Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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At issue in this case was the interpretation of the procedural requirements that the Kansas Probate Code sets for parties petitioning for probate. Specifically, this appeal concerned a contest between the disinherited son (Son) of the decedent and the son’s daughters (Granddaughters), who were the beneficiaries under the decedent’s will. In its final order, the district court held that the decedent’s estate passed under the will to the Granddaughters in equal shares. The Supreme Court affirmed the analysis and conclusions of both the district court and the court of appeals as to the issues raised in an appeal and petition for review, holding (1) an order setting aside the order admitting the will to probate did not end the proceeding; (2) the district court did not commit reversible error in concluding that the Granddaughters timely commenced a probate proceeding; and (3) the district court did not commit reversible error when it refused to find that a putative 1997 will revoked the 1992 will. View "In re Estate of Rickabaugh" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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In 2013, Michael Clare shot and killed his wife, Deborah Clare, and then took his own life. Jessica Crosslin, Deborah’s biological daughter, filed a petition for letters of examination seeking to file a claim against Michael’s estate under the Kansas Probate Code. Crosslin was subsequently appointed administrator of Deborah’s estate, and Christine Clare, Michael’s aunt, was appointed administrator of Michael’s estate. The district court determined that Crosslin had failed to satisfy a statutory time limitation for filing a claim against the estate because she failed to obtain a written, signed judicial order setting the matter for hearing. The court cited specific local rules with which Crosslin apparently did not comply. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the local rules did not consistently preclude Crosslin from following the procedures that she took, the local rules conflicted with certain statutory requirements, and local rules that add requirements to the statutory scheme and create jurisdictional obstacles are invalid. View "In re Estate of Clare" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Sharon Born, the cousin of John Born, held two installment promissory notes upon which the inter vivos revocable trust created by John (“the Born Trust”) assets had been pledged as security when John died. When Betty Born, John’s wife, attempted to make payments on the notes, Sharon asserted that the notes were in default because of John’s death, that the entire remaining balances were immediately due and payable under the notes’ acceleration clauses, and that Sharon’s only remedy under the security agreements was to accept all of the Born Trust’s pledged assets in full satisfaction of the note balances. Betty, in her capacity as a Born Trust trustee, brought this injunction and declaratory judgment action against Sharon, challenging Sharon’s right unilaterally to effect an acceptance-of-collateral remedy. The district court granted summary judgment for Sharon and ordered the Born Trust to turn over the collateral to Sharon. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Born Trust had the right under the promissory notes to pay the accelerated balances due thereon to prevent Sharon’s acceptance of the pledged assets under the security agreement. Remanded. View "Born v. Born" on Justia Law

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The two children (“Children”) of the Decedent challenged the Decedent’s 2008 last will and testament and inter vivos trust, which changed his 2004 estate plan to leave full ownership of his entire property to his third wife and the Children’s second stepmother (“Stepmother”), thereby effectively disinheriting the Children. The district court reinstated Decedent’s 2004 estate plan, concluding that the Stepmother had exerted undue influence over Decedent’s execution of the 2008 testamentary documents. The court, however, refused to award the Children attorney fees from Decedent’s estate. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that insufficient evidence existed to support the district court’s finding of suspicious circumstances with respect to the 2008 documents. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the district court, holding (1) the Court of Appeals exceeded its standard of review by making its own findings of fact and reweighing the evidence on the undue influence issue; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to award attorney fees. View "Cresto v. Cresto" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the Kansas Department of Corrections (DOC), took advantage of a statutorily created inmate trust fund to place money in the custody of the DOC for his use while serving his sentence. Plaintiff filed suit in Leavenworth District Court pursuant to the Kansas Uniform Trust Code (KUTC) alleging that Defendants were in breach of trust by charging various fees against the balance held in his inmate fund. Defendants successfully moved to transfer venue to Norton District Court. Plaintiff filed a motion to transfer venue back to Leavenworth District court, claiming that because the inmate trust fund was administered at the Lansing Correctional Facility in Leavenworth County, his claims under the KUTC could only be brought in Leavenworth District Court pursuant to Kan. Stat. Ann. 58a-204. The Norton District Court denied Plaintiff’s motion and granted summary judgment to Defendants on all of Plaintiff’s claims. The Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that Plaintiff could have filed his suit in Norton County under Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-602(2). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the inmate trust is a trust subject to the KUTC; and (2) the KUTC establishes exclusive venue in the county were the inmate trust fund is administered - i.e., in Leavenworth County. View "Matson v. Kan. Dep’t of Corr." on Justia Law

