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Probate Trusts Case Summaries

[11/08] Estate of Victor Reed
Rejecting the appeal of a trial court decision removing a man as the personal representative of a probate estate because the court had stated its decision to remove him and expressly reserved jurisdiction to issue a further statement of its reasons and the order, meaning that the appeal, filed before the issuance of that statement, was untimely because the order was not yet final.

[10/23] P. v. Shine
Reversing and remanding a trial court grant of a trustee's petition for advanced fees from the trust to defend their continuing control of the trust in a case where the Attorney General was petitioning for their removal for mismanagement because the probate court applied an incorrect legal standard in coming to its decision.

[10/23] Aviles v. Swearingen
Affirming an order denying a petition to disinherit the respondent in a probate case because the no-contest clause covering the trust was neither reiterated nor specifically mentioned in the challenged Third Amendment of the trust and the challenge to the Third Amendment did not trigger the clause as a result, and dismissing a purported appeal from an order removing appellant as trustee pending trial because it was not a final appeal-able order.

[10/13] Parille v. O'Connor
In an estate planning case, arising after daughter petitioned for ownership over funds remaining in joint accounts held with her deceased mother, the trial court's grant of the petition is affirmed where the trial court's finding of no contrary intent on the part of decedent is supported by substantial evidence.

[10/05] Urick, III v. Urick
Reversing a probate court order granting the special motion to strike a petition filed by a beneficiary filing a petition for instructions as to whether the 'no contest' clause of his mother's trust had been violated after his sister sought to reform the trust to eliminate his interest because although the plain language of the anti-SLAPP statute applies to petitions to enforce a no contest clause the brother still managed to establish the minimal merit necessary to show a probability of success at this stage.

[09/28] In Re J and S Properties LLC
Affirming the district court's support for a US Bankruptcy Court decision that qualified immunity applies to discretionary actions taken by a trustee to preserve a bankruptcy estate's assets.

[07/14] Lazar v. Charles Schwab Co. Inc.
Affirming the plaintiff's standing to bring a constitutional challenge under the Contracts Clause in the case of a divorced individual's attempts to claim the retirement fund of their ex following his death but affirming the claim's dismissal, application of Arizona's revocation-on-divorce statute, the holding that this statute was not preempted, the dismissal of a Contracts Clause challenge, and the transfer of the case to Arizona.

[06/30] Irvin v. Contra Costa County Employees' Retirement Ass'n
Reversing the trial court's affirmation of the Contra Costa County Employees' Retirement Association Board of Retirement's denial of surviving spouse benefits because the entry of a judgment of legal separation did not terminate a marriage and the term

[06/01] Raymond Loubier Irrevocable Trust v. Noella Loubier
In an inheritance dispute pertaining to the assets of the deceased, as conveyed to various revocable and irrevocable trusts in the deceased's name and that of his wife, the district court's dismissal of the complaint based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction is vacated and remanded where, because the plaintiff trusts are traditional common law fiduciary agreements, and, further, because they are not separate juridical entities under the relevant state law of Florida, the citizenship of their trustees controls a diversity determination.

[05/09] Higgins v. Higgins
In a trust case in which a wife agreed to hold funds in trust for her husband's elderly stepmother, and after her husband's death, the wife changed the form of the accounts and used the funds for her own purpose, the trial court's judgment in favor of wife-defendant under Code of Civil Procedure section 631.8 is reversed where, despite the form of the bank accounts, when clear and convincing evidence shows funds were transferred to an account owner to hold in an irrevocable trust for a third party beneficiary and the trustee repudiates the trust, a constructive trust may be imposed on the funds for the beneficiary's estate to prevent unjust enrichment.

[05/08] US v. Cardaci
In an action involving the Government's attempts to collect unpaid taxes assessed against a homeowner, seeking a judicial sale of the home, the district court's judgment, that a forced sale would be inequitable and order that the homeowner make monthly rent payments to the Government instead, is: 1) affirmed as to the district court's authority to consider whether the property should be subject to a forced sale; but 2) vacated and remanded for recalculation of the ownership interests in the property and reconsideration of the equitable factors weighing for and against a sale.

[04/20] Bresler v. Wilmington Trust Co.
In a breach of contract action brought by personal representatives of an estate, the district court's judgment that trustee-defendant breached an agreement to lend money for the acquisition, maintenance, and certain investments relating to life insurance policies obtained for plaintiffs, is affirmed over defendant's arguments that the district court erred in admitting testimony from the plaintiffs' expert witness, the jury verdict including the award of damages was not supported by the evidence, and additional terms of the district court's order also were not supported by the evidence.

[04/20] US v. Harris
In a case in which the beneficiary owes restitution ordered following his 1997 conviction, the district court's decision that a writ of continuing garnishment attaches to a beneficiary's interest in discretionary support trusts is affirmed where the beneficiary's interest in the trusts, which were established by his parents for his support, qualifies as 'property' under 28 U.S.C. sections 3002(12), 3205(a) and 18 U.S.C. section 3613(c).

