Articles Posted in Wyoming Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellants’ motion to recover attorney fees and costs incurred in this litigation. Three sisters filed claims, counterclaims, and cross-claims in this dispute over the numerous entities their parents formed to manage their significant holdings for the benefit of their daughters. The district court sorted out the claims after a bench trial. Appellants then filed a motion to recover costs and attorney fees. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, when this case is viewed as a whole, the district court could reasonably conclude that Appellants were not prevailing parties. View "Acorn v. Moncecchi" on Justia Law

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In this probate action, the district court erred by refusing to grant Appellants’ Wyo. R. Civ. P. 40.1 motion for peremptory disqualification of the assigned judge. Appellants, the surviving children of Robert Meeker, contested Meeker’s will, which left the bulk of his estate to Appellee. Appellants filed a petition to set aside the probate of the will and also filed a motion for change of judge under the peremptory disqualification provision in rule 40.1. The judge assigned to the probate had presided over an earlier, related guardianship/conservatorship action. The district court denied the motion for peremptory disqualification as untimely and granted summary judgment to Appellee on the will contest. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Appellants timely filed their motion to peremptorily disqualify the assigned judge when they filed it on the same day they filed their will contest, and therefore, the district court erred when it denied Appellants’ motion for peremptory disqualification; and (2) accordingly, the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellee was void. View "Gaston v. Wagner" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment action against the Teton County Assessor seeking a declaration that the trusts for which it acted as trustee were charitable trusts within the meaning of Wyo. Stat. Ann. 4-10-406(a) and were exempt from taxation under Wyo. Stat. Ann. 39-11-105(xix). The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the primary jurisdiction doctrine made dismissal of the action appropriate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because Plaintiff failed to exhaust its administrative remedies before filing a complaint in the district court, the district court properly dismissed the complaint; and (2) to the extent Plaintiff may have properly invoked the district court’s jurisdiction the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the primary jurisdiction doctrine warranted dismissal of the action in favor of review through the administrative process. View "Thomas Gilcrease Foundation v. Cavallaro" on Justia Law

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Bud Federer, who died in 2003, enjoyed a successful career as a businessman in Wyoming. In 2011, Margie, Bud's wife, moved to an assisted living facility. During Bud’s life and after he died, the family created numerous entities to hold and manage their business interests and to pass Bud and Margie’s estate to their three daughters. The sisters, however, disagreed about money, and those disagreements led to accusations of misconduct and breaches of the duties that attached to their roles as trustees and LLC managers. The sisters engaged in litigation involving claims, counterclaims, and cross-claims. The district court sorted out these claims after a bench trial. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) the district court’s conclusion that Dino Moncecchi did not breach his fiduciary duties to an LLC was not clearly erroneous; (2) the removal of Rebecca Shwen as trustee of the Margie Jean Federer Revocable Trust was not based on findings that were clearly erroneous; (3) the district court incorrectly applied the burden of proof for establishing damages resulting from Rebecca’s breach of fiduciary duty; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it awarded attorney fees against Rebecca for filing a frivolous claim. View "Acorn v. Moncecchi" on Justia Law

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Appellant filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction against his father, his father’s wife, and a bank serving as trustee of his father’s trust (collectively, Appellees), seeking to prevent Appellees from selling the Willey Ranch, which was held in the trust. Specifically, Appellant alleged that selling the ranch amounted to a breach of contract and that his father’s wife exerted undue influence over his father to convince him to sell the ranch and to amend the trust provisions to remove Appellant from the trust. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees with respect to the breach of contract claim. The undue influence claims proceeded to trial. After a trial, the jury rejected Appellant’s undue influence claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in instructing the jury regarding the elements of undue influence; (2) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on the breach of contract claim; and (3) Appellant’s remaining issues on appeal were either waived or not supported by cogent legal argument or pertinent authority. View "Willey v. Willey" on Justia Law

