Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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Joseph Gorman contracted with James Wilson to purchase a fifteen percent interest in Marine 1, LLC for $300,000. At the time Gorman died, he owed Wilson $187,000 on the contract. The probate court appointed William Lawrence as the executor of Gorman’s estate. The estate’s counsel was Joseph Goldsmith. Wilson’s attorney sent a letter addressed to both Gorman’s personal secretary and the trustee of his trust, purporting to present Wilson’s claim for approximately $200,000 to the executor of Gorman’s estate. The letter was then forwarded to Goldsmith and Lawrence. The trial judge found that the letter was not legally sufficient for presenting Wilson’s claim and granted the estate’s motion for summary judgment. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Ohio law permits a claim against an estate to be deemed presented when “other individuals connected with the estate receive the claim[.]” The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a claimant against an estate does not meet the mandatory requirement under Ohio Rev. Code 2117.06(A)(1)(a) to present a claim to the executor or administrator of an estate if the claimant delivers the claim to a person not appointed by the probate court, even if that person gives it to the executor or administrator. View "Wilson v. Lawrence" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Sarunas Abraitis, the former executor of his mother’s estate, applied to admit his mother’s will to probate. The will provided that if Abraitis’s father predeceased his mother, her entire estate would be divided equally between Abraitis and his brother, Vytautas. The matter was assigned to Judge Laura Gallagher. While the estate was being administered, Vytautas died. Abraitis subsequently filed an application to probate a different, later will that his mother executed and that bequeathed to him the entire estate. Vytautas’s former wife, Vivian, filed a complaint to contest the later will. The action was also assigned to Judge Gallagher. Abraitis filed two actions in prohibition alleging that Judge Gallagher lacked jurisdiction. As grounds for the writ, Abraitis referred to collateral proceedings regarding his mother’s guardianship and federal and state tax proceedings, arguing that because none of the parties objected or moved to intervene in the tax cases, the probate court was precluded from hearing any matter concerning the estate. The court of appeals dismissed Abraitis’s complaints in prohibition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Abraitis had an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law and that Judge Gallagher did not patently and unambiguously lack jurisdiction over the probate court action. View "State ex rel. Abraitis v. Gallagher" on Justia Law

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Vlada Abraitis, the mother of Sarunas Abraitis, died in 2008. Vlada’s will named Sarunas as the executor of the estate. Sarunas applied to admit his mother’s will, executed in 1978, to probate, and the matter was assigned to Judge Laura Gallagher. Sarunas’s brother, Vytautas, died in 2013 while the estate was being administered. Vytautus’s former wife, Vivian, was named as the personal representative of his estate. In 2014, Vivian filed the underlying complaint to contest a will that Vlada executed in 1993. Vlada also sought a declaratory judgment that a certain survivorship deed was invalid and that the property transferred by the deed belonged in Vlada’s estate. This action was also assigned to Judge Gallagher. Sarunas filed the complaint in this case seeking a writ of prohibition, asserting that Vivian lacked standing to bring the action. Sarunas also sought a writ to prohibit Judge Gallagher from proceeding in the action. The court of appeals dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Vivian had a potential interest in Vlada’s estate and was therefore a “person interested” who may bring the combined will-contest and declaratory-judgment action; and (2) therefore, Judge Gallagher had jurisdiction to proceed in the underlying action. View "State ex rel. Abraitis v. Gallagher" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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In this appeal, the Supreme Court resolved a conflict between decisions of the Ninth District Court of Appeals and the Second District Court of Appeals concerning the effect of an individual retirement account custodian's filing of an interpleader action against competing claimants. The Court held that when the custodian of an individual retirement account filed an interpleader action against the parties claiming to be the beneficiaries of the account, the custodian waives its contractual change-of-beneficiary procedures, and a person who proves that the owner of the account clearly intended to designate him or her as the beneficiary does not also need to prove that the owner substantially complied with the change-of-beneficiary procedures in order to recover. Instead, the account owner's clearly expressed intent controls. Because this holding rejected the analysis adopted by the Second District Court of Appeals in this case and because there existed a genuine issue of fact as to the intent of the account owner, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' judgment and remanded to the common pleas court for trial. View "LeBlanc v. Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC" on Justia Law

