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Two sisters were beneficiaries of their late parents trusts: one was trustee of the trusts and president of the family corporation; the other sister was a shareholder of the family corporation. The latter sister disputed proposed trust distributions and various aspects of the family corporation; she and her children sued the trustee for breach of fiduciary duty in both trustee and corporate capacities. The litigation resulted in two appeals, which the Alaska Supreme Court consolidated for oral argument and decision. After review, the Court largely affirmed the superior court s decisions because they were discretionary and, under the applicable standard of review, the Court could not say they were unreasonable given the court s factual findings; but the matters were remanded for reconsideration of certain trust property valuations, which may have required minor distribution adjustments. View "Bjorn-Roli v. Mulligan" on Justia Law

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Clifford Wright ("Wright"), the administrator of the estate of Mary Evelyn Wright ("Mary") appealed a summary judgment entered in favor of Dawn Reid, Phyllis Harris, and Tuwanda Worrills (collectively referred to as "the nurses"), who, during all relevant times, were employed by the Cleburne County Hospital Board, Inc., d/b/a Cleburne County Nursing Home ("the Hospital Board"). Mary complained she suffered injuries from a fall while a resident of a nursing home operated by the Hospital Board. Mary allegedly died from her injuries the day after her complaint was filed. Wright was appointed the administrator of Mary's estate and was substituted as the plaintiff. As amended, Wright's complaint asserted claims against the nurses, the Hospital Board, and various fictitiously named parties under the Alabama Medical Liability Act. Wright's claim against the Hospital Board included 13 separate allegations of negligence. Wright's claims against each of the nurses included 13 separate allegations of negligence. Additionally, Wright alleged that the Hospital Board was vicariously liable for the actions of its agents, specifically, the actions of the nurses. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court exceeded its discretion in certifying the summary judgment in favor of the nurses as a final judgment pursuant to Rule 54(b). Accordingly, the trial court's Rule 54(b) certification was invalid; this appeal was from a nonfinal judgment; and the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. View "Wright v. Harris, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court not to remove Lisa Kimsey as co-trustee of the Redland family’s irrevocable trust or to terminate the trust, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion. Two of the three appeals consolidated in this decision related to Rolly Redland’s counterclaim to remove Kimsey as co-trustee for allegedly breaching her fiduciary duties and interfering with trust administration. The third appeal concerned Kimsey’s request to terminate the trust on the grounds that it was invalid and otherwise failed to achieve the settlers’ intended purposes. The district court decided not to remove Kimsey as co-trustee or terminate the trust. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) res judicata barred Kimsey’s claim that the trust was invalid; (2) the district court did not err in finding that a material purpose of the trust remained; and (3) the district court did not err when it retained Kimsey as co-trustee of the trust. View "In re Robert and Irene Redland Family Trust" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a pro se action against Phillip Morris, alleging Connecticut state law liability claims on behalf of her late husband's estate. The district court dismissed some of plaintiff's claims based on its determination that Connecticut law would not allow her to represent the estate pro se. In this case, Connecticut law and federal law conflict on the issue of whether plaintiff can represent the estate pro se. The Second Circuit held that the district court misread both Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938), and Guest v. Hansen, 603 F.3d 15 (2d Cir. 2010), in concluding that Connecticut's rule controlled the circumstances in which a party may appear pro se in federal court. The court held that 28 U.S.C. 1654, and federal rules interpreting it, are procedural in nature and therefore must be applied by federal courts in diversity cases. The court explained that, who may practice law before a federal court is a matter of procedure—which Congress and the federal courts have the power to regulate—notwithstanding contrary state law. In this case, Connecticut's substantive law will not be affected by permitting plaintiff to file motions, conduct depositions, or represent the estate at trial. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment insofar as it dismissed plaintiff's claims under Connecticut law and the derivative consortium claims. The court affirmed the dismissal of the remaining claims based on statute of limitation grounds. View "Pappas v. Philip Morris, Inc." on Justia Law

