Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court
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In this quiet title action, The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Joy Arnold and quieting title in favor of the Estate of Beverly Freiden, holding that Michael Walz, a tenant of Beverly's real property, did not exercise an option to purchase the property associated with the lease, and the real property remained in the Estate. Walz leased real property from Beverly under a lease that included an option to purchase the property at any time before the end date of the lease. Beverly died during Walz' tenancy. After the term of Walz' initial option ended, Walz and Jon Freiden executed several lease modifications that purportedly extended Walz' option to buy the real property. When Walz claimed he owned the property, Arnold, the personal representative of the Estate, petitioned the district court to quiet title to the property in the Estate. The district court granted summary judgment for Arnold. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no genuine issue of material fact with respect to the fact that the real property remained in the Estate, and therefore, the district court did not err when it quieted title in the Estate. View "Arnold v. Walz" on Justia Law

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In this will contest, the Supreme Court reversed the district court's decision granting summary judgment determining that the decedent's will was valid, holding that where the bill of exceptions did not contain the proponent's evidence there was no evidence to support the summary judgment for the proponent. After Appellee filed an application for informal probate in county court Appellant filed an objection. The matter was transferred to district court, which entered summary judgment determining that the decedent left a valid will. Appellant appealed. The bill of exceptions, however, contained only Appellant's evidence, and Appellee's evidence did not appear in the bill. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter, holding that because Appellee did not produce her evidence in a manner so as to be included in a bill of exceptions she effectively failed to make a prima facie case. View "Bohling v. Bohling" on Justia Law

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the county court construing Joan Jane Barger's will, holding that the court did not err. In this contest between family members over the decedent's will, the Supreme Court held that the county court did not err by (1) considering extrinsic evidence after failing to determine whether the will was ambiguous; (2) finding that Joan's intent was to distribute her property designated as property held by a trust even though the trust had been terminated; (3) determining the trust was terminated prior to Joan's death; and (4) finding that certain children were not prohibited from taking under article V of the will due to an earlier will contest. View "In re Estate of Barger" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the county court denying the petition to remove a trustee filed by certain trust beneficiaries, holding that the beneficiaries failed to prove that the trustee's removal was not inconsistent with a material purpose of the trust. The trust beneficiaires in this case filed a petition to modify the trust to remove Elkhorn Valley Bank & Trust as trustee and approve Jennifer Lea Wilson as successor trustee. The county court issued a written order denying the petition to remove the Bank as trustee, determining that removal would be inconsistent with a material purpose of the trust. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that removal was inconsistent with a material purpose of the trust, and therefore, the county court did not err in denying the beneficiaries' motion. View "In re Trust Created by Fenske" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the county court accepting the resignation of the trustee for a trust fund created for the perpetual care and maintenance of the Sunset Memorial Park Mausoleum, ordering the trustee to pay trustee fees, attorney fees, costs, and expenses incurred during the prosecution of the petition, and failing to provide for future trust management. The Trustee in this case sought to terminate the perpetual care trust due to circumstances not anticipated at the time the trust was created. Myrtle Hughbanks, Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery Association, Inc., and others opposed terminating the trust. The county court found that the Cemetery Association lacked standing and accepted the resignation of the Trustee. The Cemetery Association and Hughbanks appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the county court's denial of the parties' motions for attorney fees but reversed the order of discharge and associated award of fees, holding (1) in addition to Hughbanks, the Cemetery Association possessed standing; and (2) due to the perpetual nature of a mausoleum trust, the county court erred in granting the Trustee's request for resignation and discharge without the Trustee's having identified and requested the appointment of a successor trustee. View "Bank of the West v. Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the county court’s entry of summary judgment declaring that the proceeds of the Estate of Mark Anthony Helms be distributed pursuant to a prior federal court judgment applying North Carolina law, holding that there was no genuine issue of material fact precluding summary judgment. Decades after Helms died in a terrorist bombing, the estate obtained a wrongful death judgment in federal court determining that Helms had been domiciled in North Carolina and not Nebraska and that damages would be distributed according to North Carolina law. Later the successor personal representative of the Estate filed a probate case in the county court for Butler County a petition to authorize distribution of the judgment proceeds under Neb. Rev. Stat. 30-810, a Nebraska wrongful death statute. The county court ordered distribution pursuant to the federal court judgment applying North Carolina law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because of the binding effect of the federal court judgment, the Nebraska wrongful death statute did not apply. View "In re Estate of Helms" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court construing the will at issue in this case and granting the decedent’s estate’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the county court had jurisdictional priority over the district court in construing the will in this matter. The decedent’s daughter sought a declaration of her rights under the decedent’s will as an alleged devisee. The estate asserted that the decedent disinherited the daughter in the will. The district court granted summary judgment for the estate, concluding that, under the clear and unambiguous terms of the will, Daughter was expressly disinherited by the will’s provisions. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the county court and the district court had exercisable concurrent jurisdiction over the construction of this will; (2) the county court, as the first court to acquire jurisdiction, retained it to the exclusion of the district court; and (3) because the county court neither transferred the case nor otherwise relinquished its jurisdictional priority, the district court improperly impinged on the county court’s jurisdictional priority in construing the will. View "Brinkman v. Brinkman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Keller Williams Realty in this lawsuit against Donna Rook, successor personal representative of the estate of Donald Lienemann (the Estate), holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for Keller and in denying summary judgment in favor of the Estate. In granting summary judgment for Keller, the district court found that Keller had established that the Estate breached a contract involving the sale of real property. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court had jurisdiction to decide the validity of Keller’s claim; and (2) the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Keller. The Court remanded the cause to the district court with instructions to enter summary judgment in favor of the Estate. View "Eagle Partners, LLC v. Rook" on Justia Law

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In this challenge related to a decedent’s estate the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the county court determining that the evidence was insufficient to prove damages for the conversion of estate property allegedly caused by the personal representative who was removed for breaches of fiduciary duties. On appeal, the designees of the decedent’s estate argued that the county court erred by not (1) awarding damages for the former personal representative’s conversion, damage, or loss of property; (2) awarding fees to the successor personal representative personally against the former representative by way of surcharge; (3) awarding attorney fees and costs personally against the former representative by way of surcharge; (4) imposing sanctions against the former representative or his attorney for the destruction of a deed of conveyance of real estate; and (5) receiving into evidence a certain exhibit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the proceedings below. View "In re Estate of Graham" on Justia Law