Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court that affirmed an order of the Randolph County Commission affirming the findings of its special fiduciary commissioner as to Joann Fussell's claims against the Estate of Roger G. Fussell and her objections to the estate appraisement, holding that the circuit court did not err. Specifically, the Court held that the circuit court correctly found (1) two bank notes obtained by Joann were just debts of the Estate; (2) Joann was not a creditor beneficiary of a life insurance policy on the life of Roger; and (3) Joann's fair market value written appraisals in West Virginia and Georgia were properly considered by the special fiduciary commissioner to establish fair market value. View "Estate of Fussell v. Fussell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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In this dispute over the property division in a will, the Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by Petitioner seeking relief from the circuit court’s grant of Respondents’ motion to sell certain property, holding that the implication of possible sale relating to a separate piece of real property is insufficient evidence of an intent to sell all other real property such that it bypasses the findings required by W. Va. Code 44-8-1 and 37-4-3 to sell a specific devise subject to a partition suit. The Testator’s will devised a family farm and other property to her three children, Petitioner and Respondents. Petitioner sought to have the family farm partitioned in kind and argued that it was a specific devise. Co-executors of the estate sought a court order to sell the family farm. The circuit court ruled in favor of the co-executors, concluding that the Testator showed approval of the sale of the family farm even though it had been separately and specifically devised. The Supreme Court granted this writ of prohibition, holding that the circuit court erred in permitting sale of the family farm without first determining whether the property was amenable to partition in kind consistent with the directives of sections 44-8-1 and 37-4-3. View "Presnell v. Presnell" on Justia Law

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The biological child of a deceased parent whose parental rights were either voluntarily relinquished or involuntarily terminated prior to the parent’s death does not meet the statutory definition of a descendant of the parent and therefore does not qualify to inherit under the descent and distribution provisions of the West Virginia Code when the parent dies intestate. Plaintiff appealed the circuit court’s award of summary judgment to Defendants. The award was based upon the circuit court’s conclusion that a child may not inherit from a parent who died intestate after his parental rights to that child were legally terminated. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s determination that Plaintiff may not inherit from her father’s intestate estate because a parent whose parental rights have been terminated does not meet the definition of a “parent” set out in W. Va. Code 42-1-1. View "Hall v. Hall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s summary judgment determination that an option agreement was supported by consideration and that the option price of $50,000 would be used in calculating the decedent’s wife’s elective share. After the decedent died without a will, a dispute arose between the decedent’s son and the decedent’s wife of more than thirty years about the disposition of the decedent’s one-half interest in the partnership he formed with his son. The son argued that he had a valid contractual option to purchase the decedent’s entire one-half interest in the partnership for $50,000 according to an option agreement executed between the father and son. The wife argued that her elective share should be based upon the full value of the partnership, which she valued at approximately $1 million. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the option agreement was testamentary in nature, executed in the guise of a partnership agreement; (2) the option agreement contradicted the public policies and principles of the elective share statutory scheme and was unenforceable against the wife for the purposes of determining her elective share; and (3) the wife was entitled to her elective share of the decedent’s augmented estate, which included the value of the decedent’s undivided one-half interest in the partnership. View "Young v. Young" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Lawrence Belt had the right to withdraw funds from joint bank accounts owned by Lawrence and Lila Belt during their marriage by virtue of W.Va. Code 31A-4-33. After Lawrence withdrew funds from the joint bank accounts, both he and Lila died. Lawrence’s estate, through his executrix (Petitioner), and Lila’s estate, through her executor (Respondent) disputed the ownership of the funds Lawrence withdrew from the joint accounts. The circuit court split the funds in half to prevent the perceived unjust enrichment of Lawrence’s estate. The Supreme Court reversed and entered judgment in favor of Petitioner, holding that the withdrawals from the joint accounts by both Lawrence during the marriage were proper under section 31A-4-33 pertaining to joint bank accounts with the right of survivorship, an therefore, Lawrence was entitled to the balance of the funds left in the joint accounts by way of survivorship. View "Wakim v. Pavlic" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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In 2013, the decedent filed a complaint alleging violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act and other causes of action against Respondent, Professional Bureau of Collections of Maryland, Inc. After the decedent died in 2014, Respondent filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the decedent’s claims under the Act did not survive his death pursuant to W. Va. Code 55-7-8a(a) because the claims were personal to the consumer who owed the debt and that the decedent’s estate did not have standing to bring a claim under the Act because an estate is not a natural person under the Act. Petitioner, the executrix of the estate of the decedent, moved to substitute the decedent’s estate as plaintiff. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Respondent, concluding that the decedent’s estate lacked standing to maintain a private right of action as a “consumer” within the meaning of the Act. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a claim brought under W. Va. Code 46A-2-127(c) of the Act is not sufficiently analogous to a claim for fraud so that the claim survives the death of the consumer pursuant to section 55-7-8a(a). View "Horton v. Professional Bureau of Collections of Maryland" on Justia Law

