Justia Trusts & Estates Opinion Summaries

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In these two original actions the Supreme Court granted a limited writ of prohibition in each action, holding that the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, General Division, lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to adopt certain paragraphs of its order.Two brothers, who were coexecutors of their deceased father's estate, sought writs of prohibition to prevent the judge of the general division from enforcing her order memorializing a settlement in a judicial-dissolution action, arguing that they were not bound by the order because the general division lacked both subject matter jurisdiction to issue the order and personal jurisdiction over them. The Supreme Court granted a limited writ of prohibition in each action, holding that the general division patently and unambiguously lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to adopt the paragraphs of its order directing the brothers to take actions as coexecutors. View "Neiman v. LaRose" on Justia Law

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After Royals’ father, Adams, died at age 99, Royals became the successor trustee and sole beneficiary of the Adams Trust. Lu, Adams’s second wife, was 59 years old when she married Adams, then 95. Royals alleged that Adams intended to leave none of his assets to Lu. Lu claims Adams intended to provide for her support by depositing certain funds in certain accounts under Lu’s control outside of the Trust. A pretrial right to attach order was issued against Lu under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (Welf. & Inst. Code 15600).The court of appeal reversed. The prospect of punitive recovery on a financial elder abuse claim (exemplary damages or statutory penalties) may not be secured by the extraordinary remedy of pretrial attachment. A financial elder abuse claimant may obtain an attachment for potential compensatory damages and an award of attorney fees and costs associated with those damages only if the request for it complies with all applicable provisions of the statutory scheme governing pretrial attachments (Code Civ. Proc. 481.010). Royals’s attachment application did not comply with four provisions of the Attachment Law. Royals failed to support her prayer for compensatory damages with competent evidence; to the extent she sought an attachment for prospective recovery of punitive damages and statutory penalties in addition to compensatory damages, her attachment request also failed to comply with the attachable amount, attachable claim, and claimed indebtedness requirements. View "Royals v. Lu" on Justia Law

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The Second Appellate District resolved three appeals, referred to as the 270 Action and the other as 475 Action.   In the 270 Action, the trial court sustained special motions to strike Plaintiff’s complaint against Defendant and her counsel, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, subdivision (b)(1)1 (i.e., anti-SLAPP motions). The trial court further awarded Defendant and her attorney fees and costs pursuant to section 425.16, subdivision (c)(1). The first 270 Appeal (No. B308337) is of the trial court’s judgment following its order on the anti-SLAPP motions. The Second Appellate District agreed with the trial court that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the merits in the 270 Action because, under the circumstances presented, he lacked standing to bring a malicious prosecution claim with respect to an action that had not been prosecuted against him. The court, therefore, affirmed the trial court’s judgment.   The 475 Appeal (No. B307242) is of an order entered by the probate court dismissing Defendant’s creditor’s petition for a finder’s fee in the 475 Action. This order was rendered primarily on a misapplication of the doctrine of issue preclusion. The Second Appellate District reversed this order and remanded to the probate court for further proceedings. By their cross-appeal, Plaintiff and his attorney appeal an order directing the attorney to pay expenses for repeated violations of the probate court’s page limit rules. The Second Appellate District found that the probate court acted within its authority in directing such payment and therefore affirm View "Tukes v. Richard CA2/" on Justia Law

