Articles 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

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Before she died, Decedent executed a Will. The Will had an “Exhibit A” attached to it at the time the Will was submitted to probate. The exhibit set forth bequests made by Decedent to various relatives. Both Exhibit A and the Will contained handwritten notices. After a dispute arose between the co-executors of the Will and some of the beneficiaries of the Will concerning the administration of Decedent’s estate, the co-executors filed a petition for declaratory relief. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the beneficiaries, concluding (1) Exhibit A to the Will was properly incorporated by reference into the Will; (2) the handwritten notations found on the Will and Exhibit A that were made after the date the Will was executed were “surplusage” and could be disregarded; and (3) Decedent intended Exhibit A to be incorporated into the Will. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was insufficient evidence to allow Exhibit A to be incorporated by reference into the Will. View "Cyfers v. Cyfers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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In 2009 McCausland, executed a “Last Will and Testament” naming Fluharty as executor and bequeating the residue of his estate to a Trust, established in 2002. Months later, McCausland was physically incapacitated and living in a nursing care facility. It is alleged that McCausland dictated the terms of a new will to his nephew, Brown. McCausland did not sign or mark the typewritten will, and no one signed or marked it on his behalf. Two of McCausland’s health care providers in the nursing home signed the will and subsequently attempted to attest the document by signing affidavits averring that they “did witness [McCausland] stating that the new last will and testament contained his final desires.” In 2010, McCausland died and the original will was probated and recorded. More than a year later, the petitioners sought to have the original will revoked and the second will admitted to probate. The trial court held that, under W. Va. Code § 41-1-3, the second document is not a valid will. The West Virginia Supreme Court affirmed. A testator’s failure to sign his non-holographic will, or to request that it be signed on his behalf, renders the will void under these circumstances. View "Brown. v. Fluharty" on Justia Law

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Decedent died intestate as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Petitioner, the former spouse of Decedent, sought a share in the settlement proceeds from a wrongful death action based on her monthly receipt of payments from Decedent for a child support arrearage. The circuit court ruled that Petitioner was not entitled to a portion of the subject settlement funds because Petitioner could not demonstrate she was financially dependent on Decedent at the time of trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in ruling that Petitioner was not entitled to a share of the wrongful death settlement proceeds, as Petitioner's receipt of monthly arrearage payments was not sufficient to demonstrate the statutory requirement of financial dependence. View "Ellis v. Swisher" on Justia Law

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The circuit court found Frieda, Cordelia's elderly mother, to be a protected person. After determining that Cordelia was exploiting Frieda, neglecting her needs, and mishandling her finances, the court directed Cordelia to turn over to Frieda's conservator a full accounting of what she had done with Frieda's assets. Cordelia failed to comply with the order. The mental hygiene commissioner subsequently found Cordelia to be in contempt for failing to account for the disposition of assets belonging to her mother. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the circuit court's finding that Cordelia was in contempt; (2) affirmed that portion of the $50 per diem contempt sanction that applied prospectively from the actual date of the entry of the order of contempt; but (3) reversed that portion of the sanction that was retroactive, and reversed the sanction insofar as it purported to be for "compensation or damages." View "In re Frieda Q." on Justia Law

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Decedent executed a will in which all of his possessions to his wife. Decedent and his wife (Ex-Wife) divorced a few months later. One year later, Decedent died. Ex-Wife later sold the real property devised to her in Decedent's will to Petitioners. Thereafter, Decedent's mother (Respondent) filed an objection to final settlement, contending that Decedent's divorce from Ex-Wife after the execution of his will and prior to his death automatically revoked any disposition to Ex-Wife. The county commission ordered that Decedent's estate should pass to his heirs at law as if he had no will and found that Respondent was the sole heir to Decedent's estate. Petitioners subsequently filed a petition to quiet title to real estate and claim for unjust enrichment against Decedent's estate. The circuit court granted partial summary judgment for Respondent, concluding that Ex-Wife did not possess title to convey to Petitioners and that title to the subject real property should be quieted in Respondent's favor. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Respondent was not time-barred from claiming title to the subject property; and (2) the circuit court did not err in granting partial summary judgment in favor of Respondent. View "Johnson v. Kirby" on Justia Law