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Bruce Birch appealed a district court decision to affirm a magistrate court decision to award attorney fees against Birch. This case concerned the disposition of the estate of Birch and Linda Bailey’s mother, Ruth Birch. Ruth executed a last will and testament that intentionally omitted Birch. After Ruth’s death in 2011, Bailey was appointed as the personal representative for her estate. The magistrate approved a compromise agreement that allowed Birch and another intentionally omitted sibling to receive equal shares of the estate. After approval of the agreement, Bailey requested Birch pay the estate's attorney fees for preparing the agreement. The magistrate court awarded attorney fees to Bailey. In this appeal, Birch argued the magistrate court’s award of attorney fees was an abuse of discretion because it did not comply with the requirements of the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred in awarding fees, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bailey v. Birch" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that where an individual has been appointed special administrator of an estate that includes residential real property, the special administrator resides in the property as his or her primary residence, and the special administrator retains an ownership interest via intestate succession laws, the special administrator is entitled to participate in a foreclosure mediation program (FMP) regarding the decedent’s residential real property, despite the fact that the property was purchased in the decedent’s name only. Appellant was the decedent’s spouse and the special administrator of the decedent’s estate. When Respondent commenced foreclosure proceedings on the home the decedent purchased in her name only, Appellant requested foreclosure mediation through Nevada’s FMP. The mediator concluded that the property was not eligible for the FMP because Appellant was not an owner or grantor of the property and because the order appointing him as special administrator did not specifically authorize him to participate in the FMP. The district court denied Appellant’s petition for judicial review. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Appellant obtained an ownership interest in the property upon the decedent’s death, the property served as his primary residence, and his status as special administrator authorized him to take action to preserve the decedent’s estate, Appellant was entitled to participate in the FMP. View "Pascua v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Samuel Rogers appealed a superior court order dismissing his complaint against his son, Joseph Rogers, upon finding that the probate court and not the superior court, retained exclusive subject matter jurisdiction over his cause of action. Plaintiff’s wife died in March 2012 and the parties’ dispute arose after the disposition of her estate. The decedent’s will named defendant as the executor of the estate, which was comprised of, in pertinent part, two properties in Hollis, New Hampshire: plaintiff’s marital home and the decedent’s 50% ownership interest in 94.3 acres of undeveloped land on Rocky Point Road. In her will, the decedent devised one-third of the estate to plaintiff and the remaining two-thirds to defendant. The probate court appointed defendant as the executor of the estate in May 2012. At some point in 2015, plaintiff learned that the Town of Hollis had either offered to purchase or agreed to purchase Rocky Point for $2,500,000, but, for reasons not established by the record, the sale was never consummated. Thereafter, plaintiff discovered his son had commissioned an appraisal of Rocky Point in 2005 which estimated that the value of the property at that time was $1,950,000. These valuations suggested that following the parties’ exchange of property interests, defendant’s interest in Rocky Point would have been worth approximately $975,000. Based on these discoveries, plaintiffs sued his son in 2016 in superior court, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, negligence, and unjust enrichment. Defendant moved to dismiss, arguing his father's claims were barred by the statute of limitations, which was within six months of the probate court's issuance of the certificate of appointment in May 2012. Ruling that defendant mischaracterized plaintiff's claims, the superior court denied defendant's motion. Upon reconsideration, the trial court granted defendant's motion and dismissed plaintiff's superior court claims, finding they related the the estate and will, and any misrepresentation of Rocky Point took place during the administration of the estate. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the claims at issue here did not fall within the probate court's exclusive jurisdiction, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Rogers v. Rogers" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose after Matthew DeForest petitioned for a Determination of Heirs-At-Law and Wrongful Death Beneficiaries following the death of his natural father, Jeff Underhill. Joe Alexander, Underhill’s brother, filed a responsive pleading to DeForest’s petition raising numerous affirmative defenses; however, the Chancery Court held in favor of DeForest. The Chancery Court entered a judgment declaring DeForest to be sole heir at law for the purpose of the pending wrongful death action. Finding no reversible error in the Chancery Court's judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Alexander v. DeForest" on Justia Law

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The parents established the trust in 1974 when all of the siblings were minors. Howard predeceased Alice, leaving her as the sole settlor and trustee. In 2003, Alice amended the trust to name all six children, as successor co-trustees, with the power to act by majority vote. Alice died in 2015; the trust became irrevocable. Five siblings, (Appellants) agreed to maintain the assets in trust, hoping they would increase in value for the next generation. The sixth sibling asked for distribution of her share of the trust in cash. The trial court interpreted the trust to require liquidation and distribution of the trust assets upon the death of the last surviving parent, based primarily on a provision requiring distribution to any beneficiary when that beneficiary turned 30 years old. All of the siblings were at least 30 years old. The court of appeal agreed that the trust's unambiguous language requires distribution and termination of the trust, but the trial court erred when it ordered the liquidation of the trust assets to accomplish that purpose, rather than deferring to the discretion of the trustees to distribute the trust. The orders removing the parties as trustees and requiring the trust to pay all attorney fees and costs flowed from that error. View "Trolan v. Trolan" on Justia Law

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Donald initially listed no beneficiary who would take any funds remaining in his individual retirement account at his death. In 2013, he was hospitalized. During his hospitalization, someone designated his wife, JoAnn, as beneficiary. When Donald was released from the hospital, he sought a temporary restraining order and injunction. The spouses stipulated to an injunction ordering that neither party engage in any transaction regarding the parties’ financial accounts. That injunction action was later combined with a dissolution action. While still bound by the injunction, Donald changed the beneficiary designation to his sons. After the combined actions were dismissed, Donald died. JoAnn filed suit, alleging that the beneficiary change violated the injunction so that the change was void. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of the suit. The injunction did not mention changes of beneficiaries; the change of beneficiary did not vest during the pendency of the injunction or the combined underlying actions. The change of ownership did not occur until after the injunction was dismissed. The circuit court could have distributed whatever amount of the IRA that it found equitable had the dissolution action proceeded to a final judgment. An individual does not, however, have the same interest in her spouse’s property at probate that she does at dissolution. View "Smith v. Vanguard Group Inc." on Justia Law