Articles Posted in Indiana Supreme Court

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Ruth Fulp placed her family farm in a revocable trust with trust assets going to her three children upon her death. Fulp decided to sell the farm to her son, Harold, a few years later. The proposed sale was for a low price to pay for Fulp's retirement home care and to keep the farm in the family. Ruth's daughter, Nancy, opposed the action, arguing that a bargain sale would breach Ruth's fiduciary duty to her children and deprive Nancy of her share of the trust. The trial court found that Ruth breached her fiduciary duty to the children by selling the farm at a low price. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that under the terms of the trust and the Indiana Trust Code, Ruth did not owe her children a fiduciary duty to sell the farm at less than fair market price and that Ruth did not effectively amend the trust by selling the farm. Remanded. View "Fulp v. Gilliland" on Justia Law

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This case involved a property dispute between an individual church congregation, Olivet Presbyterian Church, and the denominational organization with which it was previously affiliated, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the latter's subsidiary organizations, the plaintiffs in this action, the Presbytery of Ohio Valley and the Synod of Lincoln Trails of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Inc. (collectively, "Presbytery"). The trial court granted summary judgment rejecting the Presbytery's claims of express and implied trust and holding that the disputed property was solely owned by Olivet. The Presbytery appealed both the denial of its motion for summary judgment and the granting of Olivet's motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact arose from the inferences flowing from the stipulated designated evidence and that neither Olivet nor the Presbytery was entitled to the full relief sought in their respective motions for summary judgment. Remanded. View "Presbytery of Ohio Valley, Inc. v. OPC, Inc." on Justia Law

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Insured held a life insurance policy issued as part of a federal employee benefit plan. When Insured divorced from his first wife, the divorce decree and property settlement required Insured (1) to maintain the life insurance policy, and (2) to designate the first wife and their grandchildren as equal beneficiaries. Subsequently, Insured remarried, designated his second wife as the sole beneficiary to the life insurance policy, and increased the insurance coverage. Insured and second wife later divorced. When Insured died, the second wife remained the sole beneficiary on the life insurance policy. The first wife and grandchildren filed suit, asserting equitable claims over the life insurance proceeds. The trial court granted summary judgment to the second wife, determining that federal employee benefit law preempted the equitable state law claims and that the policy proceeds accordingly belonged to the second wife. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Act did not preempt the equitable claims and that the first wife and grandchildren were entitled to a constructive trust over at least a portion of the proceeds. Remanded. View "Hardy v. Hardy" on Justia Law

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After decedent Mary Avery died, sons Rod and Marshall Avery filed a petition to remove daughter Trina Avery as the personal representative of decedent's estate and to probate decedent's 2008 will naming Rod as the personal representative. Trina filed a separate action to contest the 2008 will, asserting that it was the product of undue influence, fraud, and duress, and that decedent had executed a subsequent will in 2009 that superceded and revoked the 2008 will. When Defendants Rod and Marshall failed to file an answer or other responsive pleading, the trial court entered judgment by default against them. At issue on appeal was whether Defendants were required to file an answer in the will contest action when the statutory provisions did not explicitly mandate the filing of an answer. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure require the timely filing of an answer or responsive pleading and do not exempt will contest actions from the requirement, and (2) by failing to file a timely answer or other proper response in the will contest, Defendants were subject to a default judgment.