Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kansas Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court concluding that the executor of the Estate of Thelma J. Taylor converted estate property and ordering the executor to repay double the converted property's value, as provided by Kan. Stat. Ann. 59-1704, holding that the statute's plain language does not limit its application.The court of appeals upheld the conversion finding but held that section 59-1704 did not apply because the property was taken before the executor was appointed to administer the estate. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals on the issue subject to review, holding (1) nothing in section 59-1704 limits its application only to circumstances when the decedent's funds are taken by a court-appointed estate fiduciary after probate proceedings begin; and (2) the district court properly assessed the double penalty against the executor under the plain language of the statute. View "In re Estate of Taylor" on Justia Law

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In this matter arising from the district court's distribution of Lanny Lentz's estate among his three daughters the Supreme Court remanded the judgment of the court of appeals holding that it lacked jurisdiction over this appeal because Appellant's posttrial motions did not toll the time for her to appeal, holding that the court of appeals did in fact have jurisdiction over the appeal.Appellant, one of Lentz's daughters, filed a petition to set aside and/or reconsider the final settlement and, simultaneously, an objection to discharge of executrix and petition to disgorge fees for administration paid to the fiduciary. The district court denied the motions. Appellant appealed, claiming that the property values for properties in the final settlement were not supported by substantial competent evidence. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court remanded the case for consideration of the appeal on the merits, holding that Appellant's notice of appeal was timely and that the court of appeals had jurisdiction over the appeal. View "In re Estate of Lentz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court reforming an inter vivos trust created and funded by Jill Petrie St. Clair, holding that the district court's findings of fact were supported by clear and convincing evidence and that the district court properly applied the law.The district court reformed the trust at issue in order for the trust to express Jill's true intentions, which were not expressed in the original trust instrument due to a scrivener's error. Jill and the trustee asked the Supreme Court to affirm the district court's rulings to satisfy the requirements of Commissioner v. Estate of Bosch, 387 U.S. 456 (1967). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in reforming the trust because reformation was necessary for the trust to be consistent with Jill's original intent and to correct the error of the scrivener. View "In re St. Clair Trust Reformation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court upholding the validity of a transfer-on-death deed that was signed by a benefiting party at the direction of the party seeking to make the transfer, holding that the district court did not err.The district court deemed the transfer-on-death deed to constitute an enforceable transfer of Roxie Moore's real property to Maureen Miles. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court considered evidence relating to the authority by which Maureen signed the deed, notwithstanding the notary's designation of signature through power of attorney; (2) the district court's determination that Maureen signed the deed as an amanuensis was supported by clear and convincing evidence; (3) the facts as found by the district court rebutted the presumption of invalidity of the deed under the clear and convincing evidence standard; and (4) Appellant failed to present even a preponderance of evidence demonstrating that Roxie lacked the capacity to make knowing and understanding conveyance. View "In re Estate of Moore" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the district court admitting a testator's will and codicil to probate after the limitation period for petitioning a will for probate had passed, holding that equitable tolling of the statute of limitations was warranted under the unique circumstances in this case.The testator deposited his original will and a codicil with the probate court as permitted by statute. After the testator's death, his heirs tried to locate the will, but the clerk of court informed the heirs that the will was not in the custody of the court. Eventually, the testator's daughter filed an intestate proceeding. After the limitation period for petitioning a will for probate had passed, the clerk of court located the will and codicil. The testator's stepdaughter filed a separate petition to probate the will. The district court consolidated the probate proceedings and admitted the will to probate. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the will in the authorized custody of the district court but not found until after the statute of limitations had expired should be admitted to probate. View "In re Estate of Oroke" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that separate damage claims against a deceased trustee for punitive and double damages under Kan. Stat. Ann. 58a-1002 and under the common law relating to a breach of trust and a breach of fiduciary duty may be recovered after the death of a trustee.A Trust and its beneficiaries brought a cause of action for a deceased Trustee’s breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duty, seeking punitive damages from the Trustee’s Estate under section 58a-1002(c). On appeal from the judgment of the trial court, the Trust challenged the trial court’s rulings that prevented the jury from considering whether the Trust should receive double or punitive damages against the Trustee’s Estate. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court and court of appeals erred in concluding that Kansas law did not allow consideration of punitive and double damages because of the Trustee’s death. View "Alain Ellis Living Trust v. Harvey D. Ellis Living Trust" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the interpretation of the procedural requirements that the Kansas Probate Code sets for parties petitioning for probate. Specifically, this appeal concerned a contest between the disinherited son (Son) of the decedent and the son’s daughters (Granddaughters), who were the beneficiaries under the decedent’s will. In its final order, the district court held that the decedent’s estate passed under the will to the Granddaughters in equal shares. The Supreme Court affirmed the analysis and conclusions of both the district court and the court of appeals as to the issues raised in an appeal and petition for review, holding (1) an order setting aside the order admitting the will to probate did not end the proceeding; (2) the district court did not commit reversible error in concluding that the Granddaughters timely commenced a probate proceeding; and (3) the district court did not commit reversible error when it refused to find that a putative 1997 will revoked the 1992 will. View "In re Estate of Rickabaugh" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Michael Clare shot and killed his wife, Deborah Clare, and then took his own life. Jessica Crosslin, Deborah’s biological daughter, filed a petition for letters of examination seeking to file a claim against Michael’s estate under the Kansas Probate Code. Crosslin was subsequently appointed administrator of Deborah’s estate, and Christine Clare, Michael’s aunt, was appointed administrator of Michael’s estate. The district court determined that Crosslin had failed to satisfy a statutory time limitation for filing a claim against the estate because she failed to obtain a written, signed judicial order setting the matter for hearing. The court cited specific local rules with which Crosslin apparently did not comply. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the local rules did not consistently preclude Crosslin from following the procedures that she took, the local rules conflicted with certain statutory requirements, and local rules that add requirements to the statutory scheme and create jurisdictional obstacles are invalid. View "In re Estate of Clare" on Justia Law

