Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment orders in an action where creditors were attempting to collect on judgments against Vertical and Defendant Reuter by levying assets now belonging to Reuter's wife. Leaving aside the question whether creditors have made a sufficient showing to justify piercing the corporate veil, the court held that creditors' tenancy-by-the-entirety theory failed under Missouri law. In this case, no reasonable jury could conclude that there was clear, cogent and convincing evidence that Reuter and his wife participated in the tortfeasor partnership as a married couple, and thus summary judgment in their favor for the claims seeking to pierce the corporate veil and reach the assets that once belonged to them as a married couple was proper. In regard to plaintiff's alternative theory, the court held that the bankruptcy court correctly determined that Reuter did not own 50 percent of the Trust as a settlor, and thus creditors' allegation that he fraudulently transferred his share to his wife necessarily failed. View "Cutcliff v. Reuter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff in an action seeking funds from her husband's trust that was transferred from an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001-1461, plan. The husband had requested the "Accrued Benefit" amount from his ERISA employee-benefit plan be transferred to his trust days before he passed away. Applying an abuse of discretion standard to this case, the court held that the plan administrative committee reasonably explained its interpretation and relied on substantial evidence to deny plaintiff's claim. Therefore, the committee did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the relevant inquiry was not when funds were received by a participant, but rather when funds were transferred out of the plan. View "Wengert v. Rajendran" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA, Trusts & Estates

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff in an action seeking funds from her husband's trust that was transferred from an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001-1461, plan. The husband had requested the "Accrued Benefit" amount from his ERISA employee-benefit plan be transferred to his trust days before he passed away. Applying an abuse of discretion standard to this case, the court held that the plan administrative committee reasonably explained its interpretation and relied on substantial evidence to deny plaintiff's claim. Therefore, the committee did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the relevant inquiry was not when funds were received by a participant, but rather when funds were transferred out of the plan. View "Wengert v. Rajendran" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA, Trusts & Estates

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FCR filed suit against numerous defendants associated with the Life Investors Owners Participation Trust, alleging breaches of fiduciary duties and conversion. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, holding that Trust section 11.9 authorized the Trustees to deduct funds from the Trust accounts to reimburse Life Investors for the money it advanced to pay for the defense in the Maryland litigation; the Trustees did indeed incur "cost" in the form of attorney's fees in defending the Maryland action unsuccessfully brought by Corrado and FCR; the Trustees did not breach their fiduciary duties; there was no material dispute as to the reasonableness of the attorney's fees because plaintiffs failed to challenge the fees; and the conversion claim failed because plaintiffs were unable to prove the first element of conversion, that their interests were subject to the terms of the Trust. View "Corrado v. Life Investors Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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PNC Bank appealed a jury verdict in favor of a special deputy receiver finding PNC liable for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty in violation of its duties as trustee of various preneed trusts created by NPS. The Eighth Circuit held that appellees' claims arose under trust law rather than tort law and appellees were thus entitled only to the damages afforded under trust law; damages to the Missouri trusts after Allegiant's trusteeship or outside of the Missouri trusts were not recoverable from PNC as Allegiant's successor; the trust beneficiaries were NPS, consumers in Missouri, and the funeral homes that were to provide services to those consumers pursuant to the consumers' preneed contract; PNC was not relieved of liability unless Allegiant ensured that Wulf was investing trust assets within the authority of a reasonably prudent trustee; appellees' trust-law claim should have been tried to the court under the general rule; and the court rejected appellees' cross-appeal. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Jo Ann Howard and Associates v. National City Bank" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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After Mark A. Sveen designated his then-wife, Kaye L. Melin, as the primary beneficiary of his life insurance policy, and his children as contingent beneficiaries, Minnesota extended its revocation-upon-divorce statute to life insurance policies. When Mark died in 2011, his children and Melin cross-claimed for the proceeds. The district court granted summary judgment to the children. The court concluded that a contested beneficiary like Melin has standing; this court has held in Whirlpool Corp. v. Ritterthat a revocation-upon-divorce statute like the one here violates the Contract Clause when applied retroactively; and thus the court's previous opinion forecloses any conclusion other than that the statute here was unconstitutional when applied retroactively. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Melin v. Sveen" on Justia Law

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Semmie John Guenther, Jr., filed an administrative charge with the EEOC, alleging that his former employer, Griffin Construction, discriminated against him on the basis of his disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. When Guenther passed away while his charge was pending, the special administrator of his estate filed suit on his behalf when he received the EEOC right-to-sue letter. The district court dismissed the action based on Ark. Code Ann. 16-62-101(a)(1) and found the claim had abated. The court held that federal common law does not incorporate state law to determine whether an ADA claim for compensatory damages survives or abates upon the death of the aggrieved party. The court joined its sister circuits that have allowed the individual’s estate to bring and maintain a suit for compensatory damages under the ADA in place of the aggrieved party. Therefore, Guenther’s ADA claim for compensatory damages survived his death and Griffin Construction is not entitled to judgment on the pleadings. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Guenther v. Griffin Construction Co." on Justia Law

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The Trusts filed suits in federal and state court over the course of two-and-a-half decades, claiming rights as the beneficiaries, successors, or assigns of the owners of coal mining royalty interests in Kentucky. In this case, the Trusts sued their former attorneys, alleging legal malpractice based on the adverse outcome of one of these cases. The district court dismissed the complaint. The court rejected the Trusts' assertion that the attorneys committed malpractice by failing to raise preclusion arguments based on the outcome of a prior case. The court agreed with the district court that the proffered argument would not have changed the outcome in Willits II. The court concluded that the Trusts have not stated a malpractice claim based on failure to press this preclusion theory in Willits II. The court also rejected the Trusts' assertion that the attorneys committed malpractice by failing to raise certain constitutional arguments at an earlier phase. The court agreed with the district court that the constitutional arguments lack merit. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "The PPW Royalty Trust v. Barton" on Justia Law

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WEB2B filed for bankruptcy and turned over its balances to the Chapter 7 trustee. RAC filed suit claiming the balances of an express trust, resulting trust, or constructive trust. WEB2B provided automated clearinghouse and electronic-check conversion services to RAC. The bankruptcy court dismissed RAC's claims and granted summary judgment to the trustee. The court affirmed the district court's affirmance of the bankruptcy court's decision, concluding that the parties' processing agreement had no requirement to segregate RAC funds, nor a definite, unequivocal, explicit declaration of trust. Therefore, there was no express trust in this case. The district court did not err in concluding that the undisputed facts here do not show with reasonable certainty or beyond a reasonable doubt that a resulting trust exists. Finally, the district court properly concluded that RAC had identified no clear and convincing evidence of conversion sufficient to justify imposing a constructive trust on the remaining funds. View "Rent-A-Center East, Inc. v. Leonard" on Justia Law

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Debtor appealed the bankruptcy court's order overruling her objection to the chapter 7 trustee's final