Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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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

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After the death of James Kenneth Slavens (Jim), James Adam Slavens, Alexa Slavens, Tanner Slavens, Twin G Holdings, LLC, and Jim’s Estate (Respondents) sought a declaratory judgment as to the parties’ rights in Twin G Holdings, LLC (Twin G), which Jim formed before he died. The district court determined that Jim's wife (and administrator of his estate) Melanie Slavens had no rights in Twin G and entered judgment that: (1) Jim’s three oldest children, James Adam, Alexa, and Tanner, each owned 33% of Twin G; (2) the Eldest Children were Twin G’s sole members; (3) James Adam was Twin G’s sole manager; and (4) Melanie was never a member or manager of Twin G. Melanie, both personally and as administrator, appealed. The trial court found that Jim formed Twin G for asset protection purposes. Twin G’s Articles of Organization listed Jim as Twin G’s managing member. Twin G’s Operating Agreement designated Jim and Johnny Slavens, Jim’s brother, as members, with Jim owning 1% and Johnny owning the remaining 99%. Johnny held a largely passive role in Twin G and testified he held the 99% ownership interest in Twin G for Jim’s benefit until Jim’s death and then for the Eldest Children’s benefit. Jim’s relationship with Johnny soured when real property recorded in Johnny’s name became involved in a lawsuit in spring 2011. Jim took efforts to remove Johnny from Twin G. Jim first sent to Johnny an “Addendum” to Twin G in 2011. If signed, the Addendum purported to transfer Johnny’s ownership interest. The Addendum recited that Johnny “desires to have no interest in Twin G” and, therefore, “has agreed to convey his entire interest to James K. Slavens and Melanie Slavens in such a way that they will share an equal interest in the property.” Johnny never signed the Addendum. After Jim died, Melanie opened a probate proceeding in Utah, where Jim was domiciled, and was appointed special administrator of Jim’s estate. Melanie then asserted rights in Twin G and filed the Amended Certificate with the Idaho Secretary of State. Johnny maintained he still had membership and ownership rights in Twin G, despite having executed the Amended Certificate. As Johnny explained, delivery of the Amended Certificate to Jim was conditional on Jim filing it with the Idaho Secretary of State, which Jim never did. Thus, in August 2013, Johnny executed transfer documents purporting to transfer and assign membership, management, and ownership rights in Twin G to the Eldest Children. With regard to the declaratory judgment action, Melanie moved to dismiss, which the district court denied. Respondents then moved for partial summary judgment, which the district court granted. Melanie filed a motion to reconsider, which the district court denied. The Supreme Court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting Johnny's affidavit at trial under the Deadman Statutes, but that the trial court properly denied Melanie's motion to dismiss. View "Slavens v. Slavens" on Justia Law

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This case was an appeal from the district court’s decision to affirm a magistrate court’s summary dismissal of the Estate of John Cornell’s claims involving the administration of a trust. John and his sister, Toni Johnson, were beneficiaries of their parents’ trust. When the time came to distribute the assets, Johnson refused, which led John to file a petition for the administration of the trust and removal of Johnson as trustee. Shortly after filing the petition, John committed suicide. Consequently, the magistrate court granted Johnson’s motion to dismiss John’s petition. Kareen Cornell, John’s surviving spouse, subsequently petitioned the magistrate court for administration of the trust and to remove Johnson as trustee. The magistrate court once again granted Johnson’s motion to dismiss, basing its decision on the trust distribution survivorship clause and on abatement of the claims. John’s Estate appealed, and the district court affirmed. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the Estate argued that its claims survived John’s death. The Supreme Court agreed, reversed and remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings. View "Estate of Cornell v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Sarah Chitwood was friends with Marjorie Ellmaker. In 2003, Chitwood contacted an attorney to draft a durable power of attorney, naming Ellmaker as her attorney-in-fact. She later had the attorney draft a will. At that time, Chitwood was 85 years old and a widow with no living children. She executed the will, which left a cake plate and glass horse to a married couple who were her friends, her cats to another friend, and the remainder of her estate to Ellmaker. In 2005, Chitwood wanted to sell part of the real property she owned in McCall. She was introduced to Calvin Tabor, a member in A1 Real Estate, LLC which was in the business of flipping houses and buying land to resell. He found a group of investors willing to purchase Chitwood's property. Chitwood entered into a written real estate contract to sell her property to "A1 REAL ESTATE LLC AND/OR AS ASSIGNED." An addendum to the real estate contract stated that Chitwood would finance $227,000 of the purchase price by two promissory notes from A1 Real Estate, LLC, one for $150,000 and the other for $77,000. The addendum also stated that the notes would be secured by A1 Real Estate, LLC and that upon default liens could be placed on the assets of that company. The original note listed "A1 Real Estate LLC" as the borrower, and Tabor signed it "as member of A1 Real Estate." Chitwood died in 2007. The attorney who had drafted her will prepared two affidavits of "Non-Probate" for Ellmaker to sign. In one affidavit, Ellmaker averred that Chitwood died leaving a last will and testament; that Ellmaker was the sole heir; that all of Chitwood's debts, the expenses of her last illness, her funeral expenses, and the applicable estate and inheritance taxes had been fully paid; that upon her death Chitwood owned real property, which was described; and that the affidavit was made for the purpose of transferring the real property to Ellmaker. Ellmaker recorded that affidavit. In the other affidavit, Ellmaker averred that Chitwood had died; that she left a will which was not probated; that Ellmaker was the sole heir; that all of Chitwood's debts, the expenses of her last illness, her funeral expenses, and the applicable estate and inheritance taxes had been fully paid; and that the affidavit was made for the purpose of transferring Chitwood's interest in the real estate contract with A1 Real Estate LLC, the promissory note dated May 9, 2005, and "the Agreement dated 2007" to Ellmaker. Ellmaker recorded this affidavit too. Then in 2010, Ellmaker filed this action against Tabor and A1 Real Estate LLC. alleging that Tabor breached an oral contract to pay the note and that all defendants breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, failed to pay the promissory note when due, and had been unjustly enriched. Tabor moved for summary judgment on the ground that he signed the promissory note as a member of A1 Real Estate, LLC and that he was not personally liable on the notes and did not guarantee payment of the note. On the same date, he filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that Ellmaker lacked standing to bring this action because the estate of Chitwood had not been probated, no personal representative had been appointed, and the three-year statute of limitations for instituting probate proceedings had expired. The district court granted the motion to dismiss and the motion for summary judgment. The court refused to admit Chitwood's will into evidence and therefore held that Ellmaker had no legal basis for enforcing the promissory note. The court also granted Tabor's motion for summary judgment on all of the claims asserted against him. Ellmaker appealed. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Ellmaker v. Calvin Tabor" on Justia Law

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Melvin Peterson died in 2007. Prior to his death, he owned some residential real property. In 2001, Peterson executed a Gift Deed of his real property to his daughter, Cathie Peterson, retaining for himself a life estate in the property. Shortly thereafter, he applied for Medicaid and began receiving Medicaid benefits in March 2003. At the time of his death, Melvin Peterson had received a total of $171,386.94 in Medicaid benefits. Cathie was appointed personal representative. IDHW filed a timely Claim Against Estate and later an Amended Claim Against Estate in the amount of $171,386.94. Cathie disallowed the claims without stating a reason. In response, IDHW filed a Petition for Allowance of Amended Claim. After a hearing, the court granted IDHW's petition. After receiving no response to its claim against the estate, IDHW filed a Petition to Require Payment of Claim, setting forth its demand for payment of the value of Melvin Peterson's life estate. After a hearing, the magistrate court entered an order requiring payment of IDHW's claim. The Order held that the life estate was an asset of the estate for purposes of Medicaid recovery and ordered the personal representative to add the life estate interest to the estate's inventory and assign it an appropriate value. However, the personal representative instead filed and was granted a motion to hire an appraiser to determine the fee simple value of the residential real property. After the personal representative failed to file an appraisal, IDHW filed various motions relative to the appraisal, sale of the property, and payment of its claim. The magistrate court granted IDHW's motions to compel appraisal, sale of the property, and payment of the Medicaid claim, which the personal representative subsequently appealed. The district court vacated the magistrate's Order and remanded the matter for additional findings of fact and conclusions of law. Shortly after the ruling on appeal was entered, Cathie Peterson sought permission from the magistrate court to sell the property, liquidate an escrow account, and pay counsel for the personal representative of the estate. On the same day, she also filed an Amended Personal Representative's Inventory assigning the life estate zero value. Attorney Brent Featherston filed a Demand for Notice and Special Appearance on behalf of "Cathie Peterson, individually,"stating that he was seeking to vacate and dismiss all orders entered by the magistrate court regarding her real property. IDHW responded by filing a petition to remove Cathie Peterson as personal representative of the estate, which the magistrate court granted. Following a court trial, the magistrate court held that the life estate remainder interest was an estate asset of value for purposes of Medicaid reimbursement and that its value was to be determined in accordance with IDAPA 16.03.05.837.01. On appeal, the district court affirmed the magistrate court. Cathie Peterson appealed. The Supreme Court found that both the magistrate court and the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over this case and personal jurisdiction over Cathie Peterson individually, and that the entire residential property that Cathie Peterson received from her father was an asset of his estate and subject to Medicaid recovery. Thus, the district court erred to the extent it held that only the remainder interest in the estate was subject to Medicaid recovery. Furthermore, the Court held that Cathie Peterson failed to show that the district court's decision denying her claim for offsets was unsupported by the evidence. View "Dept. of Health & Welfare v. Peterson" on Justia Law

