filed suit against Alice, Shahen, and Arthur Minassian, asserting four causes of action arising out of alleged fraudulent transfers. The trial court sustained defendants' demurrers to two causes of action and plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the remaining causes of action.The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that plaintiffs pleaded facts sufficient to constitute a fraudulent transfer cause of action under Civil Code section 3439.04, subdivision (a)(1). In this case, plaintiffs alleged that Shahen made the subject transfers with an actual intent to hinder, delay or defraud any creditor of the debtor within the meaning of the Uniform Voidable Transactions Act, and alleged with particularity the existence of several badges of fraud. Furthermore, the litigation privilege does not bar plaintiffs' cause of action. In regard to plaintiffs' third cause of action against Arthur for aiding and abetting Shahen's fraudulent transfer, the court held that Arthur was not entitled to immunity for his involvement in the sham divorce and fraudulent scheme, and rejected Arthur's argument that he is protected by the litigation privilege; even if plaintiffs had alleged an attorney-client conspiracy, the allegations are sufficient to satisfy the exception to the pre-filing requirement under section 1714.10, subdivision (c); and the disclosed agent is inapplicable in this case. View "Aghaian v. Minassian" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying St. Jude children's Research Hospital's petition to probate Theodore Scheide, Jr.'s lost will, holding that St. Jude met its burden to show the will was in legal existence and satisfied Nev. Rev. Stat. 136.240(3)'s requirement that two witnesses prove the will's provisions.Theodore's original will disinherited his biological son, Chip, and left his estate to St. Jude. After Theodore died, the original will could not be found, so St. Jude petitioned to probate the lost will. Chip argued that Theodore revoked the will by destruction and that St. Jude's witnesses did not satisfy section 136.240(3). The district court denied the petition, leaving Chip free to inherit the estate through intestate succession. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the evidence supported the conclusion that the will was in legal existence at Theodore's death; and (2) section 136.240(3)'s two-witness requirement was satisfied in this case. View "In re Estate of Scheide" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court concluding that a residual beneficiary's objection to the second and third amendments to the Ella E. Horst Revocable Trust was time-barred under Nev. Rev. Stat. 164.021(4), holding that the objection was timely.Following the settlor's death, Respondent, the trustee, sent notice of irrevocability to the Trust's beneficiaries pursuant to section 164.021. The notice included copies of the original Trust and the Trust's first three amendments. Sixteen months later, Respondent petitioned to confirm a purported fourth amendment to the Trust. Appellant, a residual beneficiary, filed an objection, alleging that the second through fourth amendments were the product of undue influence. The district court confirmed the original Trust and its first three amendments, concluding that Appellant's objection to the amendments was time-barred under section 164.021(4), which provides a window of 120 days from service of the notice of irrevocability for bringing an action to challenge a trust's validity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) to trigger the 120-day limitation period under section 164.021(4), the trustee's notice must include all trust provisions pertaining to the beneficiary; (2) because Respondent's initial notice to beneficiaries did not include the purported fourth amendment, the notice did not trigger the 120-day limitation period; and (3) therefore, Appellant's objection was timely. View "In re Estate of Horst Revocable Trust" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that Ohio Rev. Code 2107.15 does not apply to essential witnesses to a remediated will, holding that the voiding provision of section 2107.15 applies equally to essential witnesses to both formally compliant and remediated wills.Noting that Ohio Rev. Code 2107.03, which governs the formal requirements for the execution of a written will, and section 2107.15, which voids a will's devise to a witness if that witness was essential to establishing the validity of the will, mention "competent" witnesses but that Ohio Rev. Code 2107.24, which provides a process for admitting a purported will to probate despite its failure to fully adhere to the formal requirements, does not, the court of appeals concluded that section 2107.24 eliminates the requirement of witness competency. Therefore, the court of appeals held that the voiding provision of section 2107.15 does not apply to essential witnesses to a remediated will. The Supreme Court reversed the portion of the court of appeals' judgment related to section 2107.15, holding that the statute applies both to wills executed in compliance with section 2107.03 and those submitted pursuant to section 2107.24. View "In re Estate of Shaffer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Estate of Jacqueline Ann Kendall was not required to pay a claim for reimbursement from the Commonwealth's MassHealth program when the estate proceeding was commenced more than three years after Kendall died.Kendall received MassHealth benefits in the amount of $104,738 and died intestate on August 7, 2014. On May 24, 2018, one of Kendall's heirs filed a petition for late formal testacy and notified MassHealth. MassHealth filed a notice of claim in the estate. At issue was whether the estate was required to pay the MassHealth claim more than three years after Kendall died. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 190B, 3-803(f) creates an exception for MassHealth to the general limitation on creditor claims laid out in section 3-803(a) but does not create an exception to the ultimate time limit on the personal representative's power to pay claims and creditors' ability to bring claims laid out in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 190B, 3-108; and (2) therefore, MassHealth's claims were time barred. View "In re Estate of Kendall" on Justia Law