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Walker Inman executed an inter vivos trust and a last will and testament. After Mr. Inman died, Daralee Inman, his wife, petitioned the district court for probate of Mr. Inman’s estate. Two years after the probate was opened, Wyoming Trust Company (WTC) filed a petition seeking to be appointed as the conservator of the minor children in the probate action. The district court granted the petition. WTC, as conservator for the minor children, filed a separate complaint for declaratory relief and damages, together with a petition to remove trustees, alleging six causes of action. The cases proceeded simultaneously over the next two years. The district court later ordered the cases consolidated. The court then issued its decision and order, interpreting a trust provision and holding that the Wyoming Probate Code governs the transfer of property to the trust but making no final determination of either of the two consolidated matters. Daralee Inman appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the Court lacked jurisdiction to decide the appeal because the order was not a final appealable order. View "In re Estate of Inman" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, as personal representative of the Estate of Theodore Meiners, filed an action seeking enforcement of a divorce settlement agreement entered into between Theodore and his former wife, Colleen Meiners. The district court granted summary judgment to Colleen on some claims and to Plaintiff on other claims. The district court certified its ruling as final pursuant to Wyo. R. Civ. P. 54(b). Plaintiff appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed Plaintiff’s appeal, holding that the district court’s summary judgment ruling was not properly certified as a final, appealable order pursuant to Rule 54(b). Remanded with directions. View "Meiners v. Meiners" on Justia Law

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Alfred and Pegge Cooksley placed their ranch and other property in a revocable charitable trust (Trust) that named Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Kalif Children’s Travel Fund as beneficiaries and First Northern Bank of Wyoming as the successor trustee. The year 2100 was specified as the Trust’s termination date. After Pegge and Jack died, Shriners filed a petition seeking termination of the Trust and an immediate distribution of the Trust assets. Shriners separately filed a complaint against First Northern Bank alleging that it had breached its fiduciary duty to the Trust beneficiaries. The district court ruled against Shriners and directed Shriners to pay First Northern Bank its attorney fees and costs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in ruling that the Trust does not violate the rule against perpetuities; and (2) the district court did not err in denying Shriners’ claims against First Northern Bank and awarding attorney fees and costs. View "Shriners Hosps. for Children v. First N. Bank of Wyoming" on Justia Law

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Imogene and Clyde Snell were the parents of William Snell and Clyde Allen Snell (Allen). William and Allen were remainder beneficiaries of a revocable trust executed by Imogene. The trust contained a choice of law provision directing that it be construed and governed by the laws of Arkansas. After Imogene’s death, William filed an action for a trust accounting from Clyde, the sole trustee and current beneficiary of the trust. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of William and ordered Clyde to produce certain trust documents. Clyde appealed. The Supreme Court exercised its discretion to convert Clyde’s notice of appeal to a petition for writ of review and granted the writ to resolve the legal issue of whether William was entitled to an accounting, holding (1) the district court’s summary judgment order was not a final appealable order; and (2) the district court correctly determined that, under Arkansas law, William was entitled to an accounting. Remanded to the district court for immediate release of the records. View "Snell v. Snell" on Justia Law

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P. Richard Meyer executed a last will and testament in 2008, bequeathing all of his property to his fourth wife, Miracles Meyer, and naming her as his personal representative. The will complied with the form for self-proving wills set forth in Wyo. Stat. Ann. 2-6-114. Mr. Meyer died in 2013. When Mrs. Meyer filed a petition to probate the will, Kelly Fanning, Mr. Meyer’s child from a previous marriage, filed a petition to revoke the order admitting the will to probate on the grounds that the witnesses could not recall having seen Mr. Meyer or each other sign the will. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Fanning, concluding that the will was not a self-proving will and that the will could not be proven. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred when it concluded that, in all cases where a will is not self-proving, the proponent must establish that the witnesses signed the will in the presence of each other and in the presence of the testator. Remanded. View "Meyer v. Fanning" on Justia Law