by
Steven Christopher Jones ("Chris Jones") appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of Tammy Brewster and Jeffrey Eugene Brewster in a will contest filed by Jones concerning the will of his father, Mike Jones. Chris Jones filed his will contest in the probate court because the probate court had not admitted the will to probate and had not appointed a personal representative of Mike Jones's estate. Contemporaneously with the will-contest complaint, Chris Jones filed a motion to transfer the will contest to the circuit court. Thus, he sought to invoke the circuit court's jurisdiction pursuant to section 43-8-198, Ala. Code 1975. The probate court certified the probate-court record to the circuit court, the circuit-court clerk docketed the case, and the circuit court held a trial. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the record, however, was devoid of a transfer order from the probate court, thereby depriving the circuit court subject-matter jurisdiction. Because the probate court did not enter a transfer order in this case, "the procedural requirements of 43-8-198 were not satisfied, and, as a result, the circuit court never obtained jurisdiction over the will contest." Therefore, the judgment of the circuit court was void and would not support Chris Jones's appeal. Accordingly, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. View "Jones v. Brewster" on Justia Law

by
In 2010, the widow of a Taiwanese plastics magnate and billionaire filed suit against the trusts created before her husband's death, alleging that the transfer of a large portion of her husband's assets to the trusts unlawfully denied her the full marital estate to which she was entitled. The district court ultimately granted, subject to conditions, the trusts' motion to dismiss the complaint on forum non conveniens grounds. The DC Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the district court failed to give appropriate weight to the widow's legitimate choice of forum and erred in concluding that the private interest factors weighed slightly in favor of dismissal and in overemphasizing the public interest factors in deciding to dismiss this case on forum non conveniens grounds. In this case, the trusts failed to meet its heavy burden of showing that suit in the United States was so inconvenient as to be harassing, vexing, or oppressive. The court held that, the district court's errors, considered together, constituted a clear abuse of discretion. View "Shi v. New Mighty U.S. Trust" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding that Stanton Fox had died intestate, determining Fox’s heirs, and entering letters for co-personal representatives, holding that the circuit court did not commit clear error in the proceedings below. When Fox died he was survived by five siblings. Lynette Herstedt and Fox were in an intimate relationship for more than twenty years before Fox died, but the relationship ended prior to his death. Before he died, Fox drafted a handwritten document stating that he wished to revoke all prior wills and codicils. Herstedt filed an application for informal probate and submitted a copy of a former will Fox had drafted. Fox’s siblings claimed the original will was revoked by the subsequent amendment. After a hearing, the circuit court ultimately found that Fox had died intestate, determined Fox’s heirs, and appointed co-personal representatives. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not clearly err in finding that Herstedt had not proffered a valid will because Fox had revoked it prior to his death; (2) did not err in granting the various petitions; and (3) did not abuse its discretion in proceeding with a hearing on November 1, 2017. View "In re Estate of Fox" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the tax court's decision to sustain a deficiency against an estate for overstating the amount of a charitable deduction and to sustain an accuracy-related penalty. In Ahmanson Foundation v. United States, 674 F.2d 761, 772 (9th Cir. 1981), the panel underscored the principle that the testator may only be allowed a deduction for estate tax purposes for what was actually received by the charity. Applying Ahmanson, the panel held that the tax court correctly considered the difference between the deduction and the property actually received by the charity due to the executor's manipulation of the redemption appraisal value. The panel also found nothing in the record that suggested that the tax court's findings were clearly erroneous. Finally, there was no error in the tax court's holding that the commissioner properly imposed the accuracy-related penalty under I.R.C. 6662(a). View "Dieringer v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

by
Keshia Porter appeals the district court’s dismissal of her complaint as time barred. Porter’s husband, Delandis Richardson, was killed in an auto accident in Campbell County, Wyoming, on November 25, 2014. Within two years, on November 21, 2016, Vance Countryman filed a “Petition/Action for the Appointment of Wrongful Death Representative” in the District Court of Campbell County, Wyoming. Countryman requested appointment as Richardson’s WDR under Wyo. Stat. Secs. 1-38-101 to 105. The state court judge expressed concern that appointing Countryman, who would be acting as an attorney in the wrongful death suit, could pose ethical problems. On April 27, 2017, Porter filed an “Amended Petition/Action for the Appointment of Wrongful Death Representative” asking the court to appoint her as Richardson’s WDR. It stated that “[t]his petition is ‘made in a separate action brought solely for appointing the wrongful death representative’ pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-38-103(b).” The document was filed in the existing state court action. On July 10, 2017, the court appointed Porter the WDR for Richardson. Porter then filed this action against Ford Motor Company on August 7, 2017, as Richardson’s WDR. Ford moved to dismiss, arguing that Porter’s claims were barred by Wyoming’s two-year limitations period for wrongful death actions. The district court agreed and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. Porter timely appealed. The Tenth Circuit determined that a WDR petition was filed by another putative representative within two years and Porter was appointed WDR in that state court action. She then filed the present suit within thirty days of her appointment. On these facts, the Court concluded Porter’s complaint was timely under Wyo. Stat. 1-38-103(b)(ii). Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Porter v. Ford Motor Company" on Justia Law

