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The Alaska Supreme Court disagreed with the probate master and superior court’s underlying conclusion that a paternity determination could not be made in estate proceedings, or that a laches defense could apply in this context. A decedent left a will stating he had no children. But during probate proceedings a man in his early 30s claimed to be the decedent’s son, requested genetic testing on the decedent’s cremated remains, and filed numerous motions in an attempt to share in the decedent’s estate. The man’s mother also filed numerous motions in the proceedings, claiming to be a creditor of the decedent’s estate and seeking recovery of child support from the man’s birth to his 18th birthday. After previously signing orders denying the motions based on the probate master’s reasoning that paternity determinations may not be made in estate proceedings, the superior court ultimately ruled that: (1) laches barred the man’s and his mother’s efforts to establish paternity; and (2) because paternity had not been established, neither the man nor his mother had standing to pursue a claim in the estate proceedings. Despite disagreeing with these findings, the Supreme Court nonetheless affirmed the superior court’s decision with respect to the man’s mother on the alternative ground that her putative creditor claim: the only basis by which she could be an interested person in the estate proceedings unquestionably was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. But if the man proved to be the decedent’s son he had, at a minimum, certain statutory rights that: (1) may be established through declaratory judgment in the probate proceedings; and (2) might not be barred by a statute of limitations. Because the statute of limitations defense to the man’s claim was briefed only in limited fashion in the superior court and was not ruled on by that court, and because the issue has not been adequately briefed to the Supreme Court, the Court asked for supplemental briefing be filed to assist it in resolving whether a statute of limitations may bar the man’s recovery from the estate. View "Estate of Seward" on Justia Law

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Fred, age 86, and his 79-year-old wife, Martha, filed suit under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. In the 1990s, before the defendants were involved, the couple purchased life insurance policies, which were held by a revocable living trust for their children. The Trust was self-sustaining, with no need for additional cash for ongoing premium costs. In 2013, Fred was suffering from cognitive decline; Martha had Alzheimer’s disease. Defendants allegedly carried out a scheme that involved arranging the surrender of one policy and the replacement of the other with a policy providing limited coverage, at massively increased cost. The premiums for the new coverage were $800,000, forcing the couple to feed cash into the Trust. Defendants argued that the Children’s Trust owned the policies, that the money was paid voluntarily for the benefit of their children, and that the Trust does not have an Elder Abuse Act claim “because [it] is not 65 years old.” The court of appeals reversed dismissal. Regardless of what specific damages may be available to the couple, as distinguished from the Trust, it can be fairly inferred that the couple suffered some damages unique to themselves. The defendants “knew or should have known” of the “likely” harm their scheme would have on the couple. View "Mahan v. Charles W. Chan Insurance Agency" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit held that it need not decide whether the presence of the same person, in two different capacities, on both sides of a case caption, defeats diversity because the challenged judgment here rests on a misapprehension as to the particular irrevocable trusts named as plaintiffs. In this case, the four party trusts have no distinct juridical identity allowing them to sue or be sued in their own names; each was a traditional trust, establishing a mere fiduciary relationship and, as such, incapable of suing or being sued in its own name; because the party trusts can only sue or be sued in the names of their trustees, pleadings in the names of the trusts themselves do not require that these parties' citizenship, for purposes of diversity, be determined by reference to all their members; rather, these traditional trusts' citizenship was that of their respective trustees; because trustee Roland Loubier's Canadian citizenship is only suggested, not demonstrated, in the record, further inquiry was required on remand conclusively to determine diversity. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "Raymond Loubier Irrevocable Trust v. Loubier" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Wells Fargo and JPMorgan for breach of fiduciary duty after the banks served as trustees for plaintiff's trusts. The district court dismissed all but one of plaintiff's claims, finding a breach as to the remaining claim. The Fifth Circuit held that because plaintiff neither pleaded nor tried his case on the frivolous-lawsuit theory, and because Wells Fargo did not consent to a post-trial amendment, it was improper for the district court to award damages against Wells Fargo on that theory. The court also held that plaintiff's claim that he should have received insurance proceeds upon the House Trust's termination was time-barred; the court declined to consider plaintiff's claim that Wells Fargo double-billed the trusts; plaintiff's claim that Wells Fargo breached its fiduciary duty by using trust funds to pay for legal expenses was time-barred; the court rejected plaintiff's claim that Wells Fargo breached a fiduciary duty by failing to advise him; and plaintiff's claim that JPMorgan breached a fiduciary duty by failing to convey title to certain mineral interests was time-barred. View "Jones, Jr. v. Wells Fargo Bank" on Justia Law

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Under Mississippi civil discovery rules, a party who fails to attend his own properly noticed deposition may be sanctioned. Here, the plaintiff in a will contest intentionally skipped out on his deposition. This prompted the chancellor to grant the defendant’s motion for sanctions, dismissing the will contest. While this sanction was harsh, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded it was within the chancellor’s discretion to impose. The Court thus affirmed. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Robert Ernie Johnson" on Justia Law

