Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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Believing that she would be inheriting half of her father’s estate, Deann Turcott and her husband spent considerable time and money making improvements on the father’s land. However, the father subsequently changed his will and left Deann nothing. Deann filed suit seeking quantum meruit damages for the work she had performed. The district court held that quantum meruit damages were not appropriate and awarded damages under a theory of unjust enrichment. Deann appealed the district court’s award of unjust enrichment damages as inadequate. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Turcott v. Estate of Clarence D. Bates" on Justia Law

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Believing that she would be inheriting half of her father’s estate, Deann Turcott and her husband spent considerable time and money making improvements on the father’s land. However, the father subsequently changed his will and left Deann nothing. Deann filed suit seeking quantum meruit damages for the work she had performed. The district court held that quantum meruit damages were not appropriate and awarded damages under a theory of unjust enrichment. Deann appealed the district court’s award of unjust enrichment damages as inadequate. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Turcott v. Estate of Clarence D. Bates" on Justia Law

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Bruce Birch appealed a district court decision to affirm a magistrate court decision to award attorney fees against Birch. This case concerned the disposition of the estate of Birch and Linda Bailey’s mother, Ruth Birch. Ruth executed a last will and testament that intentionally omitted Birch. After Ruth’s death in 2011, Bailey was appointed as the personal representative for her estate. The magistrate approved a compromise agreement that allowed Birch and another intentionally omitted sibling to receive equal shares of the estate. After approval of the agreement, Bailey requested Birch pay the estate's attorney fees for preparing the agreement. The magistrate court awarded attorney fees to Bailey. In this appeal, Birch argued the magistrate court’s award of attorney fees was an abuse of discretion because it did not comply with the requirements of the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred in awarding fees, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bailey v. Birch" on Justia Law

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Victoria H. Smith was nearly 100 years old when she died on September 11, 2013. During her life she married Vernon K. Smith Sr., a lawyer who died of a heart attack in 1966. Victoria and Vernon Sr. accumulated substantial real estate and business interests during their lifetimes. More than twenty years before her death, Victoria prepared a holographic will. Her son Vernon Smith, Jr. was the only person present when Victoria signed the document. In 2012, Vernon formed a limited liability company, VHS Properties, LLC (“VHS” were Victoria’s initials). He named his mother and himself as the only members of the company. Vernon used a 2008 power of attorney to transfer all of Victoria’s real and personal property to VHS Properties. He signed the transfer document on behalf of Victoria, as her attorney in fact, and on behalf of VHS Properties, as a member. Vernon then used the 2008 power of attorney to execute a second document, by which he transferred to himself all of Victoria’s interest in VHS Properties. He once again signed the document on behalf of Victoria and also signed for himself. By the end of the day on July 4, 2012, Vernon had exclusive ownership and control of all of Victoria’s assets. A dispute arose among Victoria's children following her death and the probate of her estate. A magistrate court ruled Victoria died intestate after finding her will was the product of undue influence of Vernon, Jr. Vernon, Jr. appealed that ruling and an earlier, partial summary judgment ruling that invalidated a series of transactions that transferred Victoria's assets to the LLC. Finding no reversible error in the magistrate court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Victoria H. Smith was nearly 100 years old when she died on September 11, 2013. During her life she married Vernon K. Smith Sr., a lawyer who died of a heart attack in 1966. The couple had three children: Joseph H. Smith, Vernon K. Smith Jr., and Victoria A. (Smith) Converse. This case centered on Victoria’s estate: the magistrate court ruled that Victoria died intestate after finding that her will was a product of the undue influence of her son, Appellant Vernon Smith Jr. Vernon appealed that ruling, as well as an earlier partial summary judgment ruling that invalidated a series of transactions that transferred all of Victoria’s assets to a limited liability company that Vernon owned and a corresponding judgment entered pursuant to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 70(b). After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error in the magistrate court’s judgment and affirmed. View "Smith v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The estate of Paul Robert Welch (Welch) appealed the grant of summary judgment to the estate of Barbara Sue Chitwood (Chitwood). Chitwood was murdered in August 2015, at which time a dispute arose over ownership of funds Chitwood and Welch held at Farmers Bank in two bank accounts designated as “JOINT - WITH SURVIVORSHIP (and not as tenants in common or community property)[.]” Farmers Bank interpled the funds with the district court and initiated this action to resolve the dispute. Law enforcement’s investigation into Chitwood’s death led to Welch being charged with murdering Chitwood. Accordingly, in the interpleader action, Chitwood asserted Idaho’s slayer statute precluded Welch from taking the funds. The district court ruled on summary judgment that the funds went to Chitwood, concluding Chitwood’s slayer statute defense was dispositive. Welch appealed the district court’s ruling concerning the funds. But finding no reversible error in the district court's decision, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hodge v. Waggoner" on Justia Law