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Kenneth Butler was employed with Colgate-Palmolive Company at the time he died intestate in October 2006. In 2007, Kenneth’s son and sole heir, Franklin Burch, as administrator of Kenneth’s estate, petitioned for a determination and allocation of severance benefits. A district judge entered an allocation order dividing Colgate-Palmolive’s obligations under its severance package on behalf of Kenneth. The court ruled that Kenneth’s father, Leo, was entitled to $63,640 and Kenneth’s estate was entitled to $176,359. Leo moved to set aside the allocation order. The judge denied the motion. Nearly four years later, Burch filed a petition for partial distribution seeking $120,000 from Kenneth’s estate. The partial distribution was approved. Thereafter, Leo’s estate sought to appeal the partial distribution order and also challenged the allocation order and the subsequent rulings refusing to set it aside. The district court disallowed the late appeal, concluding that Leo’s estate had no interest in Kenneth’s estate to pursue. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Leo’s estate had no interest in the assets of Kenneth’s estate to preserve when the order of partial distribution was issued because Leo did not take a timely appeal of the allocation order to preserve his interest. View "In re Estate of Butler" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Kan. Stat. Ann. 59-618 is an exception to Kan. Stat. Ann. 59-617’s general rule that no will is effective unless a petition is filed for probate of the will within six months of the date of the testator’s death. After Betty Jo Strader’s will was found in her attorney’s office more than four years after her death and court intestacy proceedings were underway, district court admitted Betty Jo’s will to probate under its interpretation of section 59-618. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred by admitting Betty Jo’s will to probate under the statutory exception to section 59-617 after the six-month time limit had expired because her will was not knowingly withheld. View "In re Estate of Strader" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Rick and Lisa Graham filed a petition for a protection from stalking order against Elizabeth Jones in 2006. Jones counterclaimed for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, fraud, and conversion. On June 27, 2007, while her counterclaims against the Grahams were pending, Jones died. On April 17, 2008, the Grahams filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Angela Herring, who was appointed as administratrix of Jones's estate, filed a motion to substitute the estate as the claimant against the Grahams. The district court dismissed the action based upon its determination that substitution was untimely under Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-225(a)(1). The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed and provided an analysis to determine whether a substitution motion was filed within a reasonable time, holding (1) the relevant time period for determining the reasonableness of a delay in substituting a party begins with the statement noting the death and ends with the filing of the motion for substitution; and (2) the standard for determining whether a substitution motion has been made within a reasonable time is to consider the totality of the circumstances, which can include the fact of whether another party would be prejudiced by the substitution. Remanded. View "Graham v. Herring" on Justia Law

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John filed suit against his mother, Bernice, both individually and in her capacity as trustee for two trusts. Bernice subsequently died, and John's brother and sister, Richard and Diana, were substituted as defendants. John made three claims - breach of contract, breach of trust, and constructive fraud. John's claims arose after Bernice executed a trust in 2004 and a new will with the express intent to disinherit John. John claimed that Bernice's actions constituted a breach of her joint and contractual will made in 1989 with John's father, Frank. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed and remanded, concluding that an irrevocable 1996 trust created by Frank and Bernice implicitly revoked or modified the 1989 will. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the 1996 trust did not fully revoke the 1989 will; (2) because in 2004 Bernice was still bound by any contractual provisions in the 1989 will that survived the creation of the irrevocable 1996 trust, John could prove a breach of contract to the extent the 2004 will and trust violated the 1989 will's surviving provisions; and (3) summary judgment was not appropriate on any of John's claims. Remanded. View "Boucek v. Boucek" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose over the administration of a Trust between Lawrence, the Trust's beneficiary, and the Trust's trustees, Dennis and Leona (collectively, Trustees). Lawrence moved to set aside a contract for deed executed between Dennis and his wife and the Trustees for the sale of farmland owned by the Trust and also sought to remove the Trustees, alleging they engaged in self-dealing and breached their fiduciary duties. The district court concluded (1) the Trust permitted the Trustees to finance the sale of the farmland to Dennis under the terms set forth in the contract for deed; and (2) Lawrence violated the Trust's no-contest clause by challenging the Trustee's sale of the farmland to Dennis, which required Lawrence's disinheritance. The Supreme Court reversed the district court's ruling regarding the Trustees' authority to finance the sale of the farm and its enforcement of the no-contest clause against Lawrence, holding (1) the Trustees' execution of the contract for deed violated the terms of the Trust; and (2) Lawrence had probable cause to challenge the Trustees' sale of the farm to Dennis. Remanded. View "Hamel v. Hamel" on Justia Law