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A widow challenged the Court of Appeals’ finding persuasive that she abandoned her marriage; when her husband died, she received only a child’s share of his estate. After dating for approximately six months; Sarah Young and Joe Estes married in 2006. Young entered the marriage with four natural children and three adopted minor grandchildren; Estes entered with several grown children. After marrying Estes, Young continued to maintain a home with her grandchildren where she had lived prior to the marriage. As noted by the chancellor, Estes’s and Young’s “living arrangement was somewhat non-traditional.” Despite this, the record shows that Young split her time between her children and Estes. She testified that she slept at his house when she was not working nights and prepared at least one meal a day for Estes. Following a short hospitalization, Young contended Estes’ behavior changed. She testified he lashed out at her. After Estes accused Young of adultery, she elected to separate from him. Estes’s family members testified that they, unlike Young, were very supportive of Estes following the hospitalization. In addition to finding Young absent, several family members testified that Young was stealing groceries to feed her own children. After Estes had refused to seek medical or mental help, Young initiated involuntary-commitment proceedings against Estes. The evaluation concluded that Estes competent, and not a danger to himself or anyone else. Estes was released from psychiatric care. Immediately thereafter, Young filed for divorce. Shortly after Estes received notice of the final divorce hearing, he shot and killed himself. Estes’s will did not provide for Young to inherit anything from his estate. Young renounced the will. The trial court granted Young a $12,000 widow’s allowance as well as a one-fifth, child’s share of the estate. She appealed, challenging the child’s share of the estate. Finding that the chancellor did not manifestly err when he determined that Young had not abandoned the marital relationship and was entitled to a child’s share of Estes’s estate, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, affirmed the judgment of the Chancery Court, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Estate of Joe Howard Estes v. Young-Estes" on Justia Law

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In a matter of first impression, the Mississippi Supreme Court addressed testamentary provisions in a contract. A provision in a lease stated that upon the lessor’s death, the lessor’s rights (primarily the right to receive lease payments) transferred to the lessor’s daughter, who was not a party to the lease. The lessor died, and the question presented under the facts of this case was whether the provision of the lease or the provisions of the lessor’s will determined the owner of the lease payments. The distinction turns on whether the instrument conveys any present interest to the grantee. The relevant question was when the interest vests in the grantee and whether it may be modified during the grantor’s life, not who has the right to prevent any interest from vesting. Because the grantee lacked a vested right, the provision at issue here was testamentary in nature and treated as a will. The parties agree the lease failed to comply with the statutory formalities required of a will, so the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision to reverse the chancellor’s decision finding the provision enforceable. View "Estate of Rose Greer v. Ball" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the grandnephew of the decedent, filed this action against Defendant, the decedent’s sister and the beneficiary of an Amica Insurance Company annuity policy created by the decedent. The complaint alleged forgery, fraud, manipulation, false pretenses, and misrepresentation. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not misapply the law to the evidence; (2) the trial justice did not overlook or misconceive material evidence pertaining to the beneficiary-change forms; (3) the trial justice did not err in failing to take judicial notice of the findings made by another superior court justice after a hearing on Plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction; (4) the was no error on the part of the superior court in refusing to shift the burden of proof to prove absence of mistake; and (5) the trial justice did not err in finding that Defendant was forthright and credible. View "Quillen v. Macera" on Justia Law

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While the Supreme Court was asked in this case to recognize tortious interference with an inheritance as a viable cause of action in Texas, the court was not persuaded to consider it because Petitioners and cross-respondents, the Kinsels, had an adequate remedy in this case. In this case involving the sale of a ranch, the Kinsels sought damages for tortious interference with their inheritances, statutory and common-law fraud, and conspiracy. The jury found for the Kinsels on every claim. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s award of damages for tortious interference with an inheritance on the basis that neither the Texas legislature nor the Supreme Court has recognized that cause of action. On appeal, the Kinsels urged the Supreme Court to recognize tortious interference with an inheritance as a cause of action and uphold their recovery. The Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the court of appeals, holding that the facts of this case did not warrant an enlargement of this state’s body of tort law, as the law provided an adequate remedy in this case - a constructive trust imposed on the disputed inheritance. View "Kinsel v. Lindsey" on Justia Law

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Three of four siblings who were beneficiaries under an irrevocable trust attempted to remove the fourth sibling as a beneficiary by relying on a provision of the irrevocable trust that permitted seventy-five percent of the beneficiaries to amend the terms of the trust. The Court of Appeals held (1) the plain language of the modification provision granting the modification authority to the beneficiaries of the irrevocable trust does not grant authority for three beneficiaries of the trust to remove the fourth beneficiary; (2) the trust clearly manifests the settlor’s intent for the trust to benefit the four beneficiaries equally; and (3) therefore, the amendment in which the three beneficiaries purported to divest the fourth beneficiary was impermissible under the terms of the trust. View "Vito v. Grueff" on Justia Law