Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

by
Regina Norwood and Rita Patelliro appealed a probate court order. Josephine Mary Damico ("the testator") executed a will, devising the entirety of her estate to her sister, Sarah Frances Cox. The testator expressly disinherited all of her other heirs. When the testator died in 2017, Elise Barclay filed a petition for probate of the will and a petition for letters testamentary. Shortly thereafter, Norwood and Patelliro, the testator's nieces, filed a "motion for letters of instruction" in which they asserted that the sister had predeceased the testator, they were the sister's two surviving children, and that, as the sister's surviving children, they were entitled to receive the testator's estate in place of the sister pursuant to the antilapse statute. The personal representative filed a response in which she asserted that the testator's estate should pass through intestacy. The Alabama Supreme Court found that although the testator expressly disinherited all of her heirs with the exception of the sister, her will was executed while the sister was living. The testator could foresee that, if she devised the entirety of her estate to her sister, the sister could thereafter devise it, upon her death, to her own issue, the nieces. "Moreover, the testator could foresee that, if her sister predeceased her, as happened, the nieces would inherit the sister's share pursuant to the antilapse statute. If the testator wanted to prevent the nieces from inheriting her estate, she could have included language in her will preventing the application of the antilapse statute. The testator gave no indication in her will that the antilapse statute should not apply." Thus, the Court determined the antilapse statute applied in this case and the nieces were entitled to take the sister's share of the testator's estate. View "Norwood v. Barclay" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court overruled Barto v. Weishaar, 692 P.2d 498 (Nev. 1985), and its conclusion that a suggestion of death emanating from the deceased party must identify the deceased party's successor or representative to trigger the deadline set forth in Nev. R. Civ. P. 25(a)(1) to file a motion to substitute, holding that Barto expanded rule 25(a)(1) beyond its plain language. James McNamee was sued for damages. During the litigation, McNamee died. Counsel for McNamee filed a suggestion of death without naming a successor or representative. Thereafter, the probate court appointed Susan Clokey as special administrator to defend the negligence suit. McNamee's attorney later filed a motion to substitute Clokey as the party defendant in the negligence suit. The district court denied the motion and named Fred Waid as general administrator of McNamee's estate. McNamee's attorney moved to dismiss the personal injury case because his motion to substitute had been denied. The district court denied the motion and substituted Waid as the defendant in place of McNamee. The Supreme Court held (1) a suggestion of death that is properly served triggers the deadline for filing a motion to substitute regardless of whether it identifies the deceased party's successor or representative; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Petitioner's motion to substitute. View "McNamee v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

by
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit certified a question of law to the Oregon Supreme Court on whether a constructive trust arises at the moment of purchase of a property using fraudulently- obtained funds, or if it arises when a court orders that a constructive trust be imposed as a remedy. Ronald Talmage ran a Ponzi scheme. Plaintiffs were victims of that scheme. Much of the money Plaintiffs invested with Talmage went to pay for a property he and his wife acquired, “RiverCliff.” When the Talmages divorced, a portion of moneys Plaintiffs invested with Ronald. Talmage failed to pay his taxes one year, and the IRS recorded tax liens on the property, leading to the underlying suit involving the constructive trust. The Oregon Supreme Court answered the first part of the Ninth Circuit’s question by clarifying that a constructive trust arises when a court imposes it as a remedy, but that the party for whose benefit the constructive trust is imposed has an equitable ownership interest in specific property that predates the imposition of the constructive trust. The Court answered the second part of the question by explaining that, in the circumstances of this case, plaintiffs had a viable subrogation theory that allowed them to seek a constructive trust based on equitable interests that predate all tax liens on the property. View "Wadsworth v. Talmage" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner-appellant Patricia Everett filed a creditor’s claim against the estate of Richard Edison Holdaway, seeking repayment of sums she contended the decedent owed her. When filed, the claim was timely, and tolled the statute of limitations against a decedent. The decedent’s son, defendant-respondent Richard Everett Holdaway, as personal representative of the estate, rejected Everett’s claim, leading to Everett suing for payment. After five continuances on her attempts to collect, the trial court dismissed Everett’s claim for failure to prosecute. Everett filed a competing petition for probate under the previous case number as the one that had been dismissed; she contended the decedent died intestate and left all property to a family trust. Holdaway produced a will, the court appointed him personal representative, and dismissed Everett’s competing petition. Then Holdaway rejected Everett’s creditor’s claim. On appeal, Everett challenged the trial court’s order sustaining without leave to amend Holdaway’s demurrer to her complaint on the ground the claim was barred by Code of Civil Procedure section 366.2. In a matter of first impression, the Court of Appeal determined dismissal of a creditor’s petition to be appointed as representative of the estate that allegedly owed her money did not toll the statute of limitations triggered by her claim. The Court reversed and remanded the case for entry of an order sustaining the demurrer with leave to amend. View "Estate of Holdaway" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the county court on an application for direction that found money Sheila Radford gave Mary Radford prior to Sheila's death was an ademption of Mary's interest in Sheila's trust, holding that the county court erred in finding the payment from Sheila to Mary constituted an ademption of Mary's share under Sheila's trust. On appeal, Mary challenged the court's application of the ademption statute, Neb. Rev. Stat. 30-2350, to the trust, and alternatively, claimed the court erred in finding that it was Sheila's intent to have the money be an ademption of Mary's interest. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the payment could not be a section 30-2350 ademption because Mary was not a devisee under Sheila's will; and (2) Sheila's payment to Mary could not constitute an ademption by satisfaction because Mary was a beneficiary under the trust and not a devisee under the will. View "In re Estate of Radford" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellants' request to recover assets for the Estate of Edward M. Boland and imposing sanctions on the basis that the allegations of bias made against the court against it by Appellants were frivolous, holding that the district court did not err. This appeal arose from two cases involving the same underlying probate of the Estate. In this consolidated appeal, Appellants - Paul Boland and Mary Gettel, as heirs of the Estate - challenged the court's response to their bias allegations, the order imposing sanctions, and the sanctions imposed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellants were not entitled to a hearing on their petition for order to recover assets; (2) the district court correctly concluded that the allegations of bias made against it were frivolous; (3) the district court did not err by imposing Rule 11 sanctions against Paul and his attorney; and (4) this was a proper case in which to impose sanctions for a frivolous appeal. View "In re Estate of Boland" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court distributing assets from the Estate of Della L. Ankrum and the Harold Ankrum Trust to Della and Harold's three children, holding that the district court correctly interpreted Della's handwritten codicil as a wish and not a specific devise of her stock in Ankrum Trucking to Stewart Ankrum. Before Harold's death in 1993, Harold and Della executed identical wills under which the assets of the first spouse to die would go into a trust with the assets distributed equally between their three children upon the death of the surviving spouse. During the couple's lifetimes they created and grew Ankrum Trucking. At issue in this appeal was whether a handwritten codicil to Della's will found after her death made a specific devise of Ankrum Trucking shares to Stewart, one of the couple's children. The district court concluded that the language of the codicil was a wish on the part of Della and not a testamentary transfer. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly interpreted Della's codicil as lacking in testamentary intent to specifically devise her shares of Ankrum Trucking to Stewart. View "In re Harold Ankrum Trust Administration & Estate of Della L. Ankrum" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's dismissal of Appellants' complaint against U.S. Bank on statute of limitations grounds, holding that Appellants' breach of fiduciary duty claim was timely. On January 24, 2017, Appellants filed their lawsuit, alleging breach of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment. U.S. Bank moved to dismiss the claim, arguing that Appellants failed to satisfy the applicable six-year statute of limitations. In response, Appellants asserted that they had suffered no damages earlier than August 2012. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, concluding that Appellants could have raised their claims in April 2010. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that "some damage" occurred on April 27, 2010. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that U.S. Bank failed to establish - based on the pleadings - that Appellants suffered "some damage" in the form of financial harm before August 2012, and therefore, the district court erred by granting the motion to dismiss. View "Hansen v. U.S. Bank National Ass'n" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing the complaint filed by Hoff Stauffer on behalf of the estate of Carlton Stauffer, his father, against the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) alleging that the IRS improperly denied his April 2013 for his father's 2006 tax refund as untimely, holding that the Estate's arguments on appeal were unavailing. Before the district court, the Estate argued that the applicable statute of limitations for the filing of a tax refund claim was tolled due to Carlton's financial disability. The district court disagreed, concluding that because Hoff held a durable power of attorney (DPA) authorizing him to act on behalf of Carlton in financial matters the limitations period was not tolled. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the DPA qualified Hoff as a person authorized to act on behalf of Carlton in financial matters for the purposes of I.R.C. 6511(h)(2)(B); and (2) there was no clear error in the court's factual finding that Hoff never renounced the DPA. View "Stauffer v. Internal Revenue Service" on Justia Law

by
In 1986, Robert Levin established a revocable trust, and was thereafter amended several times: in 1993, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2012. After Robert passed away in 2015, litigation erupted, principally over the 2008 and 2012 amendments. Elizabeth Levin, Robert’s daughter from a prior marriage, sued Robert’s widow, Debra Winston-Levin, on multiple grounds which, by the time the matter went to trial, had devolved into causes of action for an order compelling the return of certain Levin Trust property pursuant to Probate Code section 850, and for double damages pursuant to Probate Code section 859. With regard to the 2012 amendment, the trial court found a presumption of undue influence went unrebutted by Debra. As a result, the court voided the entire 2012 amendment and ordered Debra to return property she had obtained pursuant to the 2012 amendment and a related deed. Elizabeth appealed, contending the court erred in three ways: (1) the court’s finding of undue influence compelled a finding that Debra was liable for financial abuse of an elder, which, in turn, compelled an award of double damages under Probate Code section 859; (2) the evidence compelled a finding that undue influence tainted the 2008 amendment; and (3) the court erred in voiding the entire 2012 amendment rather than carving out only those portions that benefited Debra. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court correctly interpreted section 859; the court’s ruling was supported by substantial evidence; and a reasonable inference from the cumulative changes in the amendment were that they were intended to be intertwined, such that voiding only those portions benefiting Debra would not effectuate Robert’s intent. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "Levin v. Winston-Levin" on Justia Law