Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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Eric Williams, the second cousin of Betty Reynolds, sued attorney Kenneth Nelson and his wife, Sandra Nelson. Kenneth had been retained by Reynolds to advise her in achieving her estate planning objectives. Williams claimed that the Nelsons violated their fiduciary duties to Reynolds by unduly influencing Reynolds to give Sandra joint ownership of - or to designate Sandra as the “payable on death” (POD) beneficiary on - most of Reynolds’ assets. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Nelsons, concluding that Williams lacked standing to bring these claims because he had no right to any of the assets at issue and therefore suffered no harm from the Nelsons’ alleged undue influence over Reynolds . The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Williams’ claims with respect to claims relating to certain accounts; but (2) vacated the dismissal of Williams’ claims pertaining to the accounts for which there was no valid joint ownership or POD designation in effect at the time the Nelsons allegedly unduly influenced Reynolds to give Sandra her interests, holding that Williams had standing to challenge Sandra’s ownership of, and the Nelsons’ conduct, concerning these accounts. View "Williams v. Hubbard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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This dispute surrounded the inter vivos trust of K.R. Conklin. Conklin’s children (the “Children”) became trustees of Conklin’s trust upon his death in 2009. Conklin’s stepchildren (the “Stepchildren”) sued the Children in their individual capacities, seeking, among other things, a declaration that they were beneficiaries of the trust. The circuit court entered judgment for the Children on all counts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in holding (1) the Stepchildren were not beneficiaries under the trust; (2) Conklin did not amend the trust with a letter he wrote; and (3) the Children did not violate the trust’s no-contest provision by resisting the Stepchildren’s claims and subsequent lawsuit. View "Rouner v. Wise" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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In this family dispute over the inheritance of money and property, the trial court dismissed all of Plaintiff Arthur Fry’s claims and some of the claims of Plaintiffs Mary Ellison, Susan Sleeper, and David Fry. The jury returned verdicts in favor of Mary, David and Susan on three of their claims that J.D. Fry committed frauds and other wrongs that resulted in J.D.’s pecuniary gain. J.D. Fry died after suit was filed but before trial, and the trial court substituted J.D.’s wife, Linda Fry, in her capacity as trustee of J.D.’s trust. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment on the jury verdicts for Mary, Susan and David, holding that Susan and David’s claims were time-barred by the statute of limitations and that Mary’s claims were barred because the trial court erred in substituting Linda upon J.D.’s death. The Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ other claims. View "Ellison v. Fry" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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In 2002, three months after she married her fourth husband, Patricia Watson created a trust that left substantially all of her property to her half siblings. The trust expressly stated that Watson’s husband, Arnold Smith, would not receive any part of the trust estate. Thereafter, Watson’s mental health began deteriorating, and in 2007, Watson began making changes to her trust. Watson signed two trust amendments, signed changes to several of her bank and retirement accounts, and signed documents retitling several of her accounts and vehicles. The effect of the changes was that almost all of Watson’s personal property passed to Smith when Watson died. After Watson’s death, the half siblings filed this action seeking to set aside the trust amendments, beneficiary designations, and property transfers. The circuit court ruled that the changes to the estate plan were void due to a lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence supported the circuit court’s judgment that Watson lacked testamentary capacity to make the changes to her estate plan and that the judgment was not against the weight of the evidence. View "Ivie v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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In 2011, Lonnie Brockmire (“Decedent”) died intestate. Decedent was survived by his only biological child, Sherri, and Sherri’s daughter, Bella. Sherri was adopted by her stepfather after she became an adult and prior to Decedent’s death. After Decedent died, Sherri sought a partial distribution of Decedent’s estate to Bella. The circuit court granted the distribution. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Bella had no right to inherit Decedent’s estate pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 474.060.1 and 474.010(2) because (1) Sherri was not a “child” of Decedent at the time he died, and (2) even if she was, Sherri did not predecease Decedent. View "In re Brockmire" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The survivors of Barbara Smith appealed a punitive damage award of $1.5 million against the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation. The Smiths contended that certain evidence admitted by the trial court was outside the court of appeals' prior mandate, and erred in overruling their motion for a new trial on the grounds of juror nondisclosure. The company cross-appealed, contending that the Smiths failed to make a submissible case for punitive damages. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the appellate court's mandate did not address any issues concerning what evidence could be presented at the retrial of punitive damages, and that the trial court did not err in overruling the Smiths' motion for a new trial or the Company's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Accordingly, the Court affirmed. View "Smith vs. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation" on Justia Law

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Allegations of sexual abuse were made against Allen Austin (Decedent) in 2006. Decedent died in 2009. A personal representative of Decedent's estate failed to provide actual notice of the probate proceeding to the children whom Decedent was alleged to have sexually abused. Because of the failure to notify the children, their claims against the estate were filed beyond the statutory six-month window for creditors to file claims against the estate. The trial court dismissed the claims as tardy as the children were not "known or reasonably ascertainable creditors." The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the children were known or reasonably ascertainable creditors of the estate, and therefore, their claims were more than merely conjectural; and (2) because due process requires that the personal representative of an estate provide actual notice of the probate proceeding to all reasonably ascertainable creditors of the estate who may have more than a merely conjectural claim against the estate, the children's claims should not have been dismissed. View "Estate of Austin v. Snead" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the tax sale of certain property to KSSO, LLC. The circuit court entered partial summary judgment awarding quiet title to the property to Catherine Ndegwa as trustee of the Mrema family revocable trust. KSSO, LLC asserted that the circuit court improperly entered summary judgment in favor of Ndegwa and the trust because there was a sufficient question of material fact as to whether KSSO provided Ndegwa with timely and sufficient notice of Plaintiffs' right to redeem the property. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the circuit court's order did not resolve a single, distinct judicial unit, and therefore, was neither a final nor appealable judgment in this case. View "Ndegwa v. KSSO, LLC" on Justia Law