[04/19] Tepper v. Wilkins
In a suit among siblings on behalf of plaintiff's 88-year-old mother, claiming plaintiff's siblings' actions individually and while serving as trustees of mother's revocable living trust constituted financial abuse of an elder or dependent adult, the trial court's judgment, sustaining defendant's demurrer without leave to amend and dismissing plaintiff's elder abuse action on standing grounds, is affirmed where: 1) the cause of action for elder financial abuse belongs to mother as the real party in interest; and 2) the court did not err in sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend.

[04/04] US Small Business Admin. v. Bensal
In the SBA's action seeking to satisfy a default judgment assigned to it, arising after the default on a loan that SBA guaranteed between a private bank and defendant's company, the district court's judgment in favor of the SBA is affirmed where: 1) the Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act (FDCPA)'s 'fraudulent transfer' provision allows the federal government to void a fraudulent transfer by a debtor owing a debt to the United States; 2) the FDCPA displaced California's disclaimer law, California Probate Code section 283; 3) defendant's disclaimer constituted a transfer of property under the FDCPA, and California disclaimer law did not operate to prevent the SBA from reaching defendant's trust share; and 4) defendant owed a 'debt' to the United States.

[03/28] Pizarro v. Reynoso
In an acrimonious family squabble that erupted over the property of the deceased patriarch and spilled over into the courts, in which the trial court determined the patriarch-settlor appointed defendant was the most reliable and credible of the family members, and that other family members were not credible, the trial court's denial of a petition for relief against defendant concerning the sale of the real property and award of attorney fees to defendant is: 1) reversed as to the award of attorney fees and costs to the extent it imposed personal liability; but 2) otherwise affirmed.

[03/23] Carmack v. Reynolds
In response to a certified question from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, in an underlying bankruptcy case in which a debtor who was to receive money from a family spendthrift trust declared bankruptcy before receiving his first trust payment, and the bankruptcy trustee seeks to determine what interest the bankruptcy estate has in the trust, the Court concludes that a bankruptcy trustee, standing as a hypothetical judgment creditor, can reach a beneficiary's interest in a trust that pays entirely out of principal in two ways: 1) it may reach up to the full amount of any distributions of principal that are currently due and payable to the beneficiary, unless the trust instrument specifies that those distributions are for the beneficiary's support or education and the beneficiary needs those distributions for either purpose; and 2) separately, the bankruptcy trustee can reach up to 25 percent of any anticipated payments made to, or for the benefit of, the beneficiary, reduced to the extent necessary by the support needs of the beneficiary and any dependents.

[03/21] Fiduciary Trust Int'l of California v. Klein
In a longstanding, particularly acrimonious probate matter involving a family trust, challenging a probate court order permitting defendants-appellants, who are the former trustees of this trust, to withhold from the successor trustee and the sole non-contingent trust beneficiary, some, but not all, of a collection of documents identified on a supplemental privilege log submitted by the former trustees under court order, which document were withheld on the basis of attorney-client privilege, the probate court order is afirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded for reconsideration of the privilege status of the Privilege-Upheld documents.

[03/09] Blankenship v. Consolidation Coal Co.
In a dispute arising out of a dewatering operation of defendant's mine into a mine partially owned by plaintiff, asserting state causes of action for trespass, negligence, nuisance, and related torts, alleging that, by filling the plaintiff's mine with water, defendant damaged the plaintiffs' property interests in the mine and unjustly enriched itself, the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants on statute of limitations grounds is affirmed over plaintiff's claim that the discovery rule provided by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. sections 9601-9675, preempts Virginia's statutes of limitations and, as a result, Virginia's statutes of limitations began to run when the plaintiffs knew or should have known of their alleged injury.

[03/01] Colyear v. Rolling Hills Community Assn. of Rancho Palos Verdes
In a property dispute involving the trimming of trees, the trial court's grant of defendant's special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, the anti-SLAPP statute, is affirmed where: 1) plaintiff's complaint arises from defendant's statements made in connection with an issue of public interest, and therefore defendant's statements are protected under section 425.16(e)(4); and 2) plaintiff cannot show a probability of success on the merits of his claims against defendant, particularly because defendant dismissed his tree-trimming application to trim shortly after the lawsuit was filed and has never sought to invoke the HOA's tree-trimming process against plaintiff.

[02/01] Williamson v. Brooks
In a case involving an irrevocable subtrust in which the beneficiary seeks the value of 'opportunities lost' resulting from the trustees' refusal or neglect to distribute trust assets to the beneficiary, the trial court's judgment in favor of co-trustees is affirmed where trustees did not breach their fiduciary duties and neither the subtrust nor beneficiary suffered any harm as a result of co-trustees' actions.

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