Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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Prior to his death and after consulting a lawyer about divorcing Wife, Husband changed the beneficiary on his term life insurance policy from Wife to Respondents, his parents and sister. Less than four months before Husband’s death, Wife petitioned for dissolution of marriage to Husband. Following Husband’s death, the district court dismissed the dissolution proceeding. Wife subsequently filed suit against Respondents, alleging that Husband’s transfer violated Minn. Stat. 518.58(1)(a), which prohibits the transfer of “marital assets” by a party who contemplates commencing a marriage dissolution. The district court granted summary judgment to Respondents. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that section 518.58(1)(a) did not apply to Wife’s claim because her dissolution proceeding abated upon Husband’s death and the statute applies only in current dissolution proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the language of section 518.58(1)(a) limits the statute’s application to pending dissolution proceedings, the statute did not provide Wife, who was no longer a party to a marital dissolution proceeding, a remedy in this case. View "Nelson v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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William Krebes died in 2009, survived by his wife, Helen Durand. The next year, two of Durand’s children petitioned the district court for the appointment of a conservator for Durand because she lacked clarity of mind to make informed decisions regarding her late husband’s estate. The district court agreed and appointed a conservator. The conservator then filed an elective share petition on Durand’s behalf in the probate court. The personal representative of Krebes’s estate opposed the petition, arguing that the elective share statute, Minn. Stat. 524.2-212, required the conservator, before filing for Durand’s elective share in the probate proceeding, to obtain a court order authorizing the filing, and the conservator in this case did not do so. The district court granted summary judgment for the conservator, concluding that section 524.2-212 violated Durand’s equal protection rights because protected surviving spouses are treated differently than non-protected surviving spouses. The court of appeals reversed on the grounds that protected and non-protected surviving spouses are not similarly situated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the distinction between protected and non-protected spouses in the section 524.2-212 does not violate equal protection under the Minnesota Constitution. View "In re Guardianship & Conservatorship of Durand" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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In 1995, Katelyn Janson was severely injured in an automobile accident. A lawsuit ended with a settlement in which two annuities were established, both of which guaranteed payments to Katelyn starting in 2001 and established that, if Katelyn died before fifteen years expired, annuity payments would be made to her estate. Katelyn's mother and conservator, Candy Bradison, moved Katelyn to Wyoming in 2001 and to Minnesota in 2003. In 2006, Katelyn died. In 2010, Bradison sought, on behalf of Katelyn's estate, a refund of the amount the estate previously paid to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, arguing (1) the annuity payments were not includable in Katelyn's estate because Katelyn did not own the annuities; and (2) Katelyn was a Wyoming domiciliary at the time of her death. The tax court concluded (1) Katelyn was a Minnesota domiciliary at the time of her death; and (2) the annuity payments were includable in Katelyn's estate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Katelyn's intangible property had a situs in Minnesota at the time of her death and could be taxed in accordance with Minnesota's estate tax provisions; and (2) Katelyn was the beneficial owner of the annuity payments, and the value of the payments was properly included in her estate. View "Bradison vs. Comm'r of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Vernon Stisser, the personal representative of the estate of Pamela Stisser, petitioned the district court for an order directing certain payments and disbursements from Pamela's inter vivos trust (Trust). Among other claims, Vernon sought an order requiring trustee David Andreas (Trustee) to (1) pay all debts at the time of Pamela's death that were secured by Pamela's personal property and by Pamela's and Vernon's real estate; (2) compensate Vernon for his services as the personal representative of Pamela's probate estate; and (3) reimburse Pamela's estate for all probate estate administration expenses. The court granted Trustee's motion for partial summary judgment on Vernon's claim for payment of the secured debts. After a trial on Vernon's remaining claims, the court concluded the Trust did not require Trustee to compensate Vernon for his services as personal representative and required Trustee to pay only a limited amount of Vernon's claim administration expenses. The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the court of appeals incorrectly held that Trustee was required to pay debts secured by Pamela's personal property. View "In re Pamela Andreas Stisser Grantor Trust" on Justia Law

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The property at issue in this case was the interest of Respondent, the judgment debtor, in a spendthrift trust. The district court issued a temporary injunction prohibiting Respondent from disposing of any money or property he had received, was due to receive, or will receive from the trust. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) based on its plain language, Minn. Stat. 575.05 authorizes a district court to enjoin the deposition of a judgment debtor's property only if that property is in the hands of the judgment debtor or a third party or is due to the judgment debtor at the time the district court issues its order; and (2) because the judgment creditor, Appellant Fannie Mae, did not argue that Respondent's interest in the trust was Grossman's property that was currently in the hands of Grossman or a third party or currently due to Grossman, the requirements of section 575.05 were not met. View "Fannie Mae v. Heather Apartments Ltd. P'ship" on Justia Law

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Before his death, Patrick Butler designated Appellant Maureen Kissack, one of his natural daughters, as joint owner of five certificates of deposit (CDs) with the right of survivorship. After Butler's death, the district court appointed Kissack as the personal representative of Butler's estate. Kissack, believing the CDs were nonprobate assets that she now owned, redeemed several of them and withdrew the proceeds without including the CDs in the inventory of estate assets filed with the district court. After another one of Butler's children protested this action, the district court ruled that the CDs were assets of Butler's estate and were subject to probate. After granting Kissack's motion for a new trial, the district court ruled in favor of Respondents, Butler's other natural daughters and surviving stepchildren. At issue on appeal was whether Respondents presented sufficient evidence to overcome the statutory presumption in favor of survivorship rights for joint accounts. The Supreme Court reversed the district court, holding that because Minn. Stat. 524.6-204(a) requires that the evidence offered to overcome the statutory presumption must specifically refer to the joint accounts at issue, Respondents failed to present sufficient evidence to satisfy their burden of proof. Remanded. View "In re Estate of Butler" on Justia Law

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Appellants were trustees of eight family trusts. After stock of closely-held corporation belonging to the trusts was fractionalized in a reverse stock split and Appellants were forced to accept cash in exchange for their shares, Appellants brought suit against the corporation. The district court dismissed all of Appellants' claims. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the valuation of the stock was not the product of common law fraud; (2) Minn. Stat. 302A.471 does not provide for dissenters' rights in the event of a reverse stock split; (3) Appellants were not entitled to equitable relief under Minn. Stat. 302A.751 because the corporation did not frustrate Appellants' reasonable expectations as shareholders; (4) merely conducting an involuntary redemption of Appellants' stock at a fair price, without more, did not constitute a breach of fiduciary duty; and (5) the district court did not err in determining the fair value of Appellants' stock when it adopted a valuation that relied in part on asset value. View "U. S. Bank N. A. v. Cold Spring Granite Co." on Justia Law