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Sharon Born, the cousin of John Born, held two installment promissory notes upon which the inter vivos revocable trust created by John (“the Born Trust”) assets had been pledged as security when John died. When Betty Born, John’s wife, attempted to make payments on the notes, Sharon asserted that the notes were in default because of John’s death, that the entire remaining balances were immediately due and payable under the notes’ acceleration clauses, and that Sharon’s only remedy under the security agreements was to accept all of the Born Trust’s pledged assets in full satisfaction of the note balances. Betty, in her capacity as a Born Trust trustee, brought this injunction and declaratory judgment action against Sharon, challenging Sharon’s right unilaterally to effect an acceptance-of-collateral remedy. The district court granted summary judgment for Sharon and ordered the Born Trust to turn over the collateral to Sharon. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Born Trust had the right under the promissory notes to pay the accelerated balances due thereon to prevent Sharon’s acceptance of the pledged assets under the security agreement. Remanded. View "Born v. Born" on Justia Law

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Rick and Lisa Graham filed a petition for a protection from stalking order against Elizabeth Jones in 2006. Jones counterclaimed for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, fraud, and conversion. On June 27, 2007, while her counterclaims against the Grahams were pending, Jones died. On April 17, 2008, the Grahams filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Angela Herring, who was appointed as administratrix of Jones's estate, filed a motion to substitute the estate as the claimant against the Grahams. The district court dismissed the action based upon its determination that substitution was untimely under Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-225(a)(1). The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed and provided an analysis to determine whether a substitution motion was filed within a reasonable time, holding (1) the relevant time period for determining the reasonableness of a delay in substituting a party begins with the statement noting the death and ends with the filing of the motion for substitution; and (2) the standard for determining whether a substitution motion has been made within a reasonable time is to consider the totality of the circumstances, which can include the fact of whether another party would be prejudiced by the substitution. Remanded. View "Graham v. Herring" on Justia Law