Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim, holding that Plaintiff's claims were not entitled to judicial review. Plaintiff, in his capacity as trustee for the F2 Liquidating Trust, filed a complaint against the SEC asserting two claims under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq. The district court dismissed the case, determining (1) the right to judicial review of the SEC order at issue had been waived as part of a settlement between the SEC and F-Squared Investments, Inc., a former investment advisory firm; and (2) in any event, the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Congress vested the courts of appeals with exclusive jurisdiction over challenges to SEC orders. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court correctly decided that the complaint failed to state a claim inasmuch as F-Squared waived judicial review by any court. View "Jalbert v. U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit certified to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) an unresolved question under both state common law and state statutes concerning whether a judgment creditor of the settlor's estate may reach and apply assets in an irrevocable spendthrift trust after the death of the self-settlor of the trust, concluding that this case posed questions better answered by the SJC. Plaintiff brought this action against a Massachusetts spendthrift trust created by his parents' murderer, Donald Belanger, to enforce an Arizona wrongful death judgment against Belanger's estate. The district court entered judgment for Plaintiff, holding (1) Plaintiff had satisfied the elements for a reach and apply action required by Massachusetts law, and (2) under Massachusetts law, a self-settled trust cannot be used to shield one's assets from creditors even where the trust has a spendthrift provision and the trustee has made no distributions to the settlor prior to his death. At issue on appeal was whether the district court erred in holding that Plaintiff was entitled under Massachusetts law to reach and apply the irrevocable trust assets to satisfy the wrongful death judgment. Because Massachusetts law does not clearly answer the question upon which the disposition of this case depends the First Circuit certified the question to the SJC. View "De Prins v. Michaeles" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing the complaint filed by Hoff Stauffer on behalf of the estate of Carlton Stauffer, his father, against the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) alleging that the IRS improperly denied his April 2013 for his father's 2006 tax refund as untimely, holding that the Estate's arguments on appeal were unavailing. Before the district court, the Estate argued that the applicable statute of limitations for the filing of a tax refund claim was tolled due to Carlton's financial disability. The district court disagreed, concluding that because Hoff held a durable power of attorney (DPA) authorizing him to act on behalf of Carlton in financial matters the limitations period was not tolled. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the DPA qualified Hoff as a person authorized to act on behalf of Carlton in financial matters for the purposes of I.R.C. 6511(h)(2)(B); and (2) there was no clear error in the court's factual finding that Hoff never renounced the DPA. View "Stauffer v. Internal Revenue Service" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for Plaintiffs in this alleging that certain assets should have been distributed to the estate of the decedent in this case, holding that the district court improperly granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs. In 2003, the decedent established an individual retirement account (IRA) with Mesirow Financial (Mesirow IRA) and designated Alyssa Jane D’Amore, his then-wife, as beneficiary. The couple divorced, but the decedent never revoked the beneficiary of the designation. The decedent later transferred the majority of his Mesirow IRA assets to a TD Ameritrade IRA. Upon the decedent’s death, Mesirow distributed the remaining assets in the Mesirow IRA to D’Amore. Plaintiffs, the primary beneficiary of the decedent and the executor of the decedent’s estate, filed suit against D’Amore, alleging that the Mesirow assets should have instead been distributed to the decedent’s estate. The district court granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs. The First Circuit reversed and remanded with directions to enter summary judgment for D’Amore, holding that because a request to transfer all assets was never made, the beneficiary designation was never revoked and D’Amore was entitled to the remaining assets in the account upon the decedent’s death. View "Cooper v. D'Amore" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for Plaintiffs in this alleging that certain assets should have been distributed to the estate of the decedent in this case, holding that the district court improperly granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs. In 2003, the decedent established an individual retirement account (IRA) with Mesirow Financial (Mesirow IRA) and designated Alyssa Jane D’Amore, his then-wife, as beneficiary. The couple divorced, but the decedent never revoked the beneficiary of the designation. The decedent later transferred the majority of his Mesirow IRA assets to a TD Ameritrade IRA. Upon the decedent’s death, Mesirow distributed the remaining assets in the Mesirow IRA to D’Amore. Plaintiffs, the primary beneficiary of the decedent and the executor of the decedent’s estate, filed suit against D’Amore, alleging that the Mesirow assets should have instead been distributed to the decedent’s estate. The district court granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs. The First Circuit reversed and remanded with directions to enter summary judgment for D’Amore, holding that because a request to transfer all assets was never made, the beneficiary designation was never revoked and D’Amore was entitled to the remaining assets in the account upon the decedent’s death. View "Cooper v. D'Amore" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded this case involving the ownership of the Touro Synagogue building and associated land and rimonim used in the worship in the Touro Synagogue. Congregation Jeshuat Isreal (CJI) brought a declaratory judgment against Congregation Shearith Israel (CSI), and CSI counterclaimed. The district court concluded that CJI was owner of the rimonim and that CSI was owner of the building and real estate subject to a trust for CJI as representing the practitioners of Judaism in Newport, Rhode Island. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the only reasonable conclusions to be drawn from the parties’ own agreements determining property rights by instruments customarily considered by civil courts are that CSI owns both the rimonim and the real property free of any trust or other obligations to CJI except as lessor to CJI as holdover lessee. View "Congregation Jeshuat Israel v. Congregation Shearith Israel" on Justia Law

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This case concerned defects in the execution of two life insurance annuity polices that the decedent purchased through National Western Life Insurance Co. Plaintiffs, the decedent’s wife and children, sued National Western seeking a declaration that the policies were void and a return of the premiums paid by the decedent. National Western filed a motion to dismiss because Plaintiffs failed to join a necessary party - the decedent’s brother, who was named under both policies as the sole beneficiary - even though National Western had already paid him. The district court denied the motion, ruling that the beneficiary at issue was not “required to be joined if feasible” under Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a). The court then granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs. The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court, holding that the sole beneficiary of the annuities was required to be joined if feasible under rule 19(a). The court remanded the case to the district court to determine whether it was equitable for the case to proceed without him. View "Maldonado-Vinas v. National Western Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law