by
In this dispute in probate over title to property bequeathed in a will, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the trial court ruling that governmental immunity barred an heir’s suit against a county, holding that, contrary to the court of appeals’ decision, Texas A&M University-Kingsville v. Lawson, 87 S.W.3d 518 (Tex. 2002), applied in this case. The decedent’s heirs and the county, one of the beneficiaries under the will, agreed to combine forces against the other beneficiary, a private university, during litigation over the properly bequeathed in the will. The county and heirs agreed to share equally in any recovery either of them obtained in the proceedings. The university subsequently settled, and the settlement was divided between the county and the heirs under their agreement. Later, an heir sued the county alleging a breach of the agreement. The county asserted that governmental immunity barred the heir’s suit. The trial court and court of appeals agreed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that Lawson, which provides that a governmental entity cannot create immunity for itself by settling a claim for which it lacks immunity only to assert immunity from suit in a subsequent action to enforce the government’s agreement, applied. View "Hughes v. Green County" on Justia Law

by
Claire Clements Flowers (Claire) and Brenda Jane Flowers Paixao (Jane) appealed a chancery court judgment denying their request for an accounting of the estate and testamentary trust of their mother, Brenda Bargas Flowers. The chancery court concluded that the daughters did not have a current interest in their mother’s estate. On appeal, the daughters argued that they were specifically named in the will to be remainder beneficiaries and thus have standing to request an accounting. The Court of Appeals found that Claire and Jane had standing to request an accounting from limited rights as holders of a shifting executory interest to prevent future waste. The estate petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, claiming that the daughters’ appeal was untimely and that the Court of Appeals misapplied caselaw related to shifting executory interests and standing to request an accounting. The Court granted certiorari not to determine whether the sisters have standing (because it agreed that they did), but to determine whether the chancellor abused his discretion in denying the sisters’ accounting request. The Court found no manifest error in the chancery court’s decision to deny Claire and Jane’s request for an accounting, and reversed that portion of Court of Appeals’ judgment. The Court reinstated the chancery court’s decision denying Claire and Jane’s request for an accounting. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Brenda Louise Bargas Flowers" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the county court’s entry of summary judgment declaring that the proceeds of the Estate of Mark Anthony Helms be distributed pursuant to a prior federal court judgment applying North Carolina law, holding that there was no genuine issue of material fact precluding summary judgment. Decades after Helms died in a terrorist bombing, the estate obtained a wrongful death judgment in federal court determining that Helms had been domiciled in North Carolina and not Nebraska and that damages would be distributed according to North Carolina law. Later the successor personal representative of the Estate filed a probate case in the county court for Butler County a petition to authorize distribution of the judgment proceeds under Neb. Rev. Stat. 30-810, a Nebraska wrongful death statute. The county court ordered distribution pursuant to the federal court judgment applying North Carolina law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because of the binding effect of the federal court judgment, the Nebraska wrongful death statute did not apply. View "In re Estate of Helms" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court construing the will at issue in this case and granting the decedent’s estate’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the county court had jurisdictional priority over the district court in construing the will in this matter. The decedent’s daughter sought a declaration of her rights under the decedent’s will as an alleged devisee. The estate asserted that the decedent disinherited the daughter in the will. The district court granted summary judgment for the estate, concluding that, under the clear and unambiguous terms of the will, Daughter was expressly disinherited by the will’s provisions. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the county court and the district court had exercisable concurrent jurisdiction over the construction of this will; (2) the county court, as the first court to acquire jurisdiction, retained it to the exclusion of the district court; and (3) because the county court neither transferred the case nor otherwise relinquished its jurisdictional priority, the district court improperly impinged on the county court’s jurisdictional priority in construing the will. View "Brinkman v. Brinkman" on Justia Law

by
Jerilyn Braaten, the personal representative of the Frederick Ardell Krueger Estate, appealed an order holding the Department of Human Services could recover 100 percent of the net proceeds from the sale of Krueger's home to pay for medical assistance benefits previously received by his deceased spouse. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in ruling the Department is entitled to 100 percent of the net sale proceeds. For purposes of Medicaid recovery from a surviving spouse's estate, the Department's recovery from a deceased recipient's joint tenancy property is limited to the deceased recipient's fractional interest in the property. The matter was reversed and remanded fo the trial court to permit the Department to recover 50 percent of the net sale proceeds. View "Estate of Krueger" on Justia Law