Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
Smith v. Vanguard Group Inc.
Donald initially listed no beneficiary who would take any funds remaining in his individual retirement account at his death. In 2013, he was hospitalized. During his hospitalization, someone designated his wife, JoAnn, as beneficiary. When Donald was released from the hospital, he sought a temporary restraining order and injunction. The spouses stipulated to an injunction ordering that neither party engage in any transaction regarding the parties’ financial accounts. That injunction action was later combined with a dissolution action. While still bound by the injunction, Donald changed the beneficiary designation to his sons. After the combined actions were dismissed, Donald died. JoAnn filed suit, alleging that the beneficiary change violated the injunction so that the change was void. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of the suit. The injunction did not mention changes of beneficiaries; the change of beneficiary did not vest during the pendency of the injunction or the combined underlying actions. The change of ownership did not occur until after the injunction was dismissed. The circuit court could have distributed whatever amount of the IRA that it found equitable had the dissolution action proceeded to a final judgment. An individual does not, however, have the same interest in her spouse’s property at probate that she does at dissolution. View "Smith v. Vanguard Group Inc." on Justia Law
Parmar v. Madigan
In 2011, Dr. Parmar died, leaving an estate valued at more than $5 million. Plaintiff was appointed as executor of the estate. At the time of Parmar’s death, the estate was not subject to taxation under the Estate Tax Act, 35 ILCS 405/1. Two days after Parmar’s death, the state revived the tax for the estates of persons who died after December 31, 2010. Plaintiff filed the estate’s Illinois estate tax return and paid the tax liability. Plaintiff eventually filed a second amended return, claiming that the amendment to the Estate Tax Act did not apply to his mother’s estate and no tax was due, then filed a purported class action challenging the retroactivity and constitutionality of the Act. Plaintiff requested a declaration that the Estate Tax Act applies only to the estates of persons who died on or after the amendment’s effective date or that the Estate Tax Act is unconstitutional. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the suit’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction; because the complaint seeks a money judgment against the state, it is barred under the State Lawsuit Immunity Act (745 ILCS 5/1). The complaint must be filed in the Illinois Court of Claims. The damages that plaintiff seeks go beyond the exclusive purpose and limits of the Estate Tax Refund Fund and potentially subject the state to liability. Plaintiff could have filed suit in the circuit court under the Protest Moneys Act (30 ILCS 230/1). View "Parmar v. Madigan" on Justia Law
In re Estate of Shelton
Successor agent owed no fiduciary duties to principal before occurrence of contingencies stated in power of attorney.Ruth was named as executor of the estates of her parents, Thomas and Doris, following their deaths in 2012. As executor, Ruth filed two actions on behalf of the estates against her brother, Rodney, involving quitclaim deeds signed by Thomas in 2011 which conveyed farmland to Rodney. At the time of these transactions, Rodney was designated as the successor agent under both Thomas’s and Doris’s powers of attorney. The estates alleged that Rodney breached his fiduciary and statutory duties as an agent by personally benefitting from the real estate transactions. The Grundy County circuit court dismissed both actions. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal of the action involving Thomas’s estate and reversed with respect to Doris’s estate. The Illinois Supreme Court concluded that both actions were properly dismissed. The plain language of Thomas’s power of attorney appointed Rodney as agent only upon the occurrence of a specific contingency. Rodney’s authority to act on behalf of Thomas did not arise until Doris died, became incompetent, or became unwilling to act as an agent. Until that time, Rodney owed no fiduciary duties to Thomas. View "In re Estate of Shelton" on Justia Law