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Relator—the decedent’s personal representative—brought a wrongful death claim under ORS 30.020 that sought, among other things, damages on behalf of the statutory beneficiaries for their loss of decedent’s society and companionship. The trial court entered an order under ORCP 44 C requiring the beneficiaries to produce records of their medical and psychological care that was relevant to those alleged damages. Relator filed a petition for an alternative writ of mandamus, which the Oregon Supreme Court allowed, arguing that the beneficiaries’ records were privileged, and that ORCP 44 C could not require disclosure because that rule applied to claims made for “damages for injuries to the party,” and the beneficiaries were not parties. The Supreme Court concluded that the trial court’s ruling was in error. As a matter of law, the Court held that statutory beneficiaries of a wrongful death claim were not, by virtue of that status, “parties” who could be compelled under ORCP 44 C to provide privileged records. View "Dahlton v. Kyser" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jerry Newton appealed his convictions by jury on three counts of exploitation of an elderly, disabled, or impaired adult in violation of RSA 631:9, I(a) (2016) and RSA 631:10 (2016). Defendant became trustee of the Newton Family Trust and retained power of attorney over both the victim (defendant’s mother) and her husband (defendant’s father) in 2014 as a result of their failing health. The Trust created a fiduciary duty in the trustee and specified that the assets and money held by the Trust were to be used only for the benefit of the victim and her husband until their death. The victim’s husband died on December 21, 2015. By July 2017, the New Hampshire Attorney General had launched an investigation into allegations that defendant exploited the victim for large sums of money. Defendant argued the trial court erred when, at trial, it excluded out-of-court statements made by the defendant’s parents and a financial planner. He also appealed the trial court’s denial of his post-conviction motion for a new trial based upon ineffective assistance of counsel. The State cross-appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by ordering a hearing to review and reconsider the sentence. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's orders. View "New Hampshire v. Newton" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from an action in which the personal representative of the Estate of Victoria Smith (the “Personal Representative”) sought to eject Riverside Farms, LLC, (“Riverside”) from its real property, referred to by the parties as the “Chinden Property,” after the term of Riverside’s lease expired. Riverside argued that the Personal Representative lacked standing to bring the ejectment action because it was not the true owner of the land. The Personal Representative was earlier granted ownership of the “Chinden Property” pursuant to a Rule 70(b) judgment issued during the probate proceedings following Victoria’s death. Riverside argued that the Rule 70(b) judgment was barred by res judicata because a prior action, which concerned removal of trees along an easement on the property, had already confirmed that the Personal Representative was not the true owner of the Chinden Property. The district court determined that ejectment of Riverside was proper because the dismissal of the prior case did not preclude the Rule 70(b) judgment issued in the probate case. Riverside filed a motion asking the district court to reconsider its decision, but the district court declined to do so. Riverside appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, arguing that the denial of its motion to reconsider was in error and renewing its argument that the personal representative lacked standing to seek removal of Riverside from the property because the Rule 70(b) judgment was barred by res judicata. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Elsaesser v. Riverside Farms, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involved a contentious family dispute over the effect of an in terrorem clause in a trust instrument that was executed by David Slosberg (“David”), which said that if his son, Robert Slosberg (“Plaintiff”), or daughters, Suzanne Giller and Lynne Amy Seidner (“Defendants”), challenged the trust, they would forfeit any benefits they were to receive from it. After David died, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging, among other things, that Defendants unduly influenced David to create the trust that contained the in terrorem clause, and at a trial in June 2019, the jury agreed. The trial court accordingly entered an order ruling that the trust instrument was void. Defendants moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, arguing, among other things, that the in terrorem clause contained in the trust instrument precluded Plaintiff from asserting the undue-influence claim in the first place. The trial court denied the motion, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the in terrorem clause barred Plaintiff’s claim and resulted in his forfeiture of any benefits from the trust. The Georgia Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals erred by determining that the in terrorem clause barred Plaintiff’s undue-influence claim and resulted in forfeiture of the assets the trust instrument otherwise provided. That part of the Court of Appeals’ decision was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings at the trial court. View "Slosberg v. Giller, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the superior court judge granting partial summary judgment and separate and final judgment for Plaintiffs in this familial dispute over assets left by Lubov Stempniewicz, the mother and grandmother to the parties to this action, holding that the judgment is reversed with respect to count eight of Plaintiffs' complaint.Plaintiffs initiated this action against their uncle to determine the validity of the Living Trust of Lubov Stempniewicz. Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that their uncle acted without authority in creating the trust, and therefore the trust was void ab initio. The superior court agreed and granted judgment for Plaintiffs. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed in part, holding that summary judgment was proper as to all counts except count eight, alleging "constructive trust." View "Barbetti v. Stempniewicz" on Justia Law

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The City of Warrior ("Warrior") and the Town of Trafford ("Trafford") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct a circuit court to vacate its order denying their motions for a summary judgment in this tort action filed by plaintiff James Griffin, as the personal representative of the estate of James R. Olvey, and to enter a summary judgment in Warrior's and Trafford's favor on the basis of immunity. A Warrior police officer saw a cehicle operated by Donald Wright run a red light. Though the officer tried to stop Wright's vehicle, Wright sped away and the officer pursued. A Trafford officer joined in pursuit. When Wright entered the interstate to avoid the police chase, the officers stopped their pursuit. Approximately three quarters of a mile from where the officers ceased their pursuit, Wright's vehicle collided head-on with a vehicle driven by Olvey in a southbound lane. Olvey died as a result of the collision. When Wright was apprehended at the collision scene, a syringe was found hanging from his right arm. Subsequent testing revealed that, at the time of the collision, he was under the influence of both marijuana and cocaine. Wright was subsequently criminally indicted in connection with Olvey's death. Griffin, as the personal representative of Olvey's estate, later sued, among others, the two officers and their respective Town employers, alleging among other things, that Olvey died as the result of the allegedly unskillful, negligent, and/or wanton conduct of the officers in pursuing Wright while carrying out duties. As to each municipality, Griffin further alleged, based on a theory of respondeat superior, that they were vicariously liable for the purported wrongful conduct of the officers. After review, the Supreme Court determined Warrior and Trafford demonstrated a clear legal right to summary judgment in their favor on the basis of immunity. Accordingly, the trial court was directed to enter a summary judgment in favor of each on Griffin's claims against them. View "Ex parte City of Warrior and Town of Trafford." on Justia Law

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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