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The decedent in this case executed two wills, the first in West Virginia in 2012 and the second in New York in 2014. The named executor of the West Virginia will (Plaintiff) filed a complaint in a West Virginia circuit court challenging the validity of the New York will. The executrix of the New York will (Defendant) moved to dismiss the complaint on jurisdictional grounds. Specifically, Defendant argued that the West Virginia Court lacked jurisdiction because a New York probate court had already decided the New York will was valid. The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the final order from the New York court did not foreclose further inquiry into the decedent’s will by a West Virginia court; (2) Defendant’s contention that Plaintiff’s only avenue to challenge the probate of the New York will in West Virginia was before the county commission was unavailing; and (3) Plaintiff pled sufficient facts to demonstrate that the probate of the New York will was improper. View "Mason v. Torrellas" on Justia Law

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After a bench trial, the circuit court concluded that Bernard Bossio had proven that the parties in this case intended to enter into and were bound by the terms of a 1990 stock purchase agreement requiring the Estate of Luigi Bossio to sell to Bossio Enterprises the corporate shares owned by Luigi Bossio at the time of his death in 2007. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not commit clear error in concluding that Bernard Bossio proved, with clear and convincing evidence, the terms of the 1990 stock purchase agreement. View "Estate of Luigi Bossio v. Bossio" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Murl Tribble and Janet Sargent, and Defendant, Polly Pickens, were three adult sisters involved in a dispute over the Estate of their deceased mother. Plaintiffs alleged (1) beginning at the time of their father’s death, Defendant engaged in a scheme to convert their mother’s property to her own use, to the prejudice of the Estate and Plaintiffs as beneficiaries; and (2) Defendant attempted to deal her scheme by not disclosing non-probate assets while acting as executrix of their mother’s estate. The jury awarded Plaintiffs damages in the amount of $94,124, which the circuit court directed to be paid into the Estate. Defendant filed a motion for a new trial, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion for a new trial, holding (1) Defendant’s argument that the Supreme Court should dismiss this action as untimely was without merit; (2) the circuit court did not err in entering judgment as a matter of law to the effect that a fiduciary relationship existed between Defendant and her mother; and (3) Plaintiffs established a sufficient factual basis for their claims of breach of fiduciary duty, tortious interference with Plaintiffs’ expectancy, conversion, constructive fraud, and actual fraud to go to the jury. View "Pickens v. Tribble" on Justia Law

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After eighty-six-year-old Helen Graham died, Graham’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a hospital. One of Graham’s adult children, Betty Asbury, died before a settlement agreement was reached with the hospital. The circuit court approved the settlement agreement and awarded equal shares of the settlement proceeds to Graham’s six surviving children. Asbury’s estate subsequently argued that because Asbury was alive at the time of her mother’s death, Asbury’s estate was entitled to share in the proceeds of her mother’s wrongful death settlement. The circuit court ruled in favor of Asbury’s estate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that under the West Virginia wrongful death act, Asbury’s estate was entitled to a share of the wrongful death settlement proceeds because Asbury’s right of action vested upon Graham’s death, rather than at the time the wrongful death settlement proceeds were distributed. View "Graham v. Asbury" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates