Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

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In this county court probate case, the Supreme Court affirmed as modified the judgment of the probate court determining that a son must reimburse his mother's estate $190,550, holding that, except as to the son's statute of limitations defense, there was no merit to the son's appeal or the estate's cross-appeal. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the county court correctly exercised jurisdiction over this proceeding; (2) there was no merit to the estate's cross-appeal; (3) except as to the defense of the statute of limitations, the son's appeal lacked merit; and (4) upon this Court's de novo review, the statute of limitations barred the estate's recovery for transactions that occurred before February 1, 2012. View "In re Estate of Adelung" on Justia Law

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In 1996, Jack K. Davis (“Jack Sr.”) and Jeanne H. Davis created the Davis Family Trust (“Trust”), of which they were the grantors, trustees, and primary beneficiaries. The Trust was revocable until either Jack Sr. or Jeanne died, at which time it would become irrevocable. Upon the death of the surviving grantor, the Trust would terminate and the property would be divided equally among Jack Sr. and Jeanne’s three children: John (Jack) Davis (“Jack”), Greg Davis, and Drinda Ann Bell. The Trust became irrevocable in 2003 when Jack Sr. died. Nearly thirteen years later, Greg filed a complaint against his mother Jeanne, and his siblings Jack and Drinda, demanding: (1) an accounting and removal of trustees; (2) an order enjoining the expenditure of any funds; and (3) the appointment of a receiver. The magistrate court denied Greg’s motion to compel an accounting, finding that Greg and his siblings were “contingent residual beneficiaries” who did not have any rights relative to the Trust until Jeanne’s death. On intermediate appeal, the district court reversed, holding the magistrate court failed to give due consideration to the distinction between revocable and irrevocable trusts. The district court held Greg’s rights vested at the time the Trust became irrevocable when Jack Sr. died in 2003. The district court remanded the case for further proceedings. Jack appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, but finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Davis v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court holding that property owned by Sharon Orr-Hanson and her husband, Bennet Hanson, was owned as tenants in common and ordering partition of the property after Sharon's death, holding that the circuit court properly found that the property was owned as tenants in common. The personal representatives of Sharon's estate brought this action to have the property sold and the proceeds split evenly. The circuit court determined that a corrective deed terminated what was previously a joint tenancy and created a tenancy in common. On appeal, Bennet argued that the property was held as joint tenants and should go to him alone as the surviving joint tenant. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in concluding that the corrective deed severed Bennet's and Sharon's joint tenancy and created a tenancy in common; and (2) Bennet's remaining allegations of error were unavailing. View "Moeckly v. Hanson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from the district court's grant of summary judgment to Appellee, holding that because the district court's order granting summary judgment did not resolve all outstanding issues before it, it was not an appealable order under Rule 1.05 of the Wyoming Rules of Appellate Procedure (W.R.A.P.). Michael G. McDill, as trustee of the Phyllis V. McDill Revocable Trust, filed a petition for instructions seeking confirmation that the Trust's no contest clause prohibited Thomas P. McDill, Jr. from taking under the Trust. The district court granted Michael's motion for summary judgment and his petition for instructions. Thomas appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding (1) the district court's order granting Michael's summary judgment motion was not an appealable order under W.R.A.P. 1.05, and therefore, this Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal; and (2) Michael was entitled to attorney fees and costs under W.R.A.P. 1.03 and 10.05. View "McDill v. McDill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the county court requiring Webster County to pay fees and expenses to a court-appointed successor personal representative, holding that the court lacked the authority to order the County to pay the successor personal representative fees. In its order, the court found that the court-appointed successor personal representative had served for two and one-half years, that his fees were fair and reasonable, that the estate was insolvent, and that the amount owed by the heirs was likely uncollectible. The court then ordered that Webster County pay the amount of $6,455 to the personal representative. The Supreme Court vacated the order, holding that the court lacked the statutory authority to order the County pay the successor personal representative's fees. View "In re Estate of Hutton" on Justia Law

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The issue this matter presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's review involved the alleged forfeiture of a parent’s share in his child’s estate where his child died without a will. Specifically, the question was whether an adult decedent, who became disabled after reaching the age of majority, was a dependent child for purposes of the forfeiture statute. Generally, where an intestate decedent dies without a spouse or issue but with living parents, his or her parents were entitled to inherit the individual’s estate as tenants by the entirety. Notably, the Code did not define the phrase “dependent child.” Decedent was 18 years old when he sustained gunshot wounds, rendering him a paraplegic. At age 37, he died intestate without a spouse or issue, and Appellant (“Mother”) was granted letters of administration. Decedent’s estate subsequently recovered a $90,000 wrongful-death award, which became the estate’s sole asset. Mother filed a petition for forfeiture of estate, asserting that Appellee (“Father”) forfeited his share of the estate by allegedly failing to perform his duty of support. After Father’s motion for judgment on the pleadings was denied, the orphans' court held a hearing. The Supreme Court held that the concepts of a dependent child and the parental duty of care, as they were referenced in Section 2106(b) of the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code, contemplated a legally-imposed parental duty stemming from a state of dependency arising under the established law of the Commonwealth. The Court also agreed with the orphans’ court that in this matter, Mother failed to demonstrate Decedent was a dependent child – and concomitantly, that Father had a duty of care – as required to obtain relief under that provision. View "In Re: Estate of Small" on Justia Law

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In a matter of first impression, a Pennsylvania superior court held that anti-alienation provisions governing municipal pensions found in various statutes protected assets from attachment and other legal process (including a contract claim) only while those assets remained in the possession of the pension fund administrator. Specifically, the court determined that a spouse’s promise to waive her right to her husband’s pension benefits, including agreeing to transfer such benefits after receiving them from the administrator, was legally enforceable. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined that because the superior court’s interpretation was consistent with the plain language of the statutes, the context in which the provisions appear, and Pennsylvania precedent interpreting similar statutory language, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the superior court. View "Estate of M&J Benyo v. Breidenbach" on Justia Law

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Michael D. Ferguson was initially excluded as a beneficiary from his parents’ marital trust (the Original Trust). Years later, Michael's mother, Sybil Ferguson, essentially reversed Michael's exclusion by exercising a power of appointment in her will, designating Michael Ferguson as a beneficiary of the Survivor’s Trust - a sub-trust of the Original Trust. When Sybil died, Michael petitioned the magistrate court for financial records, including records from the Original Trust, to determine whether he would receive his full share of the Survivor’s Trust. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, which the magistrate court denied in part and granted in part. Both parties appealed to the district court. The district court affirmed the magistrate court’s decision in part and reversed in part. The district court held that the magistrate court erred in concluding that Michael did not become a beneficiary of the Survivor’s Trust until his mother’s death, concluding that he became a beneficiary the moment his mother named him as a beneficiary more than one year before her death. Further, the district court held that the magistrate court erred in refusing to apply the Original Trust’s no-contest provision, removing Michael as a beneficiary. The issues this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review centered on: the fiduciary duties of a trustee who had discretion to spend the trust’s principal, the scope of records available to a trust beneficiary under Idaho Code section 15-7-303, and the enforceability of a trust instrument’s no-contest provision. The Supreme Court concluded the district court erred: (1) in holding Sybil Ferguson did not owe Michael a fiduciary duty under the Trust Agreement; (2) in failing to address whether Michael was entitled to Original Trust allocation records pursuant to Idaho Code section 15-7-303; (3) in enforcing the forfeiture provision before addressing whether the Successor Trustees breached their fiduciary duties in administering the Survivor’s Trust; and (4) in failing to address the magistrate court's ruling denying Michael's motion to compel discovery. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Ferguson v. Ferguson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the appellate tax board (board) upholding the Commissioner of Revenue's assessment of an additional Massachusetts estate tax based on the value of a qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust in computing a decedent's Massachusetts estate tax return, holding that there was not a constitutional or a statutory barrier to the assessment. Robert Chuckrow created a QTIP trust in New York. Adelaid Chuckrow (decedent) was the lifetime income beneficiary of the QTIP trust and deed domiciled in Massachusetts. The decedent's estate (estate) did not include the value of the QTIP trust assets in computing her Massachusetts estate tax return. After an audit, the Commission assessed an additional Massachusetts estate tax of almost $2 million based on the value of the QTIP assets. The board upheld the assessment. At issue before the Supreme Judicial Court was whether the intangible assets in the QTIP trust were includable in the gross estate of the decedent for purposes of calculating the Massachusetts estate tax under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 65C, 2A(a). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the QTIP assets were includable in the estate for purposes of the Massachusetts estate tax. View "Shaffer v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Appellant Susan Inouye challenged the probate division's allowance of her mother's most recent will. Testator was ninety-two years old and a resident of Windsor County, Vermont when she died in 2016. Testator previously lived in Arizona and was married to John Walter McHugo. They had three children together before their divorce in 1978. In 1997, testator and her ex-husband each executed a will in Arizona. Each will provided for the establishment of a testamentary trust for the support of the other former spouse during their lifetime, and provided for the remaining assets to be divided equally among the three children after both former spouses have died. In 2006, while living in Montpelier, Vermont, testator executed another will revoking the 1997 will. The 2006 will divided most of testator’s estate between two of her children, who were the appellees in this case. It excluded testator’s ex-husband and third child, Susan Inouye. Testator’s ex- husband predeceased her in 2010. Appellant argued that this will was executed in violation of a prior contract for mutual wills, and that it therefore should not have been allowed for probate administration. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that the will was properly allowed, but that a contract for mutual wills may be enforced through a breach-of-contract claim. The Court therefore affirmed the probate division’s decision and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re Estate of Patricia Bixby McHugo (Susan Inouye, Appellant)" on Justia Law