Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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The district court did not err in denying a motion for relief from a formal testacy order under Mont. R. Civ. P. 60(b) filed by Appellant, the decedent’s wife. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err in determining that Rule 60(b) did not apply in this case and that, rather, Appellant’s motion for relief from the formal testacy order must be considered under Mont. Code Ann. 72-3-317; (2) the district court did not err in denying Appellant’s motion to modify a formal testacy order under section 72-3-317(4); (3) the district court did not err in denying Appellant’s request for imposition of a constructive trust; and (4) the personal representative was entitled to attorney fees under Mont. Code Ann. 72-12-206. View "In re Estate of Erickson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The Supreme Court held that “devisees” are “interested persons” under Mont. Code Ann. 72-1-103(12) and (25) and Mont. Code Ann. 72-5-413 without possessing any other right or claim, and therefore, Petitioners had standing to bring their petition to remove Respondent as conservator for Gregory Engellant. Section 72-5-413 allows a “person interested in the welfare” of a conserved person to petition for an order removing the conservator. The district court concluded that Petitioners were not interested persons because they were only devisees under Gregory’s will and therefore had only an expectancy interest that was insufficient to grant them standing. The Supreme Court reversed in an opinion limited to the issue of standing, holding that the term “interested person” defined in section 72-1-103(25) includes Petitioners. View "In re Estate of Gregory Engellant" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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In 2010, Helen Edwards executed a will and created a trust leaving the majority of her estate to her niece, G.G. Verone. In 2014, Edwards executed a new will and amended her trust by leaving much of her estate to her handyman, Paul Degel, and to her housekeeper, Nancy Schulz. After Edwards died, Schulz petitioned for probate of the 2012 will. Verone cross-petitioned for probate of the 2010 will and for validation of the 2010 trust. A jury found in a special verdict that Degel or Schulz procured the 2012 will and 2012 trust by undue influence, fraud, or duress. The trial court, however, denied Verone’s requests to admit the 2010 will to probate, to validate the 2010 trust, and for attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) substantial credible evidence existed to support the jury’s findings that the 2012 will and the 2012 trust were procured by undue influence, fraud, or duress; (2) the district court erred in refusing to admit the 2010 will to probate or to enforce the 2010 trust following the jury’s special verdict; and (3) the district court erred in refusing to award Verone attorney fees and certain costs. View "In re Estate of Edwards" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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After John McClure’s death, his widow (Ellie) and his children (collectively, Siblings) embarked on contentious litigation regarding the McClure Family Trust. Ellie filed suit seeking to enforce an amendment to the Trust. The district court denied relief, concluding that, under the Trust’s plain language, Ellie had no interest in any of the Trust’s assets. The court also denied Ellie’s motion for partial summary judgment asking the court to forfeit Siblings’ interests for purportedly contesting the Trust’s validity. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) Ellie had an interest in Trust assets, and therefore, the district court incorrectly concluded that the amendment was invalid; and (2) the district court correctly determined that Siblings did not forfeit their interest in the Trust. Remanded. View "In re Estate of McClure" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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A.M.M.’s two children - Timothy McCann and Genet McCann (together, Appellants) - appealed from three groups of orders entered by the district court during actions it took to oversee the guardianship and conservatorship of A.M.M., including a preliminary injunction, Rule 11 sanctions, and a request for recusal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by granting the Guardian’s motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin Appellants from engaging in certain activities the Guardian believed were detrimental to A.M.M.’s health; (2) the district court did not err by denying Genet’s motion to recuse; and (3) the district court did not err by sanctioning Genet for violating Rule 11. View "In re Guardianship & Conservatorship of A.M.M." on Justia Law

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In 2000, Paul Kurth, who never married or had children, died at the age of eighty-two. In 2013, Sinda and Marty Puryer, Kurth’s niece and her husband, petitioned to probate a document entitled “Instructions and Last Will and Testament of Paul L. Kurth.” Marty claimed Kurth dictated the contents of this document to him and then signed it in the presence of two witnesses. Kurth’s nephew challenged the will. The district court eventually ruled that Mont. Code Ann. 72-3-122(1) barred probate of Kurth’s alleged will and, therefore, that Kurth had died intestate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly concluded that Kurth died intestate and that his estate must be distributed in accordance with Montana’s intestacy statutes. View "In re Estate of Kurth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Roy Volk and Pamela Dee Volk had a son, RBV, in the fall of 2000. In 2011, the marriage was dissolved. At the time of the divorce, Roy owned two term life insurance policies. While a statutorily-mandated temporary restraining order was still in effect, Roy changed the beneficiary designations on both policies and designated his sister, Valerie Goeser, as the new beneficiary. Just over four months after the divorce was final, Roy died. Valerie received the life insurance proceeds from both policies. Pamela subsequently filed this action on behalf of RBV against Valerie and Roy’s estate seeking a constructive trust over the insurance policy payouts for the benefit of RBV. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Valerie, concluding that Valerie was not unjustly enriched when she received Roy’s life insurance proceeds. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Valerie was unjustly enriched because Roy’s errors in changing the beneficiary of his life insurance under the statutorily-mandated restraining order invalidated his designations on the insurance policies, and a constructive trust was created on RBV's behalf as a result of these errors. Remanded. View "Volk v. Goeser" on Justia Law

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August Schreiber’s (the decedent) will devised three lots and five certificates of deposit (CDs) to named beneficiaries (the beneficiaries). Before the decedent died, he sold the lots and the CDs. The personal representative, who was also the residuary beneficiary of the will, concluded that the decedent spent the process of the sales prior to his death. The personal representative filed a final accounting and petition for distribution calling for the beneficiaries to receive nothing and the residuary beneficiary to receive the net distributable estate. The district court denied the final accounting and petition for distribution. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) correctly concluded that the decedent did not intend ademption of his specific devise of the lots, so the proceeds of the sale of the lots were to be distributed to the beneficiaries, regardless of whether the original funds could be traced; (2) incorrectly concluded that the decedent did not intend ademption of the devise of the CDs and thus erred in ordering the personal representative to distribute to the beneficiaries the value of those CDs; and (3) did not err when it denied the final accounting submitted by the personal representative. Remanded. View "In re Estate of Schreiber" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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A.M.M. was the mother of eight adult children, including Timothy McCann. Timothy filed a petition requesting that he be appointed A.M.M’s sole guardian and conservator. After a trial, the district court found that A.M.M. was an incapacitated person, appointed attorney Casey Emerson as guardian and appointed Timothy, Timothy’s brother, and attorney Douglas Wold as joint conservators. The district court later awarded attorney fees to Wold and Emerson. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion by denying Timothy’s motion to vacate, nor did the court err in its ruling on any of the issues therein; (2) did not abuse its discretion by striking Timothy’s reply brief for untimely service; (3) did not abuse its discretion when it limited the powers of the conservators to act on behalf of A.M.M. in her role as a corporate director or signatory; and (4) did not abuse its discretion by ordering payment of attorney fees to either Wold or Emerson. Lastly, Timothy’s allegations of attorney misconduct were not properly before the Court. View "In re Guardianship of A.M.M." on Justia Law

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Howard H. Mills (the Decedent) died, survived by three sons - Howard W. (Howard), John, and David. On August 21, 2014, Howard petitioned for formal probate of Decedent’s will and appointment of a personal representative. The district court informed the parties that any objections may be filed within fourteen days, by October 6, 2014. Neither John nor David filed an objection by the district court’s deadline. On October 15, 2014, Howard moved the district court for entry of default against John and David for failure to object to the petition. Before an actual default was entered, John and David each filed motions to set aside the default. After a hearing at which neither John nor David was present, the district court issued an order denying John and David’s requests to set aside the defaults. The district court subsequently appointed Howard as personal representative and admitted the will to formal probate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court abused its discretion by determining that David failed to establish good cause for not filing timely and potentially meritorious objections to the initiation of the formal probate proceedings. View "In re Estate of Mills" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates