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Husband Patrick Steiner was an active duty military service member and had a group life insurance policy issued under the Servicemen's Group Life Insurance Act of 1965 (the SGLIA). As part of a status-only dissolution judgment, Husband and Alicja Soczewko Steiner (Wife), stipulated to an order requiring Husband to maintain Wife as the beneficiary of all of Husband's current active duty survivor and/or death benefits pending further court order. Notwithstanding the stipulated order, Husband changed the beneficiary of his life insurance policy to Husband's sister, Mary Furman, who received the policy proceeds upon Husband's death. The court subsequently found applicable federal law preempted the stipulated order and Furman was entitled to the policy proceeds. Wife appealed, contending federal law did not preempt the stipulated order or, alternatively, the fraud exception to federal preemption applies. The Court of Appeal concluded to the contrary on both points and affirmed the order. View "Marriage of Steiner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court’s small claims money judgment for the Estate of Stanley G. Miller against Diane Storey. In the small claims action, a jury found Story liable for theft of money from her uncle when she cared for him in the last year of his life. The circuit court awarded the Estate actual damages of $10,000 under Wis. Stat. 799.01(1)(d), exemplary damages of $20,000 under section 895.446(3)(c), attorney fees of $20,000 under section 895.446(3)(b), and double taxable costs under section 807.01(3). The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court held (1) section 3895.446 is an “other civil action,” and therefore, the damages cap is $10,000 under section 799.01(1)(d), and double costs are authorized under section 807.01(3); (2) attorney fees are included within the meaning of “costs of investigation and litigation” under section 895.446(3)(b); and (3) as to exemplary damages, the court of appeals properly reversed the circuit court because the circuit court’s ruling was contrary to the clear legal standard set forth in Kimble v. Land Concepts, Inc., 845 N.W.2d 395. View "Estate of Miller v. Storey" on Justia Law

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Claimant Edmund Hibbard, Esq., Administrator of the Estate of Beatrice Jakobiec (Estate), appealed a New Hampshire Bar Association Public Protection Fund Committee (PPFC) decision finding that the Estate was entitled to reimbursement from the Public Protection Fund (PPF) in an amount significantly less than that which the Estate claimed was stolen by former attorney Thomas Tessier. Beatrice Jakobiec passed away in 2001, leaving two sons, Frederick Jakobiec, M.D. and Thaddeus Jakobiec, Jr., as heirs. In 2002, Tessier was appointed to administer the Estate. The value of the Estate for probate purposes, as determined by an ADO auditor was $576,074.03. The auditor concluded that “[t]he assets included in the Estate by Attorney Tessier were valid and belonged in the Estate valuation,” but that Tessier failed to include additional assets owned by Beatrice at the time of her death. The auditor concluded that it appeared Tessier took the proceeds from certain certificates of deposit and other checks “for his own purposes.” In addition, the auditor detailed Tessier’s misappropriation, using fraudulent powers of attorney, of funds belonging to Frederick individually or held in trust for Thaddeus, who has been blind since birth. In 2009, the Estate filed a claim alleging a loss consisting of $208,798.95 in stolen assets (the Stolen Assets), $96,500.00 in stolen legal fees, and $99,531.81 in lost income, but the PPFC only reimbursed the Estate half of the total amount. The Estate argued the PPFC erred by: (1) reducing the amount of its claim based upon an “earlier finding that Thaddeus Jakobiec . . . had received his full distribution from the Estate”; (2) reducing the Estate’s claim for stolen legal fees by the amounts of certain excluded checks; (3) finding that the Estate’s claim against the PPF included a claim for lost income; and (4) “applying credits for prior recoveries by the Estate for the gross amount of those recoveries rather than the net amount of the recoveries.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court found "nothing prohibiting a claimant from being made whole, if other sources allow it, and we can think of no persuasive policy reason for preventing a claimant from utilizing other sources to obtain a full recovery." Though the Court found no abuse of discretion with respect to the exclusion of expenses of recovery, the Court reversed as to the other amounts lost. View "Appeal of Estate of Beatrice Jakobiec" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reaffirmed the general rule that to establish standing a contestant must show that he or she would be entitled to share in the decedent’s estate if the will were set aside or if no will existed. In this case the contestants to a will were five of the decedent’s seven children. The contestants were disinherited by a will dated October 1, 2013 and by a prior will dated October 11, 2012. The trial court dismissed the will contest for lack of standing based on two prior decisions of the Supreme Court. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the cases cited in the courts below did not announce a broad, bright-line rule that persons disinherited by facially valid successive wills lack standing. The court went on to hold that the contestants satisfied the general standing requirement long recognized in Tennessee by showing that they would share in the decedent’s estate under the laws of intestacy and under prior wills. View "In re Estate of J. Don Brock" on Justia Law