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Petrus Family Trust and Edmond Petrus, Jr., individually and as trustee of the Petrus Family Trust (collectively, Petrus) sued Chris Kirk d/b/a Kirk Enterprises (Kirk) and several other parties for claims arising from Petrus’s purchase of a home Kirk built in McCall. Kirk moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted the motion in Kirk’s favor. The district court also awarded attorney fees to Kirk under Idaho Code section 12-121, apportioning the award so as to award Kirk fees only insofar as Kirk was required to defend against a frivolous claim. Petrus appealed. As relevant here, Kirk moved for summary judgment contending, in part, that: (1) Petrus’s conspiracy-to-defraud claim was unsupported; and (2) Petrus’s breach of the implied warranty of habitability claim was untimely under Idaho Code section 5-241(b). Petrus responded that the breach of implied warranty of habitability claim was timely under section 5-241(a) because it arose in tort, not in contract, and did not address the conspiracy-to-defraud claim. The district held a hearing on Kirk’s summary judgment motion, at which Petrus conceded summary judgment for Kirk was proper on the conspiracy-to-defraud claim, leaving only the breach of the implied warranty of habitability claim. The district court then granted summary judgment to Kirk, concluding Petrus’s breach of the implied warranty of habitability claim arose in contract and was therefore untimely under section 5-241(b). Even if Petrus’s claim arose in tort, the district court concluded it would be barred by the economic loss rule. Petrus timely moved for reconsideration, but the district court denied the motion after concluding Petrus had not offered any new argument or evidence that would warrant a different result. Thereafter, the district court awarded attorney fees to Kirk under Idaho Code section 12-121, apportioning the award so as to award fees to Kirk only insofar as he was required to defend against Petrus’s conspiracy-to-defraud claim. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court was correct that a breach of the implied warranty of habitability arose in contract, making Petrus’s claim untimely. "This conclusion, however, is not to say that a home buyer is left without a tort remedy when a builder negligently constructs a home and causes tort damages. In that scenario, an appropriate tort claim may be asserted, and our ruling today does not foreclose that claim." Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment entered in favor of Kirk and appointment of attorney fees. View "Petrus Family Trust v. Kirk" on Justia Law

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Donald Frizzell (“Frizzell”) appealed the dismissal of his complaint. Frizzell and defendants Edwin and Darlene DeYoung (collectively, the “DeYoungs”), were parties to an existing trust, with Edwin serving as trustee and Frizzell and Darlene as beneficiaries. The parties entered into an agreement pursuant to the Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act (“TEDRA agreement”). The TEDRA agreement was designed to modify the existing trust terms and also resolve issues related to Edwin’s administration of the trust in his role as trustee. Two years after the TEDRA agreement was filed with the district court, Frizzell filed suit against the DeYoungs alleging Edwin was breaching the TEDRA agreement and his fiduciary duties. The district court granted the DeYoungs’ motion to dismiss based on provisions in the TEDRA agreement that purported to hold Edwin harmless for any actions taken in his role as trustee. The district court also stated Frizzell was bound by the TEDRA agreement to pursue nonjudicial dispute resolution, rather than file a lawsuit for Edwin’s breach of duty. Frizzell appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found the district court erred in dismissing the complaint because the parties were not able to waive future claims for negligence or breach of fiduciary duty. Frizzell was not prohibited by TERDA or the agreement from seeking judicial action based on Edwin's alleged breaches of the agreement. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order dismissing Frizzell’s complaint and remanded for further proceedings. View "Frizzell v. DeYoung" on Justia Law

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Appellant Jadwiga Melton (“Jadwiga”), challenged a district court’s determination that Respondent Heinz Alt (“Heinz”), filed a timely claim against the Estate of Robert Ernest Melton (“Robert”) and Hedwig Melton (“Hedy”). Hedy died in 2008, and in 2010 Robert married Jadwiga. In 2013, Robert died. Jadwiga commenced joint probate proceedings for both Hedy and Robert, pursuant to Idaho Code section 15-3-111, because Hedy’s will was never probated. Heinz filed a creditor claim against the estate for approximately to the penny $102,574.50, alleging that he loaned money to Hedy and Robert to build a home and in exchange they agreed to execute wills that would leave their estate to him. Jadwiga filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that Hedy was the only one who signed the promissory note and Heinz failed to bring a claim within three years of Hedy’s death. The magistrate court determined that, because Heinz failed to bring the claim against Hedy’s estate within three years of her death, his claim was barred by Idaho Code section 15-3-803. Heinz appealed and the district court reversed the magistrate court, holding that Heinz’s claim was timely, pursuant to Idaho Code section 15-3-111, because Heinz brought his creditor claim within three years of Robert’s death. Upon review, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred when it construed the statutory language of 15-3-111 because the statute was not ambiguous. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Melton v. Alt" on Justia Law

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Dwight Randy Green, Kathy Lefor, and Gary Green (collectively, “Siblings”), appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment and dismissal of their lawsuit against James Green (“James”). Siblings brought this action to challenge the Sixth Amendment to the Ralph Maurice and Jeanne Green Revocable Inter Vivos Trust (“the Trust”), alleging it was the product of undue influence. The Trust was amended from an equal distribution between all of Ralph and Jeanne Green’s children to a 100% distribution to James to the exclusion of the Siblings. The district court granted summary judgment after determining that Siblings had failed to show a genuine issue of material fact which would support a finding of undue influence. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Green v. Green" on Justia Law