Justia Wyoming Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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At issue in this case was the Redland family’s dispute over ranch property that some Redland children (“Children”) claimed that their father (“Father”) agreed to place in a family trust. In the first appeal, the Supreme Court concluded that the district court erred in entering summary judgment, as questions of fact existed on the issues of whether Children’s claims against Father were barred by the statute of frauds and the statute of limitations. On remand, the district court determined that Children’s claims were not barred and ordered that the disputed property, with the exception of property on which Father resided (“residential property”), be immediately transferred to the family trust. With regard to the residential property, the court ordered that the property be transferred to the trust upon Father’s death. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding that the district court (1) did not err in holding that an enforceable agreement existed that required placing the disputed property in the trust; (2) did not err in determining that the statute of limitations did not bar Children’s claims; and (3) erred in its disposition of the residential property. Remanded with directions that the residential property be immediately transferred to the family trust subject to Father’s life estate in the property. View "Redland v. Redland" on Justia Law

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In 1920, the Beckton Ranch Trust (BRT) was formed by members of the Forbes family to hold parcels of land in Sheridan County, Wyoming and their appurtenant water and ditch rights for the benefit of their descendants. In 2007, Waldo Forbes (Spike) resigned as trustee after a dispute with his siblings. Later that year, the remaining trustees - Spike’s brother, Cam, and his sisters, Julia, Sarah, and Edith - began a series of land and water transactions. Spike subsequently sought the removal of the trustees. The district court (1) concluded that Cam and Julia had breached their duty of loyalty and should be removed as BRT trustees; and (2) made no finding as to Sarah and Edith, and therefore, they continued as BRT trustees.The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) Cam and Julia breached their duty of loyalty, but because the evidence did not demonstrate that they acted dishonestly or with want of capacity, or that any serious harm had been done, the breaches did not warrant their removal as trustees; and (2) the district court correctly decided not to remove Sarah and Edith. View "Forbes v. Forbes" on Justia Law

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From Lilyanna Knudson’s birth until Ronald Scherer’s (Decedent) death, Knudson believed and considered the Decedent to be her father. After learning that he was not, Knudson filed a petition seeking a determination that she was the Decedent’s heir. Specifically, Knudson argued that, pursuant to the judicially-created doctrine of equitable adoption, she was the daughter and heir of the Decedent. The district court dismissed Knudson’s petition, concluding that Wyoming law does not recognize equitable adoption and that equitable adoption would be contrary to Wyoming’s probate code. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, based on the Court’s interpretation of Wyoming’s probate code, Wyoming does not recognize the doctrine of equitable adoption, and therefore, Knudson was not an heir. View "In re Estate of Scherer" on Justia Law

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Evelyn Carlsen, a settlor of the 1999 Carlsen Family Living Trust who also served as trustee, amended the trust on two separate occasions before she died. After Mrs. Carlsen’s death, Appellant Catherine Meyer, a beneficiary of the trust who stood to receive less because of the amendments, brought an action against Appellee, the successor trustee, challenging the validity of the amendments. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in concluding that the amendments were valid because their terms did not constitute a repayment of a debt, which might invoke the Statute of Frauds; and (2) properly determined that there were no genuine issues of material fact with regard to Appellant’s claim that Mrs. Carlsen was unduly influenced to amend the trust by other beneficiaries. View "Meyer v. Miller " on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Seventy-six-year-old William suffered from a lifelong mental disability. William’s brother Robert and sister Jeanne were the sole trustees of a trust established by William’s mother to support William. Because Williams had fallen prey to financial scammers, Robert and Jeanne took steps to prevent William from trust money. Thereafter, Robert petitioned for appointment as William’s guardian, and Jeanne cross-petitioned seeking to be appointed as William’s guardian and conservator. The district court dismissed Robert’s petition as a sanction for his failure to appear at a pretrial conference and temporarily appointed Jeanne as William’s guardian and conservator. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly dismissed Robert’s guardianship petition; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in disposing of Robert’s motions to submit the case to mediation and to quash the proposed order dismissing Robert’s petition; and (3) the district judge did not abuse his discretion in denying Robert’s petition to disqualify the presiding judge. View "In re Guardianship & Conservatorship of Bratton" on Justia Law

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In 2001, Appellant moved into Decedent’s home at Decedent’s request, where he lived and cared for Decedent until Decedent’s death in 2010. After Decedent’s death, Appellant filed a creditor’s claim against Decedent’s estate, seeking compensation for the care and services he provided. Defendants, the co-administrators of the estate, denied Appellant’s claim. Appellant subsequently brought an action against Defendants. The district court granted summary judgment to the estate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding no question of material fact existed and that Appellant failed as a matter of law on his claims for implied-in-fact contract, promissory estoppel, and unjust enrichment. View "Symons v. Heaton" on Justia Law

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After Joan Marusich died, the State ex rel. Department of Health, Office of Healthcare Financing/Equalitycare (Department) filed a lien against the home Joan owned as tenants by the entirety with her husband, William Marusich, who predeceased Joan. The Department filed the lien to recover the cost of Medicaid benefits paid on behalf of William. Joan's Estate filed a petition against the Department to remove a false lien. The district court granted summary judgment against the Estate on the validity of the lien. After the district court entered a final judgment on the amount of the lien, the Estate appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly granted summary judgment upholding the Department's lien; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the Estate's motion to amend the petition. View "Estate of Marusich v. State ex rel. Dep't of Health, Office of Healthcare Fin./Equalitycare" on Justia Law

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Petitioners petitioned to be appointed permanent guardians of their elderly uncle, Thomas Lankford. The district court dismissed the guardianship petition after finding Petitioners were not qualified to serve as guardians because their potential to inherit from Lankford created a disqualifying conflict of interest. Petitioners appealed, asserting (1) the district court erred in finding a conflict of interest, and (2) in the alternative, the guardianship conflict waiver statute, which allows a court of waive conflicts but limits that authority to conflicts of a spouse, adult child, parent, or sibling of a ward, violated their due process and equal protection rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in finding a conflict of interest; and (2) Petitioners' constitutional claims were not properly before the Court. View "Utley v. Lankford" on Justia Law

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While Mark and Elizabeth Dowell were still married, Mark created an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) naming Elizabeth as is primary beneficiary and their two children as contingent beneficiaries. After the couple divorced, Mark filed a petition to modify the trust, contending that he did not need Elizabeth's consent to modify because she had relinquished her beneficial interest in the property settlement agreement incorporated into the divorce decree. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Mark. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the parties' divorce degree did not divest Elizabeth of her status as the primary beneficiary of the ILIT as a matter of law. Remanded with instructions to grant Elizabeth's motion for summary judgment. View "Dowell v. Dowell" on Justia Law

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These consolidated appeals stemmed from the Redland family's dispute over ranch property and operations. Two of the appeals related to real property that some of the Redland children claimed their father, Robert Redland, agreed to place in a family trust. The district court granted Robert partial summary judgment, holding that the claims were barred by the statute of limitations and statute of frauds. A bench trial was held on the remaining issues. The trial court ruled against Robert on his two sons' unjust enrichment claims for improvements they had made to the disputed trust properties and also ruled against Robert on his counterclaim against another child and his wife for a partnership interest in their cattle operation. In the remaining appeal, Robert appealed the trial court's rulings on the unjust enrichment and partnership claims. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the grant of summary judgment, holding that disputed issues of material fact existed on the questions of whether the Redland children's property claims were barred by the state of limitations or statute of frauds; and (2) affirmed the district court's ruling on the unjust enrichment claims and the partnership claims. Remanded. View "Redland v. Redland" on Justia Law