Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates
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Milton Turner died on July 25, 2018. On September 20, 2018, Mildred Williamson petitioned for letters of administration of Turner's estate in the probate court. In her petition, Williamson asserted that Turner had died intestate and that Williamson was Turner's only surviving heir. In 2019, Williamson, individually and in her capacity as the personal representative of Turner's estate, entered into a contract agreeing to sell to Matthew Drinkard and Jefferson Dolbare ("the purchasers") real property belonging to the estate for $880,650. The real-estate sales contract specified that the closing of the sale was to occur on or before May 31, 2019. On February 7, 2019, Williamson, individually and in her capacity as personal representative of Turner's estate, executed a deed conveying other real property that was part of Turner's estate to Marcus Hester. On February 13, 2019, Callway Sargent, alleging to be an heir of Turner's, filed a claim of heirship in Turner's estate. Sargent also moved for injunctive relief in which he acknowledged the February 7, 2019, deed, but asserted that Williamson had agreed to sell and had conveyed real property belonging to Turner's estate without the approval of the probate court, and requested that the probate court enjoin "Williamson from engaging in any further administration of [Turner's] estate until so ordered by [the probate court]." Williamson petitioned to have the case removed fro probate to the circuit court. From February 28, 2019, to March 18, 2019, a number of individuals came forward, all claiming to be Turner's heirs. Williamson moved to have the circuit court approve the pending property sales. Williamson and the purchasers did not close on the sale of the property that was the subject of their real-estate sales contract by May 31, 2019, as required by the contract. Some of the purported heirs petitioned the circuit court to stay or vacate the order approving the purchasers contact until matters regarding the heirs was resolved. Drinkard and Dolbare filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings regarding the administration of Turner's estate, but the circuit court denied the motion. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of the purchasers' motion to intervene in the administration of Turner's estate. View "Drinkard, et al. v. Perry, et al." on Justia Law

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Stephen Ankuda, Esq., as the administrator of the Estate of Miriam Thomas, appealed a court order granting former guardian Paul Thomas’s motion to dismiss a decision of the probate division. The probate division ordered Thomas to reimburse his mother’s estate for what it described as damages incurred during his tenure as her financial guardian. However, the Vermont Supreme Court found the civil division did not have subject-matter jurisdiction because the probate division’s order was not a final order. Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the civil division’s order and remanded to the probate division for further proceedings. View "In re Estate of Miriam Thomas" 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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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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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

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Gwendolyn Barnett appealed orders granting relief to Robert Lee Hull, Jr. Barnett and Hull are siblings and the sole legal heirs of their father, Robert Lee Hull, Sr. ("Robert"), who died testate. Pursuant to Robert's will, Hull and Barnett were listed as beneficiaries entitled to equal shares of his estate and Barnett was named personal representative of his estate. Hull filed a complaint against Barnett, arguing that in her role as "a partial caretaker of [Robert]" before his death, had exerted undue influence over Robert and had gained control of Robert's personal property and assets. According to Hull, in the absence of Barnett's purported misconduct, items that Barnett allegedly misappropriated would "have become part of [Robert's] estate." Barnett moved ti dismiss her brother's tort action, claiming that Hull's complaint in the tort action realleged claims purportedly "identical" to claims that Hull had previously asserted in the estate administration, which had been dismissed. The trial court granted Hull's motion in full and denied Barnett's motion to dismiss. On appeal, among other things, Barnett contended the trial court lacked jurisdiction over Hull's claims in the tort action, which she described as "central to the administration of the estate," while the estate administration remained separately pending. In her filings to the Supreme Court, Barnett characterized Hull's claims as "seek[ing] to identify property which he alleges should have been considered property of the Estate ... in the [first-filed] estate administration." To this, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed. Therefore, the trial court lacked jurisdiction over matters relating to the pending estate administration, and lacked jurisdiction to enter the the injunctive order or the subsequent show-cause order compelling Barnett's compliance with the injunctive order. The Supreme Court thus reversed all orders entered by the trial court in the tort action and remanded the matter for that court to enter an order dismissing Hull's complaint. View "Barnett v. Hull" on Justia Law

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Charles Edward Rainwater, Jean Rainwater Loggins, The Lem Harris Rainwater Family Trust, and the Rainwater Marital Trust appealed a circuit court's final judgment enforcing a settlement agreement in the litigation involving four siblings and the family trusts. They challenged three aspects of the judgment: its enforcement of the settlement agreement, its denial of a motion to dissolve a prior order enforcing the settlement agreement, and its denial of a motion to quash a garnishment. Because the court failed to hold an evidentiary hearing on enforcement of the settlement agreement, because the prior enforcement order was improper, and because any award on which the garnishment could have been based was being reversed, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the judgment as to all three aspects. View "The Lem Harris Rainwater Family Trust, et al. v. Rainwater" on Justia Law

