Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint alleging that defendant, a superior court judge, violated plaintiff's due process rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Plaintiff, an heir to the Disney fortune, alleged that defendant violated his rights by appointing a guardian without notice or a hearing, and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by commenting (apparently with questionable factual basis) that plaintiff had Down syndrome.The panel concluded that most of plaintiff's claims are now moot after defendant removed the guardian ad litem and relinquished this case to another judge. The panel also concluded that, while defendant's statement may have been inaccurate and inappropriate, any claim challenging it is barred by judicial immunity. Finally, the district court did not err in denying leave to amend where all of plaintiff's proposed amendments were futile. View "Lund v. Cowan" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following questions to the Montana Supreme Court: 1. Under Montana law, for a claim that accrued prior to the effective date of Mont. Code Ann. 27-1-308 (2021), may a plaintiff in a survival action recover the reasonable value of medical care and related services when the costs of such care or services are written-off under the provider's charitable care program? 2. For a claim that accrued prior to the effective date of Mont. Code Ann. 27-1-308 (2021), does a charitable care write-off qualify as a collateral source within the meaning of section 27-1-307? If so, does a charitable care write-off qualify for the "gifts or gratuitous contributions" exception under section 27-1-307(1)(c)? View "Gibson v. United States" on Justia Law

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Under 26 U.S.C. 2036(a)(1), a grantor's interest in a grantor-retained annuity trust (GRAT) is a sufficient "string" that requires the property interest to be included in the gross estate. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the IRS in an action brought by plaintiff, challenging the inclusion of her mother's GRAT in a gross estate for purposes of the estate tax. The panel explained that the annuity flowing from a GRAT falls within the class intended to be treated as substitutes for wills by section 2036(a)(1). In this case, the panel held that the grantor retains enjoyment of a GRAT and thus it is properly included in the gross estate. Finally, even if plaintiff's challenges to 26 C.F.R. § 20.2036-1(c)(2), which includes the formula the IRS uses to calculate the portion of the property includable under section 2036(a) were not waived, the formula would not apply in this case. View "Badgley v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Dansker obtained an $83,000 home loan to purchase Las Vegas real estate. In 2009, Dansker died. No probate proceedings were instituted. In 2011, the neighborhood HOA began foreclosure proceedings and sold the property to LN. The priority lien-holder was Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The district court held that LN had not identified any legal representative of Dansker’s estate, and since no such person was identified and joined, complete diversity existed. The district court dismissed and denied a motion to substitute Dansker’s daughter.The Ninth Circuit vacated. Diversity did exist at the time of removal. The trial judge did not abuse his discretion by denying a motion to substitute, so diversity jurisdiction continued to exist. The lawsuit was against Chase and Dansker. Dansker, being dead, had no legal existence, and, therefore, was not a citizen of any state. Jurisdiction exists where the federal entity is not the record beneficiary on the deed of trust but can prove its property interest through admissible evidence.The Federal Foreclosure Bar, which provides that FHFA's property shall not be subject to foreclosure without FHFA's consent, applies and is fatal to LN’s case on the merits. View "LN Management, LLC Series 5664 Divot V. JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A." on Justia Law

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Borrower filed suit under federal and state regulations for consumer credit transactions against the lenders, alleging that the lender's loan disclosures were materially inconsistent with the terms of the loan. At issue in this appeal was whether the loan the borrower obtained to make repairs to a personal residence occupied by her niece should be considered a consumer credit transaction. The district court held that, because the borrower did not intend to live in the house, this was not a consumer credit transaction.The Ninth Circuit held that, under applicable statutes and regulations, a trust created by an individual for tax and estate planning purposes, like the one in this case, does not lose all state and federal consumer disclosure protections when it seeks to finance repairs to a personal residence for the trust beneficiary, rather than for the trustee herself. Therefore, the transaction remains a consumer credit transaction. Because the district court erred in construing the statutes in this case too narrowly, the panel reversed the district court's dismissal and remanded for further proceedings. View "Gilliam v. Levine" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's exercise of diversity jurisdiction over an action stemming from the foreclosure of plaintiff's property. The panel held that the Supreme Court's decision in Navarro Savings Ass'n v. Lee, 446 U.S. 458, 458 (1980), which held that a trustee is a real party to the controversy for purposes of diversity jurisdiction when he possesses certain customary powers to hold, manage, and dispose of assets for the benefit of others, was still controlling and the Supreme Court's decision in Americold Realty Trust v. ConAgra Foods, Inc., 136 S. Ct. 1012 (2016), did not upset the holding in Navarro or the panel's precedent. In this case, HSBC and the other defendants were not, like plaintiff, citizens of California and therefore there was complete diversity. Accordingly, the court properly exercised diversity jurisdiction. View "Demarest v. HSBC Bank USA" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the tax court's decision to sustain a deficiency against an estate for overstating the amount of a charitable deduction and to sustain an accuracy-related penalty. In Ahmanson Foundation v. United States, 674 F.2d 761, 772 (9th Cir. 1981), the panel underscored the principle that the testator may only be allowed a deduction for estate tax purposes for what was actually received by the charity. Applying Ahmanson, the panel held that the tax court correctly considered the difference between the deduction and the property actually received by the charity due to the executor's manipulation of the redemption appraisal value. The panel also found nothing in the record that suggested that the tax court's findings were clearly erroneous. Finally, there was no error in the tax court's holding that the commissioner properly imposed the accuracy-related penalty under I.R.C. 6662(a). View "Dieringer v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the Oregon Supreme Court: Under Oregon law, does a constructive trust arise at the moment of purchase of a property using fraudulently-obtained funds, or does it arise when a court orders that a constructive trust be imposed as a remedy? View "Wadsworth v. Talmage" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that the general partnership interests at issue qualified as securities under federal law and that defendant violated federal securities law by selling unregistered securities and defrauding his investors. In this case, the general partnership interests at issue were stripped of the hallmarks of a general partnership and marketed as passive investments.The panel held that, in light of defendant's death during the pendency of the appeal and the executor replaced as the name party, as well as intervening Supreme Court precedent, several aspects of the district court's judgment require vacatur and remand. Therefore, the panel vacated the civil penalty order and the disgorgement order, remanding for further proceedings. View "USSEC v. Schooler" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following questions of state law to the California Supreme Court: California Probate Code 249.5 provides that, for probate purposes, "a child of the decedent conceived and born after the death of the decedent shall be deemed to have been born in the lifetime of the decedent if the child or his or her representative proves by clear and convincing evidence that," inter alia, "[t]he decedent, in writing, specifies that his or her genetic material shall be used for the posthumous conception of a child of the decedent." Cal. Prob. Code 249.5(a). Does a writing that specifies that some genetic material of the decedent shall be so used satisfy 249.5(a), regardless whether the genetic material specified in the putative writing includes the genetic material actually used to conceive the claimant child? Or must the genetic material identified in the putative writing include the genetic material actually used to conceive the claimant child? View "Delzer v. Berryhill" on Justia Law