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Defendants Alan Johnson, Joseph McDonald, and William Saturley, appealed a probate court order which set aside “decantings” from two 2004 irrevocable trusts of which plaintiffs, David A. Hodges, Jr. (David Jr.), Barry R. Sanborn, and Patricia Sanborn Hodges, had been beneficiaries, and which removed defendants Johnson and Saturley as cotrustees of those trusts. The decantings at issue eliminated the future beneficial interests of plaintiffs. The trial court ruled that the decantings were void ab initio because McDonald, as the decanting trustee, and Johnson and Saturley, to the extent they assisted as co-trustees in facilitating the decantings, failed to “give any consideration to the [plaintiffs’] beneficial interests.” The trial court also determined that it “best serves the interests of all beneficiaries to order removal of . . . Saturley and Johnson as co-trustees.” Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hodges & Johnson" on Justia Law

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Mary Ann Vig, as personal representative of the Estate of Junietta Swenson, appealed the dismissal of the Estate’s action against Willis Swenson. The Estate argued that Junietta Swenson lacked capacity to execute a July 2012 quit claim deed conveying her home in Noonan to her son, Willis Swenson, and that he converted rent and grain proceeds when he subleased her farmland. After review of the trial court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not clearly err in finding Junietta Swenson was legally competent to execute the quit claim deed, or in finding that Willis Swenson did not convert the proceeds of a sublease of land he leased from Junietta Swenson. View "Vig v. Swenson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff’s claims of undue influence in this action seeking to void a trust established by the decedent eight days before his death. Plaintiff, the decedent’s wife, argued that there were suspicious circumstances surrounding the execution of the trust and that Defendant, the drafter of the trust, used his position to procure the trust. When Defendant separately filed a complaint seeking to establish the will established by the decedent at the same time he established the trust as the last true will and testament of the decedent, Plaintiff filed a counterclaim asserting that the will was executed under Defendant’s undue influence and was therefore void. The circuit court sustained Defendant’s plea in bar to the counterclaim and then granted summary judgment to Defendant on the complaint claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing, with prejudice, Plaintiff’s claims of undue influence. View "Kim v. Kim" on Justia Law

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Once funds are withdrawn from a bank account held by a married couple as tenants by the entirety, the funds cease to be entireties property. Husband and Wife in this case deposited funds in a joint checking account designated with a right of survivorship. Husband later withdrew the majority of the funds from the joint account and placed them in a certificate of deposit (COD) issued solely in his name. After Husband died, the trial court concluded that the COD was an asset of Husband’s estate because the funds ceased to be entireties property when withdrawn from the joint account. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that the COD belonged to Wife because the funds were impressed with the entireties and could be traced to the joint account. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the COD issued to Husband from funds withdrawn from the joint bank account belonged to Husband’s estate, not to Wife. View "In re Estate of Calvert Hugh Fletcher" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that Florence Larson, mother of Dwight and Doug Larson, properly and without undue influence, gifted her shares in the family farm corporation to Doug. Specifically, the court held (1) the district court did not err in finding no undue influence by Doug over Florence; (2) Dwight could not raise the argument that the gift of stock certificates was a contract for which Doug offered no consideration for the first time on appeal; and (3) the district court did not err in finding that Florence made a valid gift of company stock certificates to Doug. View "Larson v. Larson" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a January 2016 order by the Lincoln County Chancery Court adjudicating minor Kevin Moore the heir of Travis Lynn Weems, who died in an automobile accident in July 2014. Dauwanna Mitchell, Weems’s mother, appealed that judgment, claiming it was invalid because Weems was never adjudicated to be Moore’s natural father due to a paternity action filed in 2007 that was dismissed and, as Mitchell claimed, never reinstated. Mitchell also claimed a final judgment entered in February 2011 terminating Weems’s parental rights was improperly revised by the chancery court in October 2015 under Rule 60 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. Consolidated with this appeal was another appeal by Mitchell concerning the chancery court’s 2014 judgment granting letters of administration based on an administrative-letters petition filed by the Chancery Clerk of Lincoln County. Both appealed raised the same claims of error: that the chancery court’s order adjudicating heirship was invalid because paternity never was adjudicated, and the chancery court erred in revising the February 2011 termination judgment. Finding no merit in Mitchell’s assignments of error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court’s judgment adjudicating Kevin Moore the heir of Travis Weems. View "Mitchell v. Moore" on Justia Law

