Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals dismissing Appellant's appeal from an order of the county court that ruled on Appellant's petition for trust administration, holding that the order from which Appellant attempted to appeal was not a final order.Appellant filed a petition for trust administration proceeding with regarding to a family trust. After the county court entered its order ruling on the petition Appellant appealed. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the county court's ruling was not a final order in the trust administration proceeding; and (2) therefore, this Court lacked jurisdiction to hear this appeal. View "In re Estate of Scaletta" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the probate court denying a petition to assess state inheritance tax under Neb. Rev. Stat. 77-2002(1)(b) on real property that Decedents had deeded to their daughter (Daughter) decades prior while continuing to exercise control over and paying taxes on the property until they died, holding that the property was subject to Nebraska inheritance tax under section 77-2002(1)(b).Daughter brought this petition to assess state inheritance taxes on the subject real property. The county court concluded that the property should not be included in the Decedents' estate for purposes of inheritance tax because it was not "intended to take effect in possession or enjoyment, after his or her death." The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the stipulated facts showed that Decedents intended to retain possession and enjoyment of the property until death; and (2) therefore, the property was subject to Nebraska inheritance tax under section 77-2002(1)(b). View "In re Estate of Lofgreen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition preventing the Honorable Christopher McCarthy, Judge of the Circuit Court of Harrison County, from enforcing an order granting Plaintiffs' motion to compel, holding that the circuit court erred by failing to determine the applicability of the attorney-client privilege to the information sought by Plaintiffs.The order granting Plaintiffs' motion to compel required an attorney employed by Defendant to appear at a deposition and respond to questions that Defendant claimed were subject to the attorney-client privilege and/or the work product doctrine. The Supreme Court granted the requested writ of prohibition, holding that determining the applicability of the attorney-client privilege to the information sought by Plaintiffs during the deposition was a required first step in analyzing whether to grant Plaintiffs' motion to compel. View "State ex rel. Antero Resources Corp. v. Honorable McCarthy" on Justia Law

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Attorney DeWayne Johnston, on behalf of the late David Knapp, appealed the dismissal entered after the district court denied a motion to substitute Knapp’s widow as plaintiff under N.D.R.Civ.P. 25. Attorney DeWayne Johnston, on behalf of the late David Knapp, appeals from a dismissal judgment entered after the district court denied a motion to substitute Knapp’s widow as plaintiff under N.D.R.Civ.P. 25. This litigation began after the Minnesota Department of Revenue issued a third-party levy on securities held by Edward Jones for Knapp. Knapp sued the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Revenue and Edward Jones in North Dakota seeking dissolution of the levy. Knapp subsequently commenced this lawsuit against Edward Jones requesting dissolution of the levy or a declaration that his securities were exempt from the levy. He also brought a conversion claim and requested damages. The district court ordered the case stayed pending arbitration under terms in Edward Jones account agreements. Knapp died during the stay. Edward Jones served Knapp’s counsel, Attorney Johnston, with a statement noting Knapp’s death. Attorney Johnston filed a motion on Knapp’s behalf requesting Knapp’s widow, Cabrini Knapp, be substituted as plaintiff under N.D.R.Civ.P. 25. The court held a hearing. After the hearing, the court denied the substitution motion and dismissed the case with prejudice. The court noted that ownership of the securities had transferred to Cabrini Knapp and her “rights are not extinguished by this order and there is no prejudice to her in denying the motion to substitute her as a party.” The North Dakota Supreme Court granted Edward Jones’ motion and dismissed the appeal, agreeing that Johnston could not appeal on behalf of a dead person. If Johnston was not authorized to file this appeal, his motion to substitute on appeal was moot. View "Knapp v. The Jones Financial Co., et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting partial summary judgment to the Estate of Gale Iverson (the Estate) on its real property claims against Cherie Davidson-Eaton (Eaton), Mr. Iverson's caregiver, and ordering Eaton to, among other things, provide the Estate with an accounting, holding that there was no error.The Estate filed an action for an accounting and sought to recover property it alleged Eaton unlawfully transferred to herself. In response, Eaton filed a creditor's claim against the Estate, alleging that she had a right to compensation for services she rendered to Mr. Iverson while he was living. The district court consolidated the lawsuits, granted partial summary judgment to the Estate on its real property claims, denied Eaton's claims, found the Estate was entitled to lost rents and profits, and ordered Eaton to provide the Estate with an accounting. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion or act contrary to law. View "Davidson-Eaton v. Iversen" on Justia Law