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The Department of Health and Welfare appealed an order that disallowed its attempt to recover assets in a probate proceeding. The Department sought to recover assets of a dead Medicaid recipient for medical assistance payments made on the decedent's behalf from her widower. The magistrate court held that the Department could not reach the separate property of the decedent's spouse. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the Department was permitted to seek recovery from the decedent's community property that was transmuted to her widow as his separate property. View "In re Estate of Wiggins" on Justia Law

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Ronald (Ron) and Dorothy Arnold appealed the district court's decision to grant a constructive trust property interest in favor of Ron's sister, Mary Snider (Toni) and her husband, Steve Snider. The property in question is a cabin and accompanying forest service permit for land located in Valley County. Toni and Ron's father built the cabin and willed it, along with the permit, to his wife, Bette Arnold. The district court imposed a constructive trust on the property in favor of the Sniders finding that Bette transferred the property to both the Arnolds and the Sniders in 1983. The Arnolds appealed the decision, arguing that the Sniders failed to present clear and convincing evidence of a constructive trust and the district court's finding that Bette intended to give the property to both parties was clearly erroneous. Upon review, the Supreme Court found no error and affirmed the opinion of the district court. View "Snider v. Arnold" on Justia Law

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Danielle Quemada, the daughter and personal representative of Richard Ortega (Decedent), initiated this action to set aside two quitclaim deeds. At the time of the Decedent's death, he had three children: Richard Ortega, Jr., Denise Mota, and Quemada. On January 12, 2012, Respondents, Efren Arizmendez and Gilbert Acosta filed a petition to adjudicate the intestacy of the Decedent and to be appointed as the personal representative of the Decedent's estate. The proceeding was assigned to the magistrate court. Thereafter, Quemada filed a petition for appointment as personal representative, which was granted. On April 20, 2010, Quemada filed a verified Petition, invoking the Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act (TEDRA) to set aside two of the deeds. She alleged that the deeds to the properties should have been set aside because the Decedent signed them based on Celia Ortega's fraudulent misrepresentations, undue influence, and design to intentionally interfere with inheritance. During a telephonic status conference, the district court granted Quemada leave to file an amended petition narrowing the issues in dispute, and the parties stipulated to waive a jury trial. Quemada filed an unverified Amended Petition which was identical to the original Petition, except that it left out the intentional interference with inheritance cause of action. The district court ruled in response to a Rule 12(b) motion of Respondents that Quemada could not pursue a claim for damages, nor any claim against Celia Ortega, having failed to allege either in the Amended Petition. The Respondents answered the Amended Petition and shortly thereafter moved for summary judgment. Subsequent to the hearing on the motion to dismiss, the district court issued its Memorandum Decision, finding that no genuine issues of material fact existed, and that Respondents were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Quemada appealed to the Supreme Court. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Quemada v. Arizmendez" on Justia Law

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This appeal came before the Supreme Court from a declaratory judgment action brought by Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho (Farm Bureau). Farm Bureau brought suit in response to a claim for insurance benefits filed by the personal representatives of the estate of a deceased policyholder (the Estate). Farm Bureau requested a judgment declaring that the Estate was not an "insured" under the decedent's insurance policy and was therefore not entitled to payment of wrongful death damages under the Policy's underinsured motorist coverage. The district court granted the Estate's motion for summary judgment, determining that Idaho's wrongful death statute, entitled the insured's Estate to recover damages for wrongful death and that the Policy provided coverage for those damages. Farm Bureau appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed: as to the Estate, the Court determined that under the plain language of the wrongful death statute, the Estate was not legally entitled to recover damages for itself, but only to bring an action on behalf of the heirs to recover their damages. "The Estate stepped into [the decedent's] shoes for those claims, and Farm Bureau made those payments to the Estate. Farm Bureau's payment of these legitimate claims under the insurance contract does not constitute a change of position or an admission that coverage exists for other claims. We hold that these payments do not prevent Farm Bureau from arguing that it is not required to pay the Estate for damages that [the decedent] was not legally entitled to recover." View "Farm Bureau v. Estate of Eisenman" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a dispute regarding the requirements for determining whether a claimed amount of attorney fees was reasonable. After extended litigation to settle his parents’ estate, Kim Bailey, the estate’s personal representative, asked the magistrate court for an award of attorney fees from estate funds. The magistrate court found that Bailey was entitled to reasonable fees to be determined under I.R.C.P. 54(e)(3) and ordered Bailey to provide an accounting of his attorney fees, including the time his attorney spent providing legal services. Bailey’s attorney notified the court that he was unable to comply with the order, explaining that he did not keep time records because the attorney-client contract expressly stated that the fee would not be based upon an hourly rate, but upon the attorney’s opinion of the reasonable worth of his services. The beneficiaries of the estate challenged the sufficiency of the accounting. The magistrate court denied Bailey’s request for fees and concluded that without time records it could not determine a reasonable fee amount in compliance with I.R.C.P. 54(e)(3)(A). The district court upheld the denial of fees, and Bailey timely appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed with the district court and affirmed. View "Bailey v. Bailey" on Justia Law