Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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At issue was not the circuit court’s subject matter jurisdiction over a trust but, rather, the circuit court’s authority to enforce an order. The beneficiary of the trust filed a motion for an order to show cause for why the trustee failed to follow an order of the circuit court. The circuit court held the trustee in contempt, found that the trustee had breached his fiduciary duties to the beneficiary, and found that the trustee had misappropriated trust funds. The court ordered the trustee to personally reimburse the trust for the misappropriated funds and to personally pay the beneficiary attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court had authority to enforce its order and did not clearly err when it found that the trustee violated the order; and (2) the circuit court did not err when it found that the trustee breached his fiduciary duties as trustee of the trust and did not err in its remaining decisions. View "In re Heupel Family Revocable Trust" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal from a circuit court’s order revoking the clerk of court’s issuance of letters of appointment and the clerk’s statement of informal probate and appointment of personal representative, holding that the circuit court’s order was not a final order from which an appeal can be taken. On appeal, Appellant argued that the circuit court erred in its revocation without giving Appellant notice or an opportunity to be heard. The Supreme Court held that, until further proceedings determined the rights of the parties as it related to the appointment of a personal representative and to the probate of the decedent’s will, the Court did not have appellate jurisdiction under S.D. Codified Laws 15-26A-3(2). View "Estate of Stanton W. Fox" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court ruling that an option agreement was void and ordering Wayne Snaza, as trustee of the Dennis Snaza Family Trust, to distribute the net income and residue of the principle of the trust to the beneficiaries upon completion of its term. Wayne gave notice of his intent to exercise his rights under the option agreement to purchase the real property held by the Trust. The circuit court concluded that the option agreement was void because it could not survive the contemporaneous execution of deeds to the same real property, and even if the option agreement was valid, Wayne waived his rights when the real property was transferred to the Trust. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because Wayne presented no evidence to rebut the presumption that the property was already conveyed before the option agreement became effective, the circuit court did not err in finding the option agreement invalid; and (2) the circuit court did not violate Wayne’s due-process rights or abuse its discretion by ordering Wayne to distribute the Trust at the conclusion of its term and in accordance with the Trust instrument. View "In re Dennis Snaza Family Trust" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court compelling Defendant to return real property transferred to him by his late father and the jury verdict requiring Defendant to pay general and punitive damages to his father’s estate but reversed the court’s order requiring Defendant to pay the Estate’s attorney fees. In this case involving the consolidation of both probate and civil actions, the Estate of the decedent argued that Defendant exercised undue influence over the decedent and that Defendant converted the decedent’s property and violated his confidential relationship with the decedent in doing so. The Estate also sought punitive damages for Defendant’s alleged fraudulent behavior. The jury returned a verdict awarding the Estate general and punitive damages. The circuit court then ordered the real property previously transferred to Defendant returned to the Estate. The circuit court also awarded the estate attorney fees. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) possessed subject matter jurisdiction and authority to adjudicate disposition of contrast property; (2) did not err by not granting Defendant summary judgment or by consolidating the probate and civil case; (3) properly denied Defendant’s motion for a new trial; and (4) did not have statutory authority to assess attorney fees against Defendant. View "Estate of Ducheneaux v. Ducheneaux" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff’s claim that Defendant engaged in impermissible self-dealing in her capacity as the decedent’s attorney-in-fact by writing checks from an account Defendant owned jointly with the decedent for the benefit of the decedent and her family. Plaintiff in this case was the personal representative of the decedent, her deceased mother, and Defendant was Plaintiff’s sister. Plaintiff sued Defendant on several grounds, including breach of fiduciary duties. The circuit court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Defendant on that issue, concluding that the power of attorney authorized self-dealing of the kind alleged here and that creation of the joint account did not involve an exercise of Defendant’s powers as attorney-in-fact. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) Defendant engaged in impermissible self-dealing with respect to the money withdrawn from the joint account during the decedent’s lifetime; and (2) with respect to the issue of whether Defendant acted in her fiduciary capacity when she was added to the account, the case is remanded to the circuit court to make further determinations on the issue. View "Wyman v. Bruckner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Charlotte A. Wintersteen’s motion to amend her petition for court supervision of a trust to include a claim challenging the validity of the most recent amendment to the trust, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying the motion to amend the original petition as futile. Charlotte, the widow of Lee R. Wintersteen, sought court supervision of the Lee R. Wintersteen Revocable Trust Agreement upon learning that she had been removed as a beneficiary in a subsequent amendment to the trust. The circuit court granted the petition and assumed supervision of the trust. When Charlotte sought to amend her petition, however, the circuit court concluded that the amended petition would be futile because it was time-barred under S.D. Codified Laws 55-4-57(a)(1) where more than one year had passed since the date of Lee’s death. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Charlotte’s claim was time-barred; and (2) Charlotte could not take advantage of the relation-back doctrine for her extinguished claim. View "In re Wintersteen Revocable Trust Agreement" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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At issue was whether a guardian’s attorney fees should be paid from a protected person’s estate when the fees were incurred in responding to pleadings to remove the guardian and to move the protected person to an assisted living facility. Beverly Sears, the guardian in this case, moved for her attorney fees incurred in a dispute seeking to remove her as guardian and to move the protected person to a facility. The parties settled, with Sears agreeing to step down as guardian but the parties deciding that the protected person would not be moved to a facility. Sears moved for her attorney fees paid from the estate. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that without a resolution of factual matters relating to the necessity of the services in administering the guardianship or the reasonableness of the fee amount, the court was unable to meaningfully review the circuit court’s decision. View "In re Conservatorship of Bachand" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a guardian’s attorney fees should be paid from a protected person’s estate when the fees were incurred in responding to pleadings to remove the guardian and to move the protected person to an assisted living facility. Beverly Sears, the guardian in this case, moved for her attorney fees incurred in a dispute seeking to remove her as guardian and to move the protected person to a facility. The parties settled, with Sears agreeing to step down as guardian but the parties deciding that the protected person would not be moved to a facility. Sears moved for her attorney fees paid from the estate. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that without a resolution of factual matters relating to the necessity of the services in administering the guardianship or the reasonableness of the fee amount, the court was unable to meaningfully review the circuit court’s decision. View "In re Conservatorship of Bachand" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order refusing to terminate an irrevocable trust and granted summary judgment in favor of the trustees. The sole beneficiary of the trust sought to terminate the trust and requested that the court distribute the assets to her. The beneficiary also alleged that the trustees had breached their fiduciary duties. The circuit court declined to terminate the trust. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in finding the trust to be unambiguous; and (2) the circuit court erred in not terminating the trust and distributing the trust property to the beneficiary because the trust purpose had been fulfilled and because termination of the trust would “substantially further the trustee’s purposes in creating the trust.” View "In re Guardianship & Conservatorship of Novotny" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The Supreme Court reversed a circuit court order approving the redrafting of Dean Nelson’s will. The change in the will was proposed upon the petition of Dean’s conservator after Dean was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Elizabeth Nelson, Dean’s wife, argued on appeal that the circuit court erred in permitting the conservator to adopt the new will, which eliminated a trust established for Elizabeth’s benefit consisting of Elizabeth’s lifetime, one-half interest in the residue of Dean’s estate. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the circuit court’s decision to authorize the conservator to change the will was an abuse of discretion due to the lack of adequate factual findings. View "In re Guardianship of Nelson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates