Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court
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This case arose from the tragic death of a teenager Ashlie Bunch. Ashlie’s adoptive father, Steven Bunch (Bunch) brought an action under RCW 4.24.010, against the treatment center where Ashlie committed suicide, McGraw Residential Center. Ashley’s adoptive mother, Amy Kozel, sought to join the lawsuit as a necessary party under CR 19(a). The superior court denied Kozel’s motion and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Finding that Kozel satisfied statutory standing requirements and CR 19(a), the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Estate of Bunch v. McGraw Residential Ctr." on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court involved whether the children of a decedent's predeceased spouse could be considered "stepchildren" under the wrongful death recovery statute. The decedent Audrey Blessing and the children's father were married in 1964. The children's father died in 1994, and Blessing died in 2007. Her estate brought a wrongful death suit, arguing that the children ceased being her step children when their father died. The trial court relied on the close relationship the children and decedent maintained up until her death, and ruled that the children were indeed "stepchildren" and could be beneficiaries in the wrongful death action. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the stepchild/stepparent relationship legally ended before Blessing's death. Finding that the statutory term "stepchildren" was undefined in the statute, the Supreme Court held that which parent died first was irrelevant to whether a stepchild could maintain that status. "Any concerns over the result or regarding which stepchildren should be entitled to recover in a wrongful death suit are more appropriately factored into any damages determination." View "In re Estate of Blessing" on Justia Law

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As part of the distribution of property following the dissolution of Kenneth Treiger and J’Amy Lyn Owens’ marriage, a home belonging to them (the Maplewood property) was sold, and, pursuant to a trust agreement, the proceeds were deposited in a trust account. Bank of America NA (the Bank), which had obtained a writ of attachment on the Maplewood property, filed a declaratory judgment action to determine each party’s rights to the proceeds. This presented two issues for the Supreme Court's review: (1) to determine whether the “Supplemental Decree of Dissolution” (Supplemental Decree) established a lien on the Maplewood property in favor of Treiger; and (2) to determine whether various documents were valid judgments. Upon review, the Court concluded that the Supplemental Decree established an equitable lien on the Maplewood property in favor of Treiger in the amount of one-half of the proceeds of the court-ordered sale of the property. Furthermore, Documents "1375" and "13761" were valid judgments entitling Treiger to further awards but that Document "1370" was properly not given separate effect. Accordingly, the Court affirm in part and reversed in part the decision of the Court of Appeals.