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Christopher Luck, as legal guardian and conservator for Ethel Luck, appealed a district court’s dismissal of Ethel’s negligence claim against Sarah Rohel for injuries Ethel sustained in a car accident. On March 13, 2019, the last day before the applicable statute of limitations ran, Amy Clemmons, Ethel’s daughter, signed and filed a pro se Complaint against Rohel on Ethel’s behalf, alleging a single count of negligence. Ethel did not sign the Complaint. The same day, Ethel signed a durable power of attorney designating Clemmons as her attorney-in-fact. Clemmons was a licensed Washington attorney, who, at the time the Complaint was filed, was not licensed to practice law in Idaho. A little over a month later, Clemmons filed a pro se Amended Complaint, which continued to identify the same plaintiff, “AMY CLEMMONS, as Guardian for ETHEL LUCK.” Both Ethel and Clemmons signed the Amended Complaint. Rohel moved to strike the first complaint, arguing Clemmons, who was not licensed to practice law in Idaho, signed the Complaint. Rohel also moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing Clemmons had not been appointed as Ethel’s guardian, was not admitted to the Idaho State Bar and therefore, lacked authority to file the Complaint on Ethel’s behalf. Clemmons subsequently retained an attorney, who filed a notice of appearance on April 23, 2019. The notice of appearance failed to specify whether counsel appeared on behalf of Clemmons, Ethel or both. Counsel argued that Idaho law allowed Clemmons to act as a general guardian and as such, Clemmons was the real party in interest and could initiate a lawsuit pro se, on behalf of Ethel. Additionally, counsel argued that any deficiencies in the Complaint had been cured pursuant to Rule 11 because Ethel signed the Amended Complaint. The district court granted both of Rohel's motions, and Clemmons appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment, finding it erred in applying the rule of nullity to strike Clemmons' Complaint. The Supreme Court determined the caselaw the trial court used as grounds for its judgment was no longer applicable in light of subsequent amendments to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 11. In light of this holding, the Supreme Court remanded this matter to allow the district court to exercise its discretion and determine whether to allow Plaintiff Luck to cure the improper signature. View "Luck v. Rohel" on Justia Law

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Respondent Neumiller & Beardslee filed a renewal request for a 2008 judgment and identified Estate Administrator Audrey Douglas as the judgment debtor without stating she was named in her role as the administrator of an estate as set forth in the original judgment. When it discovered this, respondent filed a motion to correct the error. The trial court granted that motion and corrected the judgment nunc pro tunc. Appellant Joanna Douglas-Dorsey, who was a beneficiary of the estate argued on appeal the trial court erred in correcting that error because it was not a clerical error. Remembering the “law respects form less than substance” the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Estate of Douglas" on Justia Law

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In October 1998, Andrea and Brad Hall, together with Linda and Frank Exler, purchased real property in Roberts, Idaho. The Halls owned a two-thirds interest in the property and the Exlers owned one-third. In September 2005, Linda deeded all of her interest in the property to Frank. Frank died intestate in March 2006. Travis Exler, Frank’s son and sole heir, was appointed as the personal representative of Frank’s estate (“the Estate”). The parties dispute their relationship in the years between Frank's death and the filing of the underlying lawsuit. Brad testified he received notice from the County rearding unpaid taxes on the property. Travis said he was unable to pay the Estate's portion of the overdue taxes. Brad testified the parties reached an agreement by which Travis would deed the property to the Halls if they paid the outstanding tax balance. Within weeks of their conversation, Brad contacted a law firm to prepare a quitclaim deed. In contrast, Travis stated he would transfer the Estate’s interest in the property if the Halls reimbursed his costs associated with cleaning up the property. Travis testified that in 2009 the parties also agreed the Halls would take care of cleanup costs and taxes. Travis stated that he did not transfer ownership of the property to the Halls and was never presented with a quitclaim or personal representative’s deed. It was undisputed that the Halls had sole control, use, and operation of the property since 2009. The Halls oversaw the administration of the lease and maintenance of the property. Travis did not list any profit or loss from the property on his personal taxes. In addition, the Halls paid the overdue taxes on the property, and made all tax payments on the property since 2009. The Halls and Travis did not communicate between 2009 and 2019. In June 2010, Travis voluntarily filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Travis did not list the property on his bankruptcy petition. The Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee moved to dismiss based on Travis’s failure to list an interest in the property, rental income, and the transfer of an apartment building and 150 cattle. The bankruptcy court dismissed Travis’s petition. After Travis refused the Halls’ request to reopen probate of the Estate, the Halls filed a complaint to quiet title to the property. The district court issued a memorandum decision and order, quieting title to the disputed property in the Halls based on the lost deed doctrine. Travis appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order. View "Hall v. Exler" on Justia Law