Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court upholding the validity of a transfer-on-death deed that was signed by a benefiting party at the direction of the party seeking to make the transfer, holding that the district court did not err. The district court deemed the transfer-on-death deed to constitute an enforceable transfer of Roxie Moore's real property to Maureen Miles. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court considered evidence relating to the authority by which Maureen signed the deed, notwithstanding the notary's designation of signature through power of attorney; (2) the district court's determination that Maureen signed the deed as an amanuensis was supported by clear and convincing evidence; (3) the facts as found by the district court rebutted the presumption of invalidity of the deed under the clear and convincing evidence standard; and (4) Appellant failed to present even a preponderance of evidence demonstrating that Roxie lacked the capacity to make knowing and understanding conveyance. View "In re Estate of Moore" on Justia Law

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Payments owed to a shareholder by a bankrupt debtor, which are not quite dividends but which certainly look a lot like dividends, should be treated like the equity interests of a shareholder and subordinated to claims by creditors of the debtor. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that the deemed dividends gave the Estate benefits normally reserved for equity investors and thus subordination of all of the Estate's claims was appropriate. The court also held that the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in denying discovery. Likewise, the court held that the Estate's due process right to discovery was not violated. View "French v. Linn Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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Petitioner and respondent were siblings and the children of the donor of the trusts at issue in this case. Both the donor and his wife were deceased. Respondent and a bank were co-trustees of the trusts. In June 2018, petitioner asked the probate division to remove respondent as the individual family trustee of the trusts and appoint petitioner’s wife as respondent’s successor. Petitioner asserted that removal of the individual family trustee would improve administration of the trust. He cited as bases for removal the noncommunicative relationship between him and respondent and respondent’s lack of attention to the investment performance of the trusts. Petitioner appealed the civil division’s determination that it lacked jurisdiction to consider his appeal of the probate division’s dismissal of his petition to remove respondent as trustee. After review of the specific facts presented on appeal, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld the civil division’s reasoning but transferred petitioner’s appeal to itself and remanded for further proceedings in the probate division on the petition for removal of trustee. View "In re Peter Val Preda Trusts" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Court of Appeals was whether James Robert Anderson, settlor and trustee of the James Robert Anderson Revocable Trust (the trust), validly amended the trust when he made handwritten interlineations to one of the operative trust documents, specifically the First Amendment to the trust (First Amendment), making Grey Dey a beneficiary. After making the interlineations, Anderson sent both the original trust instrument and the interlineated First Amendment to his attorney to have the new disposition of his trust estate formalized in a second amendment to the trust. Anderson died before the formal amendment was prepared for his signature. Margaret Pena, successor trustee, petitioned the trial court for instructions as to the validity of the interlineations. She moved for summary judgment, asserting the interlineations did not amount to a valid amendment to the trust as a matter of law. The trial court granted the motion and entered judgment in Pena’s favor. Dey appealed, but the Court of Appeal concurred with the trial court: the interlineations did not validly amend the trust because the trust specifically requires amendments “be made by written instrument signed by the settlor and delivered to the trustee. … While the law considers the interlineations a separate written instrument, and while there can be no doubt Anderson delivered them to himself as trustee, he did not sign them.” While there was no dispute in this case that Anderson intended Dey to receive a portion of his trust estate, there was also no genuine dispute that Anderson intended to sign this and other changes to his trust when formalized by his attorney. Unfortunately, he died before that could be accomplished. View "Pena v. Dey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the opinion of the court of appeals reversing in part the judgment of the circuit court in favor of the Contestants in this will-contest case, holding that the court of appeals erred by failing to apply the appropriate standard of appellate review of the trial court's denial of the will-proponent's directed-verdict motion. In reversing the circuit court's judgment in favor of the Contestants, the court of appeals found that the Contestants' evidence at trial was insufficient to support the jury's verdict. The Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the court of appeals and reinstated the jury's verdict on the will-contest issues but otherwise affirmed, holding that the court of appeals erred by failing to apply the appropriate standard of appellate review of the trial court's denial of the will proponent's directed verdict motion. View "Getty v. Getty" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court delegating its final approval of final accountings submitted by a trustee and conservator as provided by statute and directing that the Commissioner of Accounts conduct that approval of the final accountings, holding that the circuit court erred. In a circuit court order, the court ruled that a previous order as not yet final but would become so when the Commissioner filed the approval of the final accounts with the clerk of the circuit court. The Supreme Court dismissed a first appeal without prejudice because the previous order was not a final, appealable order. In a second appeal, the trustee argued that the circuit court erred by adopting a procedure for the review and approval of the final accounts that deprived the beneficiaries of a meaningful opportunity and due process to review and challenge the accountings. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the circuit court erroneously delegated its approval of the final accounts to the Commissioner without a certification that it had made a personal examination of the exceptions. View "Murphy v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Donald Croom Beatty, Jr., appealed a circuit court judgment dismissing an action involving the estate of his mother, Mary Alice Gatlin Beatty. The Alabama Supreme Court determined Donald's notice of appeal was untimely filed; therefore it did not invoke the Supreme Court's jurisdiction to consider the issues he raised on appeal. Accordingly, the Court dismissed his appeal. View "Beatty v. Carmichael" on Justia Law

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Defendant, the beneficiary of a spendthrift trust created by his father, appealed the probate court's order directing the trustee to pay a portion of defendant's 2018 principal disbursement to four judgment creditors in partial satisfaction of their money judgment. The Court of Appeal affirmed and held that a judgment creditor may file a petition under Probate Code section 15301(b) before a debtor/trust beneficiary's trust distribution is "due and payable." The court also held that the probate court did not abuse its discretion by ordering the trustee to delay the payment of defendant's 2018 principal disbursement until after it issued its final ruling on the creditors' petitions. Finally, the court held that defendant's other arguments were unavailing, and because the trust was not a support trust, the personal receipt clause did not shield defendant from creditor claims. View "Blech v. Blech" 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 order of the district court denying Appellant's motion to transfer venue to Flathead County, holding that the venue provisions of the Montana Uniform Trust Code (MUTC), Mont. Code Ann. 72-38-205(1), controlled in this case and that the district court did not err when it denied Appellant's motion to transfer venue. Appellant was appointed as the successor trustee to the David William Betts Trust. The trustor's children, who were remainder beneficiaries, decided to remove Appellant and appoint a successor trustee and filed a petition in Missoula County requesting that the court enforce the appointment of a nonprofit entity located in Missoula. Appellant agreed to step down as trustee. Thereafter, the Trust filed a separate action in Missoula County alleging, among other things, that Appellant breached his fiduciary duty and his duty as trustee. Appellant filed a motion for change of venue to Flathead County, but the district court denied the motion. Appellant appealed, arguing that the district court erred by applying the venue provisions of the MUTC because the applicable venue provision was Mont. Code Ann. 25-2-122. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, as the more specific statute in this instance, the MUTC venue provision controlled. View "Betts v. Gunlikson" on Justia Law