Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wyoming Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the probate court denying the motion for an order to show cause filed by Cynthia Soames, the personal representative of her brother's estate, against Dick Gifford, the estate's previous personal representative, holding that the probate court did not err.In her motion, Soames argued that certain items went missing from the estate while Gifford was personal representative and requesting that Gifford account for those items. The probate court denied the motion after a hearing, thus declining to hold Gifford in contempt, finding that Gifford's testimony was credible and that Soames did not meet her burden of proving that Gifford took and failed to return the items. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court did not err when it determined that Gifford's testimony was credible. View "Soares v. Gifford" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment to Michael McDill on his request that the district court confirm that his brother, Thomas McDill, was excluded as a beneficiary under their deceased mother's trust and dismissing Thomas's counterclaims, holding that there was no error.Michael, as a trustee of the trust, filed a petition for instructions asking the district court to confirm that Thomas was disinherited from taking under the trust because he violated the trust's no-contest provision. In response, Thomas asserted various counterclaims and requested that Michael be removed as trustee. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Michael, dismissed Thomas's counterclaims, and denied Thomas's motion to amend. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the district court's judgment. View "McDill v. McDill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against Defendants for breach of an agreement, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the complaint on the ground of forum non conveniens.Plaintiff, a resident of Arizona, and his sister, a resident of California, were beneficiaries of separate trusts (the BRT and the MRT). The Trustees that managed the BRT and MRT resided in or had offices in California. The BRT and MRT were each fifty percent members of a California entity that owned property in Wyoming. In his complaint, Plaintiff asserted that his sister and the Trustees breached their agreement to sell the MRT's interest in the California entity to BRT. The district court dismissed the complaint based on forum non conveniens and its conclusion that the parties had a separate settlement agreement requiring litigation to be brought in a California probate court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing on the basis of forum non conveniens. View "Lund v. Lund" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from an order of the probate court authorizing the sale of two vehicles owned by Darren and Deidra Rowe after Darren shot and killed both Deidra and himself, holding that there was no appealable order.After Darren killed his wife, Deidra, and himself, Deidra's petitioned the probate court pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. 2-7-614 for permission to sell the two vehicles the couple owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Absent exceptional circumstances, the vehicles would have gone to Darren upon Deidra's death, but Deidra's administrator argued that equitable principles, Wyoming's felonious death statute, and public policy precluded Darren's estate from receiving the proceeds. The probate court determined that Darren's killing of Deidra severed the joint tenancy by right of survivorship, thereby creating a tenancy in common subject to the probate court's jurisdiction. The court then authorized the sales. Darren's estate appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the probate court's order granting permission to sell the property was not appealable. View "Rowe v. Walker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellants' motion to intervene in this wrongful death action, holding that heirs of the decedent cannot intervene in a wrongful death action brought by the wrongful death representative.Carrie Linn died after undergoing elective surgery. Carrie's niece, Kallista Mills, was appointed Carrie's wrongful death representative. Mills brought this wrongful death action against Charles Linn, Carrie's husband, alleging that he had negligently caused Carrie's death. One year later, Mills signed a release releasing Charles from all causes asserted against him. Mills and Charles then filed a stipulated motion to dismiss the wrongful death action with prejudice. After the execution of the release but before the filing of the stipulated motion to dismiss, Appellants - Carrie's daughters - filed a motion to intervene in the wrongful death action. Because Appellants did not timely serve counsel the motion, the court dismissed the action with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that beneficiaries, unless appointed as the wrongful death representative, are precluded from intervening in wrongful death actions. View "Archer v. Mills" on Justia Law

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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