Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of Patricia and Robert Porenta’s marital home to Patricia in this case involving a fraudulent transfer of the home to Robert’s mother (Mother). During the divorce proceedings of Patricia and Robert, Robert transferred his interest in the couple’s marital home to Mother with the intent to avoid Patricia’s claim to the home. Robert subsequently died, and the divorce case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Thereafter, Patricia filed this action against Mother alleging that the transfer was fraudulent under the Utah Fraudulent Transfer Act. The district court granted the marital home to Patricia. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Utah Fraudulent Transfer Act requires an ongoing debtor-creditor relationship when a claim under the Act is filed, and the debtor-creditor relationship was in this case was not extinguished when Robert died because an ongoing debtor-creditor relationship existed between Patricia and Robert’s estate; and (2) the trial court did not err in granting Patricia the entire marital home rather than money damages, but the matter is remanded for a determination of the current status of title. View "Porenta v. Porenta" on Justia Law

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The district court correctly construed the petitioner’s petition as an attempt to modify a final estate order, making his petition untimely. Twenty-two years after the estate of Gordon Warren Womack (the Decedent) was settled, his son, Gordon Douglas Womack (Mr. Womack), filed a petition to reopen the estate. Specifically, Mr. Womack sought to interpret a provision in the Decedent’s will that left a life estate in oil, gas, and mineral properties to his children, with the remainder to his grandchildren. Mr. Womack argued that the provision had not been construed in past orders of the district court regarding the Decedent’s estate and, accordingly, was not barred by the statute of limitations. The district court denied the petition. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the petition was an untimely petition to interpret a will that had already been construed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the petition, as an attempt to reconstrue the Decedent’s will and modify the district court’s order, was severely untimely. View "In re Estate of Womack" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Don McBroom, grandson of Rufus Call Willey, founder of R.C. Willey, filed a petition with the Second District Court to review his motion under Utah R. Civ. P. 60(b) seeking to set aside two Second District Court orders relating to McBroom’s interests in the business. The orders were entered in 1973 and 1975, respectively. The district court denied McBroom’s Rule 60(b) motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying McBroom’s Rule 60(b) motion because (1) McBroom did not appropriately file for relief under paragraph (6), and, instead, his claims fall under paragraphs (3) and (4); (2) McBroom’s claims under paragraph (b)(3) are untimely; and (3) McBroom’s claims under paragraph (b)(4) fail on their merits. View "In re Estate of Rufus C. Willey" on Justia Law

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Rufus Call Willey, the founder of R.C. Willey & Son, died in 1954. The day before he died, he signed a last will and testament. In 2011, two of the decedent’s grandchildren, Helen Immelt and Don McBroom, filed a complaint against their grandmother; their uncle, his brother, and his attorney; and a bank. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants had deprived Plaintiffs of their rightful inheritance under the terms of the decedent’s will. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) all of Immelt’s claims and most of Broom’s claims were barred by the terms of a 1973 agreement; and (2) McBroom’s breach of fiduciary duty claims were circular and barred by the applicable statute of limitations. View "McBroom v. Child" on Justia Law

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William Hannifin took Willis Nakai when he was fourteen years old and raised him as his own child. Nakai's biological parents did not assert parental control over him or support him financially. Hannifin and Nakai referred to each other as father and son and held themselves out to the community as such. When Hannifin died, he was intestate and had no spouse or biological descendants. Nakai petitioned to be appointed as personal representative of Hannifin's estate, and the district court granted the petition. Max Hill, acting on behalf of himself and other collateral relatives of Hannifin, contested Nakai's claim to the estate. The trial court held that under the doctrine of equitable adoption, Nakai was entitled to inherit from Hannifin's estate as though he were Hannifin's legally adopted son. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the common law doctrine of equitable adoption has been preempted by Utah's enactment of the Probate Code; and (2) because Nakai did not qualify under the Probate Code's intestate succession provisions, the district court erred in concluding that he was entitled to inherit from Hannifin. Remanded. View "In re Estate of Hannifin" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether an attorney-client relationship that existed between a religious trust (Trust), and the Trust's attorneys at a law firm (Law Firm) continued after the Trust was reformed cy pres. Specifically, the Supreme Court was required to determine whether the district court's reformation of the Trust altered the Trust to such an extent that it could no longer be considered the same client for purposes of the attorney-client privilege and the Utah Rules of Professional Misconduct. The district court (1) ordered Law Firm to disgorge privileged attorney-client information to the reformed Trust (Reformed Trust), concluding that reformation of the Trust did not sever the attorney-client privilege; and (2) disqualified Law Firm from representing Movants in substantially related matters in which Movants' interests were materially adverse to the Reformed Trust. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Trust and Reformed Trust were not the same client, and therefore, there was no attorney-client relationship between Law Firm and the Reformed Trust; and (2) therefore, the district court erred when it disqualified Law Firm from representing Movants and ordered Law Firm to disgorge privileged attorney-client information to the special fiduciary of the Reformed Trust. View "Snow, Christensen & Martineau v. Dist. Court" on Justia Law

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The United Effort Plan Trust, a charitable trust, was established by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS church). Following allegations of trustee mismanagement, the district court removed these trustees, reformed the Trust according to secular principles, and appointed a special fiduciary to manage the Trust subject to the court's supervisory jurisdiction. The special fiduciary later sought court approval for the sale of Trust property with alleged religious significance. Members and bishops of the FLDS church (Appellants) sought to intervene in the administration proceedings, asserting that their ecclesiastical interests in the Trust entitled them to intervene. The district court denied intervention. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in determining (1) Appellants lacked a statutory right to intervene under Utah. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(1); and (2) Appellants lacked a sufficient interest in the subject matter of the litigation to intervene under rule 24(a)(2). View "In re United Effort Plan Trust" on Justia Law

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Here the Supreme Court answered a question of Utah law certified to it by the U.S. district court. The question was, "Is a signed agreement to donate preserved sperm to the donor's wife in the event of his death sufficient to constitute 'consent in a record' to being the 'parent' of a child conceived by artificial means after the donor's death under Utah intestacy law?" In this case, after she gave birth, the wife of the donor applied for social security benefits based on the donor's earnings. The Social Security Administration denied the benefits, finding that the wife had not shown the child was the donor's "child" as defined by the Social Security Act. The wife subsequently filed a petition for adjudication of paternity, and the district court adjudicated the donor to be the father of the child. On appeal, the U.S. district court certified the state law question to the Supreme Court. The Court held that an agreement leaving preserved frozen semen to the deceased donor's wife does not, without more, confer on the donor the status of a parent for purposes of social security benefits. View "Burns v. Astrue" on Justia Law

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Here the Supreme Court answered a question of Utah law certified to it by the U.S. district court. The question was, "Is a signed agreement to donate preserved sperm to the donor's wife in the event of his death sufficient to constitute 'consent in a record' to being the 'parent' of a child conceived by artificial means after the donor's death under Utah intestacy law?" In this case, after she gave birth, the wife of the donor applied for social security benefits based on the donor's earnings. The Social Security Administration denied the benefits, finding that the wife had not shown the child was the donor's "child" as defined by the Social Security Act. The wife subsequently filed a petition for adjudication of paternity, and the district court adjudicated the donor to be the father of the child. On appeal, the U.S. district court certified the state law question to the Supreme Court. The Court held that an agreement leaving preserved frozen semen to the deceased donor's wife does not, without more, confer on the donor the status of a parent for purposes of social security benefits. View "Burns v. Astrue" on Justia Law

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In this case the Supreme Court was asked to answer a certified question about whether the Court's discretionary review of a petition for extraordinary writ and subsequent dismissal on laches grounds is a decision on the merits when it is accompanied by a written opinion, such that later adjudication of the same claim is barred. The question stemmed from litigation surrounding a probate court's reformation and administration of a charitable religious trust. An association of members of the church and beneficiaries of the trust (the FLDSA) filed a complaint in federal court. Later, the FLDSA filed an extraordinary writ petition in state court asserting claims substantially similar to those in the federal case. The federal court stayed its proceedings. The Utah Supreme Court held that the FLDSA's claims were barred on laches grounds and dismissed the petition. When the federal case reached the court of appeals, the court certified to the Supreme Court its question about Utah preclusion law. The Court answered the certified question in the affirmative, holding that a decision like the one reached in state court was a decision "on the merits" for res judicata purposes and would preclude a subsequent action on the same claims between the same parties. View "Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. Horne" on Justia Law