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Lester Randle died in 2009, and was survived by Dorothy, his wife of twenty-one years, and their son, Raymond Randle. Lester had previously been married to Ruthie Randle. Two children were born of that marriage: Tumika and Sylvester, the Appellants. Ruthie and Lester divorced in 1977 when the children were very young. Lester died intestate. Dorothy was granted letters of administration of Lester's estate in which she noted the “estate consist[ed] of no real property but ha[d] a potential claim for unliquidated damages arising out of” Lester’s death. The petition acknowledged the Appellants, as well as Dorothy and Raymond, as Lester’s heirs at law. Dorothy petitioned for a determination of heirship, adding that the estate consisted of a claim for benefits against the manufacturer of Granuflow/Natural Lyte arising from Lester’s use of the prescription drug. The petition further claimed that the Appellants were “not heirs at law of Lester Randle and [were] not entitled to any of the settlement proceeds,” but rather they “were born to a married man, putative father,” and Ruthie. At a hearing before the chancery court, Cederica Gilliam appeared, claiming to be Lester’s heir; DNA testing was ordered on Lester’s putative children. The chancery court ultimately determined that Cederica was Lester's biological child, and Appellants were not his legal heirs at law based on the cross-referencing of the DNA results. Accordingly, the court adjudged Dorothy and Raymond as Lester’s only heirs at law and awarded them equal shares in any distribution of property. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the chancery court and the Court of Appeals incorrectly considered the settlement proceeds from the wrongful-death claim as an asset of the estate. Second, the lower courts incorrectly considered the petition to determine heirs under Mississippi Code Sections 91-1-1 to -31 (Rev. 2021) instead of a determination of wrongful-death beneficiaries under Mississippi Code Section 11-7-13 (Rev. 2019). The Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the appellate and chancery courts and remanded this case to the chancery court to determine the wrongful-death beneficiaries of Lester Randle under Section 11-7-13. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Lester Randle" on Justia Law

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While divorce proceedings between plaintiff-appellee Arnold Johnson (Husband) and Jacquelyn Johnson (Wife) were pending, Wife changed the primary beneficiary of her individual retirement account (IRA) from Husband to her adult children, defendants-appellants Dirk Snow and Duff Snow (collectively, Children). She also opened a new individual transfer on death (TOD) account and designated Children as the primary beneficiaries. Wife died before the divorce was granted, and the action abated. Thereafter, Husband filed the underlying declaratory judgment action to enforce the automatic temporary injunction entered in the divorce action. The district court concluded that the IRA and the funds used to open the TOD account were marital property and, therefore, Wife's acts violated the automatic temporary injunction, 43 O.S.2011 § 110(A)(1)(a), and were ineffective. The district court granted summary judgment to Husband and ordered that he be reinstated as the primary beneficiary of Wife's IRA and awarded the proceeds of the TOD account. Children appealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that when the dissolution of marriage action abated, the district court was deprived of its jurisdiction to enforce the automatic temporary injunction. "It is undisputed that Children were designated as the primary beneficiaries at the time of Wife's death and, therefore, they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law." View "Johnson v. Snow" on Justia Law

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Donald and Marjorie Woodfin married in 1997. At the time, Donald had two adult children, Kathleen (Kathy) Gestner and Ray Woodfin, and Marjorie had two adult children, Julie Divine and Colleen Shiras. Donald and Marjorie created the Woodfin Family Trust, a revocable trust, in 1999. Upon the death of the surviving spouse, the 1999 Trust identified the primary beneficiaries as Ray, Kathy, Colleen, and Julie, who would receive a sum of money and any remaining assets in equal shares if either or both settlors were deceased. Marjorie amended the Trust several times following Donald’s death. In 2002, Marjorie’s changes included adding additional successor trustees. Marjorie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. Julie drove Marjorie to meet with attorney Robert Green in Coeur d’Alene regarding another trust amendment. Green met with Marjorie alone. In the meeting, Marjorie explained that she was disappointed in her stepchildren because she believed they had treated her poorly since Donald’s death. Marjorie died on October 12, 2018, at age 92. After learning about Marjorie’s passing, Kathy called Julie to inquire about the Trust and Julie sent Kathy and Ray the May 29, 2018, letter. Kathy and Ray subsequently filed a complaint seeking declaratory relief. Kathy and Ray requested the district court to declare the 2018 amendments were void due to Julie’s undue influence and order Julie to distribute $100,000 to Ray and $100,000 to Kathy. Following a bench trial, the district court determined that the evidence “overwhelmingly supports a conclusion that Marjorie had full testamentary capacity when she amended the Trust on May 29, 2018.” Kathy and Ray timely appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed judgment against Kathy and Ray. View "Gestner v. Divine" on Justia Law

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Parker’s daughters sought the appointment of a conservator of their mother’s estate. Schwarcz, a professional fiduciary, was appointed as temporary conservator of Parker’s estate. Following mediation, Parker, her daughters, and Schwarcz entered into an agreement that provided for a less restrictive alternative. The court approved the settlement and terminated the temporary conservatorship. Parker’s counsel emailed Schwarcz’s counsel, requesting “all communications" between Schwarcz and anyone regarding Parker’s estate. Schwarcz’s counsel refused to comply. Parker filed a “Petition for Return of Property,” under Probate Code section 850, seeking communications between Schwarcz and any non-attorney, communications between Schwarcz and her attorney with or without copying or otherwise including another person, and documents related to the temporary conservatorship.The court of appeal affirmed the denial of Parker’s petition as not authorized by Probate Code 850. “Personal property” as used in section 850 does not encompass communications and documents from the administration of her temporary conservatorship estate. The section's legislative history and the historical circumstances around the enactment of its predecessor statutes do not suggest the Legislature intended section 850 to be used by a claimant to obtain communications and documents generated by a temporary conservator. View "Parker v. Schwarcz" on Justia Law

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A dispute over attorney fees arose from the probate proceedings of Eric Milo Hirning’s estate. Appellants challenged the district court’s affirmance of the magistrate court’s decision to allow the personal representatives to recover their legal expenses incurred in the administration of the estate, pursuant to Idaho Code section 15-3-720. The Appellants also challenged the attorney fees awarded to the Respondents on intermediate appeal pursuant to Idaho Code section 12-121. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Uzzle v. Estate of Eric Milo Hirning" on Justia Law