Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Nevada
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The Supreme Court held that the district court erred by disqualifying a district court judge because her impartiality could reasonably be questioned after she reviewed notes, produced in discovery, that the Supreme Court later determined to be privileged, holding that the district court erred by disqualifying Judge Sturman.Lawrence and Heidi Canarelli, along with attorney Edward Lubbers, served as former trustees of an irrevocable trust. Lubbers, who later became sole trustee, entered into a purchase agreement to sell the trust's ownership in the former trustees' business entities. Scott Canarelli petitioned to compel Lubbers to provide an accounting related to the purchase agreement. Lubbers died before Scott could depose Lubbers. Because the former trustees had disclosed documents containing Lubbers' notes, they attempted to claw back the documents. Judge Sturman allowed Scott to retain portions of the notes, but the Supreme Court held that the notes were privileged and undiscoverable. The former trustees moved to disqualify Judge Sturman as biased because she reviewed the privileged notes. The motion was denied. The Supreme Court granted writ relief, holding that the district court improperly disqualified Judge Sturman where the record did not show that Judge Sturman's review of the notes created bias or prejudice against the former trustees that would prevent fair judgment. View "Canarelli v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting attorney fees in this guardianship case where the guardian requested the protected person's estate to pay attorney fees, holding that the award was proper and that the court acted within its discretion in setting the amount of the award.The fees at issue stemmed from a period in 2019 when Donna Simmons and Robyn Friedman served as temporary co-guardians for their mother, Kathleen June Jones. The district court formally discharged Donna and Robyn upon the appointment of Kimberly Jones as general guardian. Donna and Robyn sought attorney fees payable from Jones's estate. The district court granted the request. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the award was proper because the district court applied the relevant Nev. Rev. Stat. 159.344 factors and reasonably found that Donna and Robyn's complex temporary guardianship warranted compensation; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining the amount of fees to award. View "In re Guardianship of Jones" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying St. Jude children's Research Hospital's petition to probate Theodore Scheide, Jr.'s lost will, holding that St. Jude met its burden to show the will was in legal existence and satisfied Nev. Rev. Stat. 136.240(3)'s requirement that two witnesses prove the will's provisions.Theodore's original will disinherited his biological son, Chip, and left his estate to St. Jude. After Theodore died, the original will could not be found, so St. Jude petitioned to probate the lost will. Chip argued that Theodore revoked the will by destruction and that St. Jude's witnesses did not satisfy section 136.240(3). The district court denied the petition, leaving Chip free to inherit the estate through intestate succession. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the evidence supported the conclusion that the will was in legal existence at Theodore's death; and (2) section 136.240(3)'s two-witness requirement was satisfied in this case. View "In re Estate of Scheide" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court concluding that a residual beneficiary's objection to the second and third amendments to the Ella E. Horst Revocable Trust was time-barred under Nev. Rev. Stat. 164.021(4), holding that the objection was timely.Following the settlor's death, Respondent, the trustee, sent notice of irrevocability to the Trust's beneficiaries pursuant to section 164.021. The notice included copies of the original Trust and the Trust's first three amendments. Sixteen months later, Respondent petitioned to confirm a purported fourth amendment to the Trust. Appellant, a residual beneficiary, filed an objection, alleging that the second through fourth amendments were the product of undue influence. The district court confirmed the original Trust and its first three amendments, concluding that Appellant's objection to the amendments was time-barred under section 164.021(4), which provides a window of 120 days from service of the notice of irrevocability for bringing an action to challenge a trust's validity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) to trigger the 120-day limitation period under section 164.021(4), the trustee's notice must include all trust provisions pertaining to the beneficiary; (2) because Respondent's initial notice to beneficiaries did not include the purported fourth amendment, the notice did not trigger the 120-day limitation period; and (3) therefore, Appellant's objection was timely. View "In re Estate of Horst Revocable Trust" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a creditor of a settlor may bring a claim against a settlor of a trust so long as the settlor's interest in the trust is not solely discretionary and there is not a spendthrift provision precluding payment of the claim and that where a trust provides broad discretion to its trustees, the trustees may approve a creditor's claim against the trust.At issue was whether a creditor may satisfy its claim against the settlor's trust where the trust does not specifically provide for payment of the claim but the trustees approve the payment. The district court ordered frozen trust funds be released to pay the creditor. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) both parties had standing to maintain this action, and the appeal is not moot; (2) the trust allowed for payment of the creditor's fees; (3) the creditor satisfied the procedural requirements to file a creditor's claim; and (4) the trustees had broad discretion to approve the creditor's claim. View "In re Christian Family Trust" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the district court confirming Third Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to a Survivor's Trust and denying a challenge to the settlor's capacity, holding that the district court failed to comply with the requirements of Nev. Rev. Stat. 164.015.Here, the settlor's daughter, Amy Wilson, challenged the settlor's capacity to execute amendments to the Trust in accordance with Nev. Rev. Stat. 164.015. Under the statute, the district court must hold an evidentiary hearing, make factual findings, and issue an order binding in rem on the trust and appealable to the Supreme Court. The district court entered an order denying the objections and confirming the amendments. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred when it did not hold an evidentiary hearing or provide factual finding regarding the settlor's mental capacity prior to approving the amendments to the trusts. View "In re Frasier Family Trust" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition sought by Petitioners challenging a district court order compelling the production of allegedly privileged documents in a trust dispute with a beneficiary, holding that the documents were undiscoverable and that this Court expressly declines to recognize the fiduciary exception to the attorney-client privilege in Nevada.Petitioners, former trustees, challenged a district court order compelling a group of documents containing a former trustee's notes related to a phone call with counsel and a second group of documents containing the former trustee's notes taken during a meeting with other trustees, counsel, the opposing party, and an independent appraiser. The Supreme Court held that the district court acted in excess of jurisdiction in compelling the partial production of the disputed documents because (1) the first group of documents were protected by the attorney-client privilege; and (2) the second group of documents were protected by the work-product doctrine. View "Canarelli v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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In this dispute between a trust's trustee and beneficiary the Supreme Court granted the trustee's original writ petition seeking a writ of prohibition or, alternatively, mandamus on the grounds that a discovery order was improper as a matter of law, holding that neither the trust instrument nor Nevada trust law required the trustee to consider the beneficiary's other assets before making distributions from the trust.This case concerned three trusts - the Raggio Trust and its two subtrusts, the Marital Trust and the Credit Shelter Trust. The Raggio Trust named Trustee as the trustee and life beneficiary of the subtrusts. Respondents were named as remainder beneficiaries of the Marital Trust. Respondents sued Trustee alleging that Trustee improperly distributed funds from the Marital Trust and paid herself distributions in amounts that were more than necessary for her proper support, care and maintenance. To prove their claim, Respondents sought discovery of Trustee's accounting and distributions of the Credit Shelter Trust. The district court granted the motion to compel discovery. The Supreme Court granted Trustee's petition for a writ of prohibition, holding that neither Nev. Rev. Stat. 163.4176 nor the Raggio Trust required Trustee to consider her other assets in making distributions from the Marital Trust, and therefore, information about those assets was irrelevant. View "Raggio v. Second Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court concluding that a secondary beneficiary was entitled to property in a trust created by Paul and decedent Chari Colman, Paul's ex-wife, holding that the plain language of Nev. Rev. Stat. 111.781(1) automatically revokes any revocable disposition from one spouse to another upon divorce.While they were married, Paul and Chari lived in a home Chari owned as her separate property. Later, Chari transferred the property to the family trust but did not change its status as her separate property. The trust named Paul and Chari as the trust's primary beneficiaries and provided that, after their deaths, Tonya Collier was the beneficiary of the property. One month after Paul and Chari divorced, Chari died. Based on section 111.781(1), Collier filed a petition seeking to confirm her status as beneficiary to the property. The district court ordered the property transferred to Collier. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err by applying section 111.781 and concluding that it required revocation of Paul's interest in the property; and (2) substantial evidence supported the finding that the property remained Chari's separate property throughout the marriage. View "In re Colman Family Revocable Living Trust" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court overruled Barto v. Weishaar, 692 P.2d 498 (Nev. 1985), and its conclusion that a suggestion of death emanating from the deceased party must identify the deceased party's successor or representative to trigger the deadline set forth in Nev. R. Civ. P. 25(a)(1) to file a motion to substitute, holding that Barto expanded rule 25(a)(1) beyond its plain language.James McNamee was sued for damages. During the litigation, McNamee died. Counsel for McNamee filed a suggestion of death without naming a successor or representative. Thereafter, the probate court appointed Susan Clokey as special administrator to defend the negligence suit. McNamee's attorney later filed a motion to substitute Clokey as the party defendant in the negligence suit. The district court denied the motion and named Fred Waid as general administrator of McNamee's estate. McNamee's attorney moved to dismiss the personal injury case because his motion to substitute had been denied. The district court denied the motion and substituted Waid as the defendant in place of McNamee. The Supreme Court held (1) a suggestion of death that is properly served triggers the deadline for filing a motion to substitute regardless of whether it identifies the deceased party's successor or representative; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Petitioner's motion to substitute. View "McNamee v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law