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The Stored Communications Act (SCA) does not prohibit Yahoo from voluntarily disclosing the contents of a decedent’s e-mail account to the personal representatives of the decedent’s estate. Rather, the SCA permits Yahoo to divulge the contents of the e-mail account where the personal representatives lawfully consent to disclosure on the decedent’s behalf. The decedent in this case died intestate. The personal representatives of the decedent’s estate sought access to the contents of a Yahoo!, Inc. e-mail account that the decedent left behind. Yahoo declined to provide access to the account. The personal representatives commenced an action challenging Yahoo’s refusal. A judge of the probate and family court granted summary judgment for Yahoo. The Supreme Judicial Court set aside the judgment, holding that summary judgment for Yahoo should not have been allowed (1) on the basis that the requested disclosure was prohibited by the SCA, and (2) on the basis of the terms of a service agreement where material issues of fact pertinent to the enforceability of the contract remained in dispute. View "Ajemian v. Yahoo!, Inc." on Justia Law

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Gregory and Adam Piccione (“the Picciones”), grandchildren of testator Virginia Arp (“Virginia”) and children of Donna Piccione (“Donna”), appealed the superior court’s denial of their motion for summary judgment in this action against their three uncles, Sam and Dwayne Arp, individually and in their capacities as executors of Virginia’s estate, and David Arp. The Picciones contended they had a combined one-fourth interest in the property that comprised Virginia’s estate and sued in superior court, asserting actions for conversion, fraud, and trespass regarding those property interests, and moved for summary judgement. The trial court denied their motion, concluding that Virginia’s use of the words “PER CAPITA” in the phrase: “I give, bequeath and devise unto my children, Sam Arp, Donna Piccione, David Arp and Dwayne Arp, all of the property that I may own at the time of my death, both real and personal, of every kind and description and wherever located, PER CAPITA” was a “limitation” under the anti-lapse statute, OCGA § 53-4-64 (a); the anti-lapse provisions of the statute therefore did not apply to the gifts to Virginia’s children; as Donna predeceased Virginia, the testamentary gift to Donna lapsed; and thus, the Picciones had no property interest upon which to base their claims. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. View "Piccione v. Arp" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's holding that, because there was no clear and conclusive evidence of a contrary intent, joint bank accounts passed as a matter of law to petitioner upon her mother's death. The court held that the trial court's finding was supported by substantial evidence where, among other things, mother opened the accounts while daughter assisted with various business affairs, mother indicated to daughter that the money in the two accounts was for daughter's use and daughter had complete access to the accounts; and Wells Fargo confirmed that both mother and daughter had withdrawal rights on the accounts. View "Estate of O'Connor" on Justia Law

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Alice Lynn Harper Taylor ("Alice") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directed to the Monroe Probate Court, requesting that court enter orders: (1) reinstating her petition to probate a will allegedly executed by Alice Earle Harper in 2007; (2) reinstating her petition contesting the 2007 will; and (3) transferring her contest of the 2007 will to the Monroe Circuit Court pursuant to 43-8-198, Ala. Code 1975. The decedent died in 2013. Alice filed to probate the decedent’s 1995 will in Monroe County. Approximately one year later, one of Alice’s brothers, William, moved to dismiss Alice’s petition, and filed in Escambia County a will drafted in 2007, purporting to revoke the 1995 will. Alice challenged the validity of the 2007 will; William challenged the 1995 will. The Probate court determined Monroe County was the proper venue, but ruled in favor of William and the 2007 will. The Alabama Supreme Court found neither the 1995 will nor the 2007 will was determined to be the decedent’s last will. Where several wills and will contests are filed, the Supreme Court has approved of the consolidation of such proceedings. Monroe County was the proper venue to hear the matter. The Court found the Monroe Probate Court erred in dismissing Alice’s petition to probate the 2007 will and her contest of that will. There was no dispute at to whether Alice made the prima facie showing required under 43-8-198. Thus, she was entitled to an order transferring that will contest to the Monroe Circuit Court. View "Ex parte Alice Lynn Harper Taylor." on Justia Law

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The petition underlying this appeal challenged a trial court order summarily adjudicating a cause of action under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (the Act), a cause of action for fraud by concealment, and another for medical battery, while allowing other claims, including one for medical negligence, to proceed to trial. Petitioner Maxine Stewart was the representative of Anthony Carter, a man who died after admission to a hospital owned by real parties in interest, St. Joseph’s Health (et al.). She alleged the hospital “denied and withheld from Mr. Carter the right to refuse an unnecessary surgery, denied and withheld from Mr. Carter the right to be involved in secret hospital meetings to invalidate his designated consent, and denied and withheld from Mr. Carter his right to a second opinion prior to proceeding with an unwarranted surgery that resulted in a hypoxic injury, brain damage, cardiac arrest and his untimely death.” Having concluded the petition might have merit, the Court of Appeal stayed the action in the trial court and requested an informal response. Having received and read the “return by verified answer” that was filed by real parties in interest, the Court then set an order to show cause and requested further briefing on a specific issue. Real parties in interest decided to stand on their informal response in lieu of filing another brief, and Stewart declined to file a traverse. After review, the Court then granted the petition: in the published portion of this opinion, the Court discussed the cause of action for elder abuse to explain how, in its view, a substantial impairment of this right can constitute actionable “neglect” of an elder within the meaning of both the little-invoked catchall definition contained in Welfare and Institutions Code section 15610.57(a)(1), and two of the types of neglect set forth in section 15610.57(a)(2). View "Stewart v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that a California court probate order distributing the estate of Lon V. Smith and a Wyoming court probate order to distribute the decedent’s Wyoming property, including a Carbon County overriding royalty interest (ORRI), governed, regardless of Mr. Smith’s intent as expressed in his will. In his will, Smith intended for the ORRI to be distributed to his wife, Marguerite B. Smith, for her life, and then to be distributed to the Lon V. Smith Foundation. The probate court orders distributed the ORRI to Mrs. Smith under the will’s residuary clause. The district court ruled that the Marguerite Brown Smith Trust (the beneficiary under Mrs. Smith’s will) owned the ORRI, not the Foundation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) correctly determined that the California probate order and the Wyoming ancillary probate ordered governed and that the Trust was the owner of the ORRI; (2) properly granted summary judgment to Devon Energy Corporation and Devon Energy Production Co. (collectively, Devon) on the Foundation’s claim that Devon violated the Wyoming Royalty Payment Act (WRPA); and (3) correctly found that neither party was entitled to attorney fees under the WRPA. View "Lon V. Smith Foundation v. Devon Energy Corp." on Justia Law

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An interlocutory appeal arose from a 2010 civil suit filed by Carol Clement against Russell Puckett. After Puckett’s death in 2014, Clement substituted the Estate of Russell Puckett (the “Estate”) as the defendant in the suit and served the Estate. The Estate moved to dismiss the suit due to failure to timely serve process under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 4(h). The Estate argued that the statute of limitations had expired before Clement perfected service. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The Estate appealed, arguing the trial court erred in denying the motion to dismiss because: (1) Clement failed to show good cause for failing to serve Puckett within the statute of limitations; and (2) it did not waive its statute-of-limitations defense. Clement argued the trial court properly denied the motion to dismiss since she demonstrated good cause and the Estate waived its defense of the statute of limitations. Assuming all of Clement’s extensions of time were proper and tolled the statute of limitations, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded she still failed to perfect service before the expiration of the statute of limitations, and her suit was thus barred. The statute of limitations began running in this case on September 11, 2009. On June 11, 2010, Clement filed the complaint and tolled the statutes with ninety-three days remaining. The statute began running again in the interim periods between the third and fourth extensions of time and the fourth and fifth extensions of time. After the fifth extension expired on February 28, 2012, the statute of limitations resumed running and expired on March 16, 2012. Clement did not serve process on Puckett or the Estate until August 25, 2014. Therefore, Clement’s suit was barred by the statute of limitations, and the trial court erred in denying the Estate’s motion to dismiss. View "Estate of Russell Puckett v. Clement" on Justia Law

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The plain language of the anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, applies to a petition to enforce a no contest clause. In this case, a beneficiary filed a petition for instructions as to whether the no contest clause of his mother's trust had been violated after his sister sought to reform the trust to eliminate his interest. The sister, as trustee, filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike the petition. The trial court granted the motion to strike and awarded attorney fees to the sister. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the anti-SLAPP motion should have been denied because the beneficiary established a reasonable probability of prevailing on the merits. Therefore, the order granting attorney fees was also reversed. View "Urick v. Urick" on Justia Law

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John Gassmann died in February 2012. Margaret Oakland was his only child. Under a generation-skipping trust created by his parents, Gassmann had a special power of appointment over the trust estate, which included family farmland. The power was exercisable "by appointment, outright or in trust, in such portions as my child may appoint in a valid testamentary instrument that specifically refers to this special power of appointment." The trust prohibited Gassmann from exercising the power in favor of himself, his estate, his creditors, or creditors of his estate. The generation-skipping trust provided that unless Gassmann exercised the power of appointment in a valid testamentary instrument, all trust assets would pass to Gassmann's descendants at Gassmann's death. Gassmann exercised the special power of appointment through both his will and revocable living trust executed in 2011. Gassmann exercised his special power of appointment by distributing all of the real estate in his generation-skipping trust to the Valley Township Land Trust ("land trust") and the residue of the trust estate to the Canadian Mineral Share Trust ("mineral trust"), which were both created under Gassmann's revocable living trust. Oakland was a primary beneficiary of the mineral trust, not of the land trust. After Gassmann's death, Oakland contested his will and revocable living trust. Oakland argued Gassmann's will was invalid, alleging he executed the will under an insane delusion. Oakland appealed the district court order granting Bell Bank's petition to approve the accounting, distribution, and termination of the John T. Gassmann generation-skipping trust. She also appealed an order denying her motion for relief from the order approving Bell Bank's petition, arguing Gassmann improperly exercised a special power of appointment over the trust estate and that Bell Bank breached its fiduciary duty of impartiality. Finding no reversible error in the district court judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Matter of John T. Gassmann Trust" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing an order entered by the superior court removing a guardian of an estate and trustee under a special needs trust for breach of fiduciary duty. Mark Skinner was appointed as the guardian of the estate of Cathleen Bass Skinner. Mr. Skinner then executed the Cathleen Bass Skinner Special Needs Trust. Thereafter, the Assistant Clerk of Superior Court removed Mr. Skinner as trustee under the Special Needs Trust and as guardian of Ms. Skinner’s estate. The superior court affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Assistant Clerk did not err in determining that Mr. Skinner exceeded the scope of the discretion available to him to such an extent that grounds for his removal as the guardian of Ms. Skinner’s person and as trustee under the Special Needs Trust existed under N.C. Gen. Stat. 35A-1290 and 36C-7-706(b) and that these breaches of fiduciary duty justified his removal. View "In re Estate of Skinner" on Justia Law