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At issue was whether an agreement between two children, executed before their father’s death, could be enforced using a chapter in the Probate Code providing for the adjudicated compromise of controversies. Father, who was terminally ill, asked his son and daughter to agree between themselves how they would divide some of his assets after his death. Before Father died, Son attempted to rescind the agreement. After Father died, Daughter sued to enforce the agreement as part of the probate process. The trial court found that the agreement was not a codicil to Father’s will and that Son rescinded the agreement. Accordingly, the court ordered the personal representatives to administer Father’s estate according to his will without reference to the agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order and findings, except for its alternative finding that Son rescinded the agreement, holding that the Probate Code chapter at issue may be used to enforce only post-mortem compromises. View "In re Supervised Estate of Gary D. Kent" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the improper administration of a trust and resulting litigation. Della Roberts created the trust at issue with the help of her only son, James Roberts, shortly before she died in 1996. James Roberts was married to Mary Sue Roberts and they had three children: petitioners Jay Roberts and Ashley Roberts McNamara (“the Robertses”), and Andrew Roberts. The trust named James as the initial trustee, and provided that all of Della Roberts’s grandchildren were beneficiaries of the trust. James administered the trust until his death in 2012. As trustee, James was obliged to undertake certain duties delineated in the trust. After James died, the trust provided that Mary Sue was to succeed him as trustee. In response, the Robertses invoked the provision of the trust permitting removal of the trustee upon a majority vote of the trust beneficiaries and they removed Mary Sue as successor trustee. In April 2013, the Robertses filed a motion in district court in Colorado to have themselves named as permanent cotrustees in place of Mary Sue. Mary Sue responded, arguing that the Colorado court lacked jurisdiction because she and James had moved from Colorado to West Virginia in 1999, approximately three years after the trust was created in Colorado. In June 2013, the district court rejected Mary Sue’s jurisdictional challenge, and, in early August, granted the Robertses’ motion and appointed the Robertses as cotrustees. Meanwhile, in May 2013, while the Robertses were litigating the trusteeship issue in Colorado, Mary Sue filed a separate action against the Robertses in state court in West Virginia, again claiming that jurisdiction properly lay in West Virginia. The Robertses appeared and removed the case to federal court. Ultimately, the federal district court concluded that Colorado had jurisdiction over the trust, and therefore dismissed Mary Sue’s complaint for lack of jurisdiction. Mary Sue sought review in the Fourth Circuit, but voluntarily dismissed her appeal in early 2014. As a result of the litigation in West Virginia, the Robertses incurred substantial attorney’s fees. The Colorado Supreme Court held that an award of attorney’s fees pursuant to section 13-17-102, C.R.S. (2017), was limited to conduct occurring in Colorado courts. View "Roberts v. Bruce" on Justia Law

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Allen Avery (testator) died testate in 2008 and left property to his spouse and children. His spouse, children, and the executor of the estate disputed how the estate’s administrative expenses should have been allocated. The civil division determined that expenses should be paid out of spouse’s share of the personal estate until paid in full or until they exhaust her share, and that children’s share of the personalty should contribute to administrative expenses only if spouse’s share of the personalty is insufficient. Spouse appealed. Finding no error in that judgment, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Avery v. Estate of Allen D. Avery" on Justia Law

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Allen Avery (testator) died testate in 2008 and left property to his spouse and children. His spouse, children, and the executor of the estate disputed how the estate’s administrative expenses should have been allocated. The civil division determined that expenses should be paid out of spouse’s share of the personal estate until paid in full or until they exhaust her share, and that children’s share of the personalty should contribute to administrative expenses only if spouse’s share of the personalty is insufficient. Spouse appealed. Finding no error in that judgment, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Avery v. Estate of Allen D. Avery" on Justia Law

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A former agent appointed under a power of attorney, successfully defended an accounting of his actions, expenditures, and fees against objections and counterclaims by his former principal. At issue in this appeal was whether the former agent was entitled to reimbursement from his former principal for reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in maintaining that defense. The superior court denied the agent’s request for attorney’s fees because the dispute occurred in the context of a guardianship proceeding and because the request did not meet the requirements of AS 13.26.291, which governed cost-shifting in guardianship proceedings. The agent appealed, arguing: (1) AS 13.26.291 did not apply; (2) that he was entitled to attorney’s fees based on his authority as an agent to hire an attorney under AS 13.26.665(m); and (3) he was entitled to attorney’s fees based on common law principles, equity, and considerations of public policy. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded neither statute applied, but that the agent could be entitled to reimbursement of his attorney’s fees under the common law of agency and as a matter of equity. The Court therefore reversed the superior court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cottini v. Berggren" on Justia Law

