Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wyoming Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court concluding that the Successor Trustee of The Phillip G. Jackson Family Revocable Trust lacked authority to sell real property held by the Trust for the care, maintenance and support of the surviving settlor, holding that the district court did not err as a matter of law.The Successor Trustee filed a complaint for declaratory judgment requesting a ruling that he could sell real property held by the Trust for the support of the surviving settlor, Phillip Jackson. The district court found that the Successor Trustee had no authority to eject Candyce Montoya, who had resided rent-free at the property for over forty years, from the property and to sell it for the benefit of Mr. Jackson during Montoya's life because the Trust granted Montoya a life interest in the property. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Montoya's interest in the property will not vest until the death of the remaining settlor; and (2) therefore, the Successor Trustee may sell the property for the benefit of the remaining settlor in accordance with the terms of the Trust. View "Jackson v. Montoya" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from the district court's grant of summary judgment to Appellee, holding that because the district court's order granting summary judgment did not resolve all outstanding issues before it, it was not an appealable order under Rule 1.05 of the Wyoming Rules of Appellate Procedure (W.R.A.P.).Michael G. McDill, as trustee of the Phyllis V. McDill Revocable Trust, filed a petition for instructions seeking confirmation that the Trust's no contest clause prohibited Thomas P. McDill, Jr. from taking under the Trust. The district court granted Michael's motion for summary judgment and his petition for instructions. Thomas appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding (1) the district court's order granting Michael's summary judgment motion was not an appealable order under W.R.A.P. 1.05, and therefore, this Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal; and (2) Michael was entitled to attorney fees and costs under W.R.A.P. 1.03 and 10.05. View "McDill v. McDill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's claims that Defendants violated various duties when drafting and administering a trust and preparing certain estate planning documents for Plaintiff, a beneficiary of the trust, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court (1) did not err when it found Plaintiff failed to establish a material issue of fact showing that Defendants' actions damaged him; (2) did not abuse its discretion by denying Plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint; and (3) did not err by concluding, as a matter of law, that Plaintiff violated the no-contest provision of the trust by bringing an action to void, nullify or set aside a provision of the trust. View "Gowdy v. Cook" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the probate court first granting Appellant's petition for probate of George W. Stanford's estate and appointment of an administrator but then reversing itself when the State objected to the appointment, holding that the State did not have standing to object to the appointment of the administrator.Appellant was incarcerated for more than twenty years when his convictions were vacated and an order of actual innocence was entered. Appellant later filed a complaint against the City of Cheyenne and several of its law enforcement officers, including Stanford, a detective who died before the complaint was filed. Appellant then filed a petition for the probate of Stanford's intestate estate and for appointment of an administrator. The probate court admitted the estate to probate and appointed an administrator. Thereafter, the State filed a document objecting to the appointment of an administrator for Stanford's estate. The probate court entered an order vacating the appointment of the administrator and closing the estate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court should have dismissed the State's objection for failure to state a claim because the State did not meet the probate code requirements for standing. View "Johnson v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court, on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, resolving disputed questions of material fact concerning the propriety of Petitioner's proposed decanting of trust property, holding that the court properly concluded that Petitioner had the general authority to decant the trust property but erred in resolving disputed factual issues concerning the appropriateness of the proposed decanting.Petitioner, as trustee of a trust, filed a petition for instructions asking the district court to confirm its general authority to decant trust property under Wyoming law and the trust agreements and further sought approval of its proposal to decant the trust's property into two separate trusts. The district court granted Petitioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings, concluding that decanting was permissible. The court, however, also resolved disputed questions of material fact concerning the propriety of Petitioner's proposed decanting. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the district court's order went beyond the discrete legal question of whether Petitioner had the general authority to decant trust property. View "Evertson v. Evertson Fiduciary Management Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court not to remove Lisa Kimsey as co-trustee of the Redland family’s irrevocable trust or to terminate the trust, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.Two of the three appeals consolidated in this decision related to Rolly Redland’s counterclaim to remove Kimsey as co-trustee for allegedly breaching her fiduciary duties and interfering with trust administration. The third appeal concerned Kimsey’s request to terminate the trust on the grounds that it was invalid and otherwise failed to achieve the settlers’ intended purposes. The district court decided not to remove Kimsey as co-trustee or terminate the trust. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) res judicata barred Kimsey’s claim that the trust was invalid; (2) the district court did not err in finding that a material purpose of the trust remained; and (3) the district court did not err when it retained Kimsey as co-trustee of the trust. View "In re Robert and Irene Redland Family Trust" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying Appellant’s application for a decree of summary distribution of real property of the estate of her grandfather (Decedent) on the ground that Appellant lacked standing to file the application, holding that the district court did not err in its analysis of Wyo. Stat. Ann. 2-1-205.Section 2-1-205 concerns who can file as a distributed and from whom a distributed may claim. On appeal, Appellant argued that she was a distributee of Decedent’s estate and therefore had standing to apply for summary distribution of Decedent’s real property. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the definition of distributee applies solely to persons who are entitled to property of a decedent through that decedent’s will or the statutes of intestate succession as applied to that decedent; and (2) Appellant was not a distributee of Decedent’s estate, and therefore, Appellant was not a proper applicant under section 2-1-205. View "In re Estate of Chris Robert Frank" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Appellant’s declaratory judgment claim challenging a codicil to Patricia Ann Britain’s will, holding that Appellant’s challenges to the codicil could not be brought through a declaratory judgment action.Appellant, the personal representative of Patricia’s estate, brought this action alleging that Patricia was not competent to execute the codicil at issue because she did not have the capacity to execute the codicil or acted under undue influence. The district court dismissed the declaratory judgment action, concluding that the personal representative of an estate was not entitled to maintain a declaratory judgment action to challenge a will codicil on the grounds that the testator lacked capacity and/or was unduly influenced. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly dismissed the action because a will contest is the exclusive method of testing the validity of a will when there are questions about the testator’s competence or questions about undue influence. View "Britain v. Britain" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Estate of Charles Fleig in this case challenging the rights in Charles’s checking account at Sunlight Federal Credit Union.Here, Charles and Wendy Fleig executed a signature car to add Wendy to Charles’s checking account at the Credit Union. The signature card failed to indicate whether the account would be subject to rights of survivorship. The membership and account agreement, however, provided that joint accounts had rights of survivorship unless otherwise indicated on the signature card. After Charles died, his Estate sued Wendy and the Credit Union, asserting several causes of action, including a claim for declaratory judgment regarding ownership of the checking account. The district court concluded that the signature card did not create rights of survivorship, that the account was held by Wendy and Charles as tenants in common, and that fifty percent of the account proceeds passed to the Estate and fifty percent passed to Wendy. The Supreme Court reversed, holding Wendy had a right of survivorship in the checking account because the signature card and the membership and account agreement formed the contract between the Fleigs and the Credit Union and unambiguously expressed the intent that joint accounts have rights of survivorship. View "Fleig v. Estate of Charles F. Fleig" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s lawsuit seeking to prevent the sale of land held in Allen F. Willey’s revocable trust. The district court determined that Plaintiffs - the grandchildren of Mr. Willey - were no longer beneficiaries of the trust as a result of their father’s 2014 lawsuit against Mr. Willey and his wife. The Supreme Court held (1) the 2014 suit constituted a “challenge” to the trust even though the suit was filed during Mr. Willey’s lifetime; and (2) the in terrorem clause in Mr. Willey’s trust did not violate public policy. View "EGW v. First Federal Savings Bank of Sheridan, Wyoming" on Justia Law