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This matter arose out of a controversy over a phrase in a trust. The language at issue established the calculation of the price of trust property offered for sale to certain trust beneficiaries. One of the trust beneficiaries filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, seeking judicial interpretation of the disputed provision. The trial court concluded that the disputed phrase was unambiguous and that the option price was the fair market value as determined by the appraisal. The court of appeals reversed after reviewing the trust document de novo, finding that the option language was susceptible to more than one interpretation and that the option price was the federal and/or Ohio qualified-use value. At issue on appeal was what standard of review an appellate court should employ in reviewing legal issues in a declaratory-judgment action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the de novo standard of review is the proper standard for appellate review of purely legal issues that must be resolved after the trial court has decided that a complaint for declaratory judgment presents a justiciable question. View "Arnott v. Arnott" on Justia Law

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Lisa Mullins, the widow and administrator of the estate of Charles Mullins, filed a complaint against Appellants, a doctor and a medical facility, alleging negligence in the treatment of Charles that resulted in his death. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the estate. The court of appeals remanded the matter, finding that the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to instruct the jury on Lisa's alleged contributory negligence and denying Appellants' motion for a new trial. On remand, Lisa filed a complaint in the court of appeals for a writ of prohibition to prevent the judge sitting in the court of common pleas from retrying the issue of the medical negligence of Appellants at a second jury trial. The court of appeals granted the writ to prevent the judge from retrying the negligence issue in the case against Appellants. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and denied the writ, holding that the court erred in determining that a retrial of the negligence claim against Appellants patently and unambiguously violated the court's mandate in the prior appeal. View "State ex rel. Mullins v. Court of Common Pleas (Curran)" on Justia Law

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In the civil case underlying this appeal, John Poss filed a motion for an order that Marilyn Morris transfer to him property that was the subject of a constructive trust. Before the court ruled on Poss's motion, Morris transferred the property to Skyway Investment Corporation. Poss then filed a motion to appoint a receiver to take possession of the property and to appoint a person to execute the conveyance of the property. The court of common pleas granted the motion. Skyway, which had been joined as a party defendant in the proceeding by the common pleas court, subsequently filed a petition for a writ of prohibition to prevent Appellee, the county court of common pleas, from proceeding to place the property in receivership and a writ of mandamus to compel the court to vacate its orders concerning the property. The court of appeals denied the writ. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the common pleas court did not patently and unambiguously lack jurisdiction to appoint a receiver and a person to effect the conveyance of the property in the underlying case; and (2) Skyway had an adequate remedy by appeal to raise its claims. View "State ex rel. Skyway Invest. Corp. v. Court of Common Pleas " on Justia Law

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Josephine Centorbi died intestate in 2007. At the time of her death, Ms. Centorbi received Medicaid benefits. Ms. Centorbiâs sister, Dianne Fiorille administered the estate, and acting without counsel, applied to relieve the estate from administration. When she filed the application, Ms. Fiorille did not check the box on the form to attest that the decedent was over 55 years old and received Medicaid assistance. In addition, as administrator, Ms. Fiorille failed to file some other forms necessary to notify both the probate court and the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) of the decedentâs death. The probate court granted Ms. Fiorilleâs application to relieve the estate from administration on the same day it was filed. Two years later, ODJFS learned of Ms. Centorbiâs death. It filed an application to vacate the probate courtâs order, but its application was denied. The probate court held that because Ms. Fiorille indicated that no notice was required (in the form of the omitted check box), ODJFSâs application was time barred. The appellate court affirmed the probate courtâs decision. The Supreme Court found that failing to check the box on the initial relief-from-administration form tolled the statute of limitations. Without the check, the Medicaid program had not been officially notified of the decedentâs death. The Court reversed the appellate courtâs decision and remanded the case to the probate court for further proceedings.