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A former agent appointed under a power of attorney, successfully defended an accounting of his actions, expenditures, and fees against objections and counterclaims by his former principal. At issue in this appeal was whether the former agent was entitled to reimbursement from his former principal for reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in maintaining that defense. The superior court denied the agent’s request for attorney’s fees because the dispute occurred in the context of a guardianship proceeding and because the request did not meet the requirements of AS 13.26.291, which governed cost-shifting in guardianship proceedings. The agent appealed, arguing: (1) AS 13.26.291 did not apply; (2) that he was entitled to attorney’s fees based on his authority as an agent to hire an attorney under AS 13.26.665(m); and (3) he was entitled to attorney’s fees based on common law principles, equity, and considerations of public policy. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded neither statute applied, but that the agent could be entitled to reimbursement of his attorney’s fees under the common law of agency and as a matter of equity. The Court therefore reversed the superior court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cottini v. Berggren" on Justia Law

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Following the death of Sara Dees in February 2013, her nephew Franklin Stephens produced a will executed by Dees in September 2012 in which she bequeathed to him the vast majority of her estate. Dees's sister, Hazel Colley ("Hazel"), who had been a named beneficiary in a previous will executed by Dees, initiated an action challenging the validity of the September 2012 will. Hazel passed away while the will contest was pending, and the executor of her estate, her son Stephen Colley ("Colley"), was ultimately substituted as plaintiff. Following a jury trial, a verdict was returned in favor of Stephens and Dees's estate, and the Circuit Court accordingly entered a judgment in their favor. Colley appealed; finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Colley v. Estate of Sara Dees" on Justia Law

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Robert Pettinger appealed a district court judgment dismissing his lawsuit against the estate of his brother, James Pettinger ("the Estate"). The court granted summary judgment in favor of the Estate, concluding Pettinger's lawsuit was untimely and barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Pettinger contended material questions of fact exist precluding summary judgment. After review of the trial court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed dismissal. View "Pettinger v. Carroll" on Justia Law

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April Horton, the estate administratrix for decedent Emmanuel Erves, appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City of Vicksburg. She argued the court erred in finding that the City was entitled to immunity under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA). Erves lived as a tenant in a ninety-eight-year-old historic home that was converted to a "rooming house" for multiple tenants. On February 24, 2014, Erves tumbled down the home’s exterior concrete stairs and died as a result of the injuries he sustained. Horton, as estate administratrix for Erves' estate, filed a complaint against the rooming house's owner, Malcom and Rose Carson (collectively, Carson) and MM&R Land Investments for their failure to provide a reasonably safe premises, failure to provide adequate security, and failure to warn of a dangerous condition. Horton claimed that the condition and configuration of the stairs where Erves fell, along with the absence of a mandatory handrail, violated the city’s housing code. She argued that, because of these violations, Erves was unable to regain his balance or break his fall, which ultimately resulted in fatal injuries. One year later, Horton amended her complaint to include the City of Vicksburg and City Code Inspector Benjie Thomas as defendants in the action. Claiming that Thomas and the City breached their duty to inspect the property adequately, and that the City individually failed to provide reasonable supervision of Thomas in his duties, Horton argued that both parties should have known that the home’s exterior steps were not up to code, posing an unreasonable risk of harm to the public. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined Horton's claims against the City of Vicksburg did not support a private cause of action, therefore it failed to reach the merits of Horton's MTCA-immunity arguments. Finding that Horton cannot establish that the City breached any discernible duty owed to the decedent, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision. View "Horton v. City of Vicksburg" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim, holding that the allegations in the complaint failed to state a claim of unjust enrichment upon which relief could be granted. Michael Grauman, the decedent, executed transfer on death (TOD) beneficiary designations for three Ameriprise Financial accounts. After the decedent died and the funds were distributed pursuant to the TOD designations, Steve Darty, the successor trustee of the Michael R. Grauman Living Trust, filed a complaint challenging the validity of the TOD designations. Darty claimed that transfers unjustly enriched the TOD beneficiaries because the decedent intended to transfer the Ameriprise accounts into the Trust. The district court concluded that the decedent’s TOD designations superseded the contrary provisions in the Trust because the Ameriprise accounts were nonprobate assets. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly concluded that the decedent’s TOD designations controlled the distribution of the proceeds from the Ameriprise accounts on the decedent’s death. View "Darty v. Cornish" on Justia Law