Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's entry of summary judgment concluding that Robert Bohling's father left a valid will, holding that there was no merit to any of Robert's assignments of error.When Willis Bohling (Bohling) died, he left a self-proved will. His daughter, Kimberly Bohling, initiated informal probate proceedings and was appointed the personal representative of Bohling's estate. Robert objected and filed a petition seeking dismissal of the informal probate application and requesting a determination of intestacy, a determination of heirs, and appointment of a special administrator. Kimberly moved for summary judgment, arguing that the will was valid and should be admitted to probate. The district court granted summary judgment for Kimberly. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Robert's arguments on appeal were without merit. View "Bohling v. Bohling" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court determining that Shawn Zutavern and his son, Russell Zutavern, were not beneficiaries of a trust created by Shawn's father, William Zutavern, and lacked standing to assert an action against the trusts's trustee, holding that the district court erred in relying upon Neb. Rev. Stat. 30-3855(d) to conclude that the trustee exclusively owed duties to Wm. Zutavern Cattle Co. (WZCC).Shawn and Russell petitioned the district court for removal of Meredith Zutavern, William's surviving spouse, as trustee of the William R. Zutavern Revocable Trust. Shawn and Russell then moved to enjoin Meredith's potential sale of the family ranch, managed by WZCC. The district court dismissed the petition and motion for temporary injunction, finding that Shawn and Russell lacked standing because they were not named beneficiaries under the trust. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) Shawn and Russell were beneficiaries and had standing; and (2) the district court's interpretation of section 30-3855(d) was erroneous. View "In re William R. Zutavern Revocable Trust" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the probate court finding that an $875,000 charitable bequest to a nursing home facility lapsed and ordering the funds to be distributed to the residuary of the estate, holding that the bequest did not lapse.In the decedent's will, the decedent bequeathed the sum of $875,000 to Hamilton Manor, a nursing home facility in Aurora, Nebraska, owned by Hamilton County and operated through the Hamilton Manor Board of Trustees. Plaintiff, as personal representative, asked that the court find the charitable bequest had failed and order the proceeds to be administered as part of the residue of the estate. The court found that the bequest to Hamilton Manor had lapsed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the probate court erred in finding that the gift to Hamilton Manor had lapsed. View "In re Estate of Akerson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the county court declining to approve a nonjudicial settlement agreement, holding that the agreement violated a material purpose of the trust, of which Appellant was a beneficiary.Appellant, a beneficiary of a trust created by his father, now deceased, filed this action in the county court seeking approval of a trust settlement agreement entered into between Appellant, his mother, and his sister. Appellant further sought an order requiring compliance with the terms of the agreement. The trial court issued an order rejecting the agreement and finding that the agreement was nonbinding under Neb. Rev. Stat. 30-3811. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the probate court did not err in finding that the agreement altered a material purpose of the trust and in declining to approve the agreement. View "In re Trust Created by McGregor" on Justia Law

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In this estate settlement action, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the county court's dismissal of Matthew Larson's objection to a proposed schedule of distribution, holding that this Court lacked jurisdiction to address Matthew's assigned errors.Cindy Svoboda, in her capacity as personal representative of the estate of Blain Larson, filed a petition for complete settlement of the estate asking the county court to enter an order approving her final accounting and directing that she distribute assets of the estate in accordance with a proposed schedule of distribution. Matthew, Blain's son, objected to the proposed schedule of distribution, alleging that the schedule of distribution failed properly to apportion inheritance taxes. The county court dismissed the objection. Matthew appealed, assigning that the county court erred in dismissing his objection. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that Matthew did not appeal from a final order, and therefore, this Court lacked jurisdiction. View "In re Estate of Larson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the county court disallowing a claim filed by the Nebraska Department of Revenue for unpaid lifetime Nebraska income taxes and remanded the cause for further proceedings, holding that the county court failed to impose the burden of proof regarding diligent investigation and inquiry on the personal representative of the decedent's estate.The Department filed a claim with Miranda Loder, the personal representative of the decedent's estate, seeking individual income taxes for the three years preceding the decedent's death. Miranda disallowed the claim, claiming that it was untimely. The Department filed a petition with the county court for allowance of the claim, arguing that because it did not receive notice in compliance with Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-520.02 and 30-2483 it retained the right to file a claim within three years of the decedent's death under Neb. Rev. Stat. 30-2485(a)(2). At issue was whether the Department qualified as a known creditor, to whom Miranda was required to mail notice. The county court sustained Miranda's disallowance. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that the court's decision did not conform to the law because the court did not examine whether Miranda established that the Department's potential claim was not ascertainable by reasonably diligent inquiry. View "In re Estate of Loder" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the county court determining as a matter of law that testator Michael R. Brinkman's will was ambiguous with regard to the status of his daughter, Nicole Brinkman, and that Nicole was included under the will as a child, an issue, and an heir of Michael, holding that there was no error by the county court.After Michael died, Nicole sought a declaration of her rights under her father's will, claiming that she was entitled to one-half of the residual share of her father's testamentary estate. Michael's son, Seth Michael Brinkman, and the personal representative for the estate claimed that Michael had disinherited Nicole. The county court determined that the will was patently ambiguous with regard to whether Michael specifically intended to disinherit Nicole and that Nicole was entitled to inherit under the provisions of the will. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the county court correctly found that Nicole was not disinherited and that she should receive as a child, an issue, and an heir of Michael pursuant to the terms of the will. View "In re Estate of Brinkman" on Justia Law

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In this proceeding brought by the daughters of Gale Marsh to determine the amount of inheritance tax due, the Supreme Court affirmed the county court's determination of the ownership interest of Marsh's revocable trust in a limited liability company valued at more than $12 million, holding that the court did not err in determining that assignments signed by Marsh rather than the trustees were valid.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) published notice of the evidentiary hearing was not a prerequisite of the County court's subject matter jurisdiction, and even if notice was not published, the County did not suffer prejudice; (2) the county court did not abuse its discretion in overruling the County's motion for a continuance; and (3) the court's determination that ownership interests were validly transferred from the trust conformed to the law, was supported by competent evidence, and was neither arbitrary, capricious, nor unreasonable. View "In re Estate of Marsh" on Justia Law

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In this county court probate case, the Supreme Court affirmed as modified the judgment of the probate court determining that a son must reimburse his mother's estate $190,550, holding that, except as to the son's statute of limitations defense, there was no merit to the son's appeal or the estate's cross-appeal.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the county court correctly exercised jurisdiction over this proceeding; (2) there was no merit to the estate's cross-appeal; (3) except as to the defense of the statute of limitations, the son's appeal lacked merit; and (4) upon this Court's de novo review, the statute of limitations barred the estate's recovery for transactions that occurred before February 1, 2012. View "In re Estate of Adelung" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the county court requiring Webster County to pay fees and expenses to a court-appointed successor personal representative, holding that the court lacked the authority to order the County to pay the successor personal representative fees.In its order, the court found that the court-appointed successor personal representative had served for two and one-half years, that his fees were fair and reasonable, that the estate was insolvent, and that the amount owed by the heirs was likely uncollectible. The court then ordered that Webster County pay the amount of $6,455 to the personal representative. The Supreme Court vacated the order, holding that the court lacked the statutory authority to order the County pay the successor personal representative's fees. View "In re Estate of Hutton" on Justia Law