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In an appeal by allowance, the issue presented to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was whether the Superior Court applied the correct statute of limitations for a survival action in a medical professional liability case. In 2005, Elise Dubose was admitted to Albert Einstein Medical Center (Einstein) after she fell in her home and sustained severe head injuries, including anoxia and a brain injury. She was transferred to Willowcrest Nursing Home where Mrs. Dubose suffered malnourishment, dehydration, conscious pain from bedsores, a bone infection, and a sepsis systemic infection. An ulcers located at the sacral region of the spine which Mrs. Dubose developed during her initial hospitalization, gradually increased in size. The sacral ulcer became infected with bacteria from contact with feces. This infection caused sepsis in Mrs. Dubose in September 2007, and she was admitted to Einstein with sepsis. On October 18, 2007, Mrs. Dubose died from sepsis and multiple pressure sores. On August 13, 2009, Robert Dubose, as administrator for Mrs. Dubose's estate, filed a complaint against Willowcrest and Albert Einstein Healthcare Network (collectively Appellants) sounding in negligence and alleged wrongful death. The Supreme Court concluded the statute of limitations for medical professional liability cases in the form of wrongful death or survival actions was two years from the time of the decedent’s death. View "Dubose v. Willowcrest Nur. Home" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of Patricia and Robert Porenta’s marital home to Patricia in this case involving a fraudulent transfer of the home to Robert’s mother (Mother). During the divorce proceedings of Patricia and Robert, Robert transferred his interest in the couple’s marital home to Mother with the intent to avoid Patricia’s claim to the home. Robert subsequently died, and the divorce case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Thereafter, Patricia filed this action against Mother alleging that the transfer was fraudulent under the Utah Fraudulent Transfer Act. The district court granted the marital home to Patricia. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Utah Fraudulent Transfer Act requires an ongoing debtor-creditor relationship when a claim under the Act is filed, and the debtor-creditor relationship was in this case was not extinguished when Robert died because an ongoing debtor-creditor relationship existed between Patricia and Robert’s estate; and (2) the trial court did not err in granting Patricia the entire marital home rather than money damages, but the matter is remanded for a determination of the current status of title. View "Porenta v. Porenta" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order refusing to terminate an irrevocable trust and granted summary judgment in favor of the trustees. The sole beneficiary of the trust sought to terminate the trust and requested that the court distribute the assets to her. The beneficiary also alleged that the trustees had breached their fiduciary duties. The circuit court declined to terminate the trust. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in finding the trust to be unambiguous; and (2) the circuit court erred in not terminating the trust and distributing the trust property to the beneficiary because the trust purpose had been fulfilled and because termination of the trust would “substantially further the trustee’s purposes in creating the trust.” View "In re Guardianship & Conservatorship of Novotny" on Justia Law

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Candy Parkhurst ("Parkhurst"), personal representative of the estate of her husband, Andrew P. Parkhurst ("Andrew"), deceased, file suit to compel Carter C. Norvell and Parkhurst & Norvell, an accounting firm Norvell had operated as a partnership with Andrew ("the partnership"), to arbitrate a dispute regarding the dissolution of the partnership. Pursuant to an arbitration provision in a dissolution agreement Norvell and Andrew had executed before Andrew's death, the trial court ultimately ordered arbitration and stayed further proceedings until arbitration was complete. Subsequently, however, Parkhurst moved the trial court to lift the stay and to enter a partial summary judgment resolving certain aspects of the dispute in her favor. After the trial court lifted the stay and scheduled a hearing on Parkhurst's motion, Norvell and the partnership appealed, arguing that the trial court was effectively failing to enforce the terms of a valid arbitration agreement in violation of the Federal Arbitration Act. The Alabama Supreme Court determined there was no evidence in the record indicating that Norvell made such an agreement and he, in fact, denied doing so. In the absence of any evidence that would establish such an agreement, as well as any other evidence that would conclusively establish that Norvell clearly and unequivocally expressed an intent to waive his right to have the arbitrator resolve this dispute. As such, Parkhurst failed to meet her burden of showing that the arbitration provision in the dissolution agreement should not have been enforced. Accordingly, the trial court erred by lifting the arbitral stay in order to consider Parkhurst's motion for a partial summary judgment, and its judgment doing so was reversed and remanded. View "Norvell v. Parkhurst" on Justia Law

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William and Daniel, the children of Victor (Decedent), are the beneficiaries of Decedent's estate. In 2010, the probate court appointed William as the personal representative of the Estate. In 2014, Daniel filed a petition alleging that William had not filed any reports on the status of the administration of the Estate, that multiple notices of default had been recorded against real property owned by the Estate, that William had not rented out the property or otherwise made it productive, and Daniel did not know the status of the Estate's remaining assets. After a trial, in April 2015, the court orally announced its decision to remove William as personal representative and to appoint Ocaña in his place. Its final decision issued in April 2016. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that the order was not appealable. The trial court expressly reserved jurisdiction to issue a further statement of its reasons; the 2015 order was therefore not final. The Probate Code provides for an appeal from an order removing a fiduciary, so the appeal should not be dismissed on the ground that the order appears in a statement of decision rather than a separate order or judgment. The court upheld the factual findings regarding William’s neglect of the estate. View "Estate of Reed" on Justia Law

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Jacquelin Stevenson (Mother) was the sole lifetime beneficiary of two trusts created by the will of her husband, who died in 1988. The residual beneficiaries of the two trusts were her sons, Thomas Stevenson III and Daniel Stevenson II (collectively, the Stevenson brothers), and her daughters, Respondents. The Stevenson brothers were also co-trustees of the two trusts from 1999 to 2006. Respondents alleged that while the brothers were co-trustees, they violated their fiduciary duties by unlawfully taking money from the trusts. Respondents claimed the Stevenson brothers stole approximately five million dollars from the two trusts. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the court of appeals' decision reversing in part a circuit court order which granted Petitioners summary judgment on Respondents' individual cause of action for aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty. The sole issue on appeal was whether this cause of action survived summary judgment. After review, the Supreme Court concluded there was sufficient evidence to allow the aiding and abetting claim to survive summary judgment; the aiding and abetting claim survived Mother's death. The Court affirmed the court of appeals, who reversed summary judgment in favor of petitioners. View "Bennett v. Carter" on Justia Law