Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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Before he died, John Markey entered into a contract with his second wife, Frances, to make and not revoke a mutual will providing that, upon the death of whomever died later, the couple’s estate would be divided equally between John’s son, David, and Frances’s granddaughter. After John died, Frances breached the contract, instead leaving everything to her own children. Approximately nine months after Frances’s death, David filed suit to enforce the contract. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that a breach of contract regarding mutual wills is neither a “claim” in probate nor a will contest and is therefore subject to the three-month statute of limitations for suits challenging the distribution pursuant to a probated will. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the plain language of the statutory definition of “claim” under the Probate Code includes an action for breach of a contract to make and not revoke a will. Remanded to consider the timeliness of David’s claim, considered under the Probate Code. View "Markey v. Estate of Markey" on Justia Law

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Before he died, John Markey entered into a contract with his second wife, Frances, to make and not revoke a mutual will providing that, upon the death of whomever died later, the couple’s estate would be divided equally between John’s son, David, and Frances’s granddaughter. After John died, Frances breached the contract, instead leaving everything to her own children. Approximately nine months after Frances’s death, David filed suit to enforce the contract. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that a breach of contract regarding mutual wills is neither a “claim” in probate nor a will contest and is therefore subject to the three-month statute of limitations for suits challenging the distribution pursuant to a probated will. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the plain language of the statutory definition of “claim” under the Probate Code includes an action for breach of a contract to make and not revoke a will. Remanded to consider the timeliness of David’s claim, considered under the Probate Code. View "Markey v. Estate of Markey" on Justia Law

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Hanover College, the beneficiary of two trusts, filed petitions requesting that the trusts be terminated. Old National Bancorp, d/b/a Old National Trust Company, as trustee for both trusts, filed responses to Hanover’s petitions. The trial court granted the petitions and ordered the two trusts dissolved and the trust assets distributed to Hanover. Rather than seek a stay of the trial court’s dissolution orders, Old National appealed. The court of appeals dismissed Old National’s appeal, concluding (1) Old National lacked standing in its representative capacity because it failed to obtain a stay of the trial court’s termination orders and was therefore no longer the trustee of the trusts; and (2) because Old National did not intervene in its individual capacity at trial it could not be an aggrieved party on appeal. The Supreme Court likewise dismissed Old National’s appeal, holding that the trustee lacked standing to pursue the appeal in its representative capacity and did not appeal in its individual capacity. View "Old Nat’l Bancorp v. Hanover College" on Justia Law

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In November 2006, The Good Samaritan Home, a nursing home where Venita Hargis was living, told Hargis’s family that Hargis had suffered a fall. Hargis died later that month as a result of the injury she sustained in the alleged fall. In November 2009, Hargis’s family discovered that Hargis’s injury had been caused by an attack from another resident and not by a fall. In October 2011, Hargis’s Estate filed a wrongful death complaint against Good Samaritan, alleging that Good Samaritan negligently caused Hargis’s death and then fraudulently concealed its negligence. Good Samaritan filed a motion to dismiss the complaint due to the Estate’s failure to file the action within two years of Hargis’s death. The trial court dismissed the complaint, concluding that fraudulent concealment does not extend or delay the two-year statutory period to file a wrongful death action. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that if a plaintiff makes the necessary factual showing, the fraudulent concealment statute may apply to toll the Wrongful Death Act’s two-year filing period. View "Alldredge v. Good Samaritan Home, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involved a property dispute between an individual church congregation, Olivet Presbyterian Church, and the denominational organization with which it was previously affiliated, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the latter's subsidiary organizations, the plaintiffs in this action, the Presbytery of Ohio Valley and the Synod of Lincoln Trails of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Inc. (collectively, "Presbytery"). The trial court granted summary judgment rejecting the Presbytery's claims of express and implied trust and holding that the disputed property was solely owned by Olivet. The Presbytery appealed both the denial of its motion for summary judgment and the granting of Olivet's motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact arose from the inferences flowing from the stipulated designated evidence and that neither Olivet nor the Presbytery was entitled to the full relief sought in their respective motions for summary judgment. Remanded. View "Presbytery of Ohio Valley, Inc. v. OPC, Inc." on Justia Law

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Insured held a life insurance policy issued as part of a federal employee benefit plan. When Insured divorced from his first wife, the divorce decree and property settlement required Insured (1) to maintain the life insurance policy, and (2) to designate the first wife and their grandchildren as equal beneficiaries. Subsequently, Insured remarried, designated his second wife as the sole beneficiary to the life insurance policy, and increased the insurance coverage. Insured and second wife later divorced. When Insured died, the second wife remained the sole beneficiary on the life insurance policy. The first wife and grandchildren filed suit, asserting equitable claims over the life insurance proceeds. The trial court granted summary judgment to the second wife, determining that federal employee benefit law preempted the equitable state law claims and that the policy proceeds accordingly belonged to the second wife. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Act did not preempt the equitable claims and that the first wife and grandchildren were entitled to a constructive trust over at least a portion of the proceeds. Remanded. View "Hardy v. Hardy" on Justia Law

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After decedent Mary Avery died, sons Rod and Marshall Avery filed a petition to remove daughter Trina Avery as the personal representative of decedent's estate and to probate decedent's 2008 will naming Rod as the personal representative. Trina filed a separate action to contest the 2008 will, asserting that it was the product of undue influence, fraud, and duress, and that decedent had executed a subsequent will in 2009 that superceded and revoked the 2008 will. When Defendants Rod and Marshall failed to file an answer or other responsive pleading, the trial court entered judgment by default against them. At issue on appeal was whether Defendants were required to file an answer in the will contest action when the statutory provisions did not explicitly mandate the filing of an answer. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure require the timely filing of an answer or responsive pleading and do not exempt will contest actions from the requirement, and (2) by failing to file a timely answer or other proper response in the will contest, Defendants were subject to a default judgment. View "Avery v. Avery" on Justia Law