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Husband Patrick Steiner was an active duty military service member and had a group life insurance policy issued under the Servicemen's Group Life Insurance Act of 1965 (the SGLIA). As part of a status-only dissolution judgment, Husband and Alicja Soczewko Steiner (Wife), stipulated to an order requiring Husband to maintain Wife as the beneficiary of all of Husband's current active duty survivor and/or death benefits pending further court order. Notwithstanding the stipulated order, Husband changed the beneficiary of his life insurance policy to Husband's sister, Mary Furman, who received the policy proceeds upon Husband's death. The court subsequently found applicable federal law preempted the stipulated order and Furman was entitled to the policy proceeds. Wife appealed, contending federal law did not preempt the stipulated order or, alternatively, the fraud exception to federal preemption applies. The Court of Appeal concluded to the contrary on both points and affirmed the order. View "Marriage of Steiner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court’s small claims money judgment for the Estate of Stanley G. Miller against Diane Storey. In the small claims action, a jury found Story liable for theft of money from her uncle when she cared for him in the last year of his life. The circuit court awarded the Estate actual damages of $10,000 under Wis. Stat. 799.01(1)(d), exemplary damages of $20,000 under section 895.446(3)(c), attorney fees of $20,000 under section 895.446(3)(b), and double taxable costs under section 807.01(3). The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court held (1) section 3895.446 is an “other civil action,” and therefore, the damages cap is $10,000 under section 799.01(1)(d), and double costs are authorized under section 807.01(3); (2) attorney fees are included within the meaning of “costs of investigation and litigation” under section 895.446(3)(b); and (3) as to exemplary damages, the court of appeals properly reversed the circuit court because the circuit court’s ruling was contrary to the clear legal standard set forth in Kimble v. Land Concepts, Inc., 845 N.W.2d 395. View "Estate of Miller v. Storey" on Justia Law

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Claimant Edmund Hibbard, Esq., Administrator of the Estate of Beatrice Jakobiec (Estate), appealed a New Hampshire Bar Association Public Protection Fund Committee (PPFC) decision finding that the Estate was entitled to reimbursement from the Public Protection Fund (PPF) in an amount significantly less than that which the Estate claimed was stolen by former attorney Thomas Tessier. Beatrice Jakobiec passed away in 2001, leaving two sons, Frederick Jakobiec, M.D. and Thaddeus Jakobiec, Jr., as heirs. In 2002, Tessier was appointed to administer the Estate. The value of the Estate for probate purposes, as determined by an ADO auditor was $576,074.03. The auditor concluded that “[t]he assets included in the Estate by Attorney Tessier were valid and belonged in the Estate valuation,” but that Tessier failed to include additional assets owned by Beatrice at the time of her death. The auditor concluded that it appeared Tessier took the proceeds from certain certificates of deposit and other checks “for his own purposes.” In addition, the auditor detailed Tessier’s misappropriation, using fraudulent powers of attorney, of funds belonging to Frederick individually or held in trust for Thaddeus, who has been blind since birth. In 2009, the Estate filed a claim alleging a loss consisting of $208,798.95 in stolen assets (the Stolen Assets), $96,500.00 in stolen legal fees, and $99,531.81 in lost income, but the PPFC only reimbursed the Estate half of the total amount. The Estate argued the PPFC erred by: (1) reducing the amount of its claim based upon an “earlier finding that Thaddeus Jakobiec . . . had received his full distribution from the Estate”; (2) reducing the Estate’s claim for stolen legal fees by the amounts of certain excluded checks; (3) finding that the Estate’s claim against the PPF included a claim for lost income; and (4) “applying credits for prior recoveries by the Estate for the gross amount of those recoveries rather than the net amount of the recoveries.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court found "nothing prohibiting a claimant from being made whole, if other sources allow it, and we can think of no persuasive policy reason for preventing a claimant from utilizing other sources to obtain a full recovery." Though the Court found no abuse of discretion with respect to the exclusion of expenses of recovery, the Court reversed as to the other amounts lost. View "Appeal of Estate of Beatrice Jakobiec" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reaffirmed the general rule that to establish standing a contestant must show that he or she would be entitled to share in the decedent’s estate if the will were set aside or if no will existed. In this case the contestants to a will were five of the decedent’s seven children. The contestants were disinherited by a will dated October 1, 2013 and by a prior will dated October 11, 2012. The trial court dismissed the will contest for lack of standing based on two prior decisions of the Supreme Court. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the cases cited in the courts below did not announce a broad, bright-line rule that persons disinherited by facially valid successive wills lack standing. The court went on to hold that the contestants satisfied the general standing requirement long recognized in Tennessee by showing that they would share in the decedent’s estate under the laws of intestacy and under prior wills. View "In re Estate of J. Don Brock" on Justia Law