Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

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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

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The underlying controversy entailed will-, estate-, and insurance-contest litigation commenced in 2008 by Appellee Jeffrey Stover in his capacity as the attorney for Appellant, David Clark, who was the testator’s brother. In 2010, Appellee Stover also lodged a second complaint on behalf of Monica Clark, the testator’s mother, now deceased. After the claims in both actions failed, Appellant and Mrs. Clark filed this legal malpractice action in 2015, advancing claims of professional negligence and breach of contract against Appellee Stover and his law firm. Upon Appellees’ motion, the common pleas court awarded summary judgment in their favor, finding, as relevant here, that Appellant and Mrs. Clark were aware of the alleged negligence and the asserted breach more than four years before they lodged the malpractice action. Since the applicable statutes of limitations provided for commencement of a negligence action within two years after accrual, and a contractual action within four years after breach, the county court found the claims to be untimely. The Superior Court affirmed on the "occurrence rule." The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review to address the "continuous representation rule," under which the applicable statutes of limitations would not run until the date on which Appellees' representation was terminated. Appellant maintains that this rule should be adopted in Pennsylvania to permit statutes of limitations for causes of action sounding in legal malpractice to be “tolled until the attorney’s ongoing representation is complete.” While the Supreme Court recognized "there are mixed policy considerations involved, as relating to statutes of limitations relegated to the legislative province, we conclude that the appropriate balance should be determined by the General Assembly." The Superior Court judgment was affirmed. View "Clark (Est of M. Clark) v. Stover, et al" on Justia Law

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In this discretionary appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was asked to determine the burden of proof for a settlor of an irrevocable trust in order to void the trust on grounds of fraudulent inducement in the creation of the trust. The corpus of the Trust at issue here consisted of numerous assets totaling approximately $13 million, including two real estate property companies called Japen Holdings, LLC, and Japen Properties, LLP (collectively “Japen”). Although acquired during the marriage, Japen was owned 100% by Husband. Unbeknownst to Wife, among Japen’s assets were two residential properties in Florida. When presented with the Trust inventory of assets, Wife did not question its contents, which included Japen, but not a listing of its specific holdings, e.g., the Florida Properties. Approximately four months after the creation of the Trust, Wife discovered that Husband had been having an affair and that his paramour was living in one of the Florida Properties. Wife promptly filed for divorce. A month after that, she filed an emergency petition for special relief to prevent dissipation of the marital assets, including assets in the Trust. Wife argued that Husband’s motive in creating the Trust was to gain control over the marital assets and avoid equitable distribution. A family court judge accepted Wife’s argument by freezing certain accounts included in the Trust and directing Husband to collect rent from his paramour. The Supreme Court held that a settlor averring fraud in the inducement of an irrevocable trust had to prove by clear and convincing evidence the elements of common-law fraud. In doing so, the Court rejected the analysis set forth in In re Estate of Glover, 669 A.2d 1011 (Pa. Super. 1996), because it represented an inaccurate statement of the elements required to establish fraud in the inducement. The Court affirmed the Superior Court’s ruling that the complaining settlor did not prove fraud in the inducement. View "In Re: Passarelli Family Trust" on Justia Law

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Appellant Paul O’Neill, acting as trustee of the Lorraine R. O’Neill Revocable Trust – 2004, appealed a probate court order granting a petition for ancillary estate administration of certain New Hampshire real estate. O’Neill argued, among other things, that the probate division lacked subject matter jurisdiction to grant the petition because it was filed on behalf of the estate of a non-New Hampshire decedent, and the petition did not represent that a court outside of New Hampshire had made a judicial determination that the estate was insolvent. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the grant of administration and remanded all remaining issues to the probate division for further proceedings. View "In re Estate of Lorraine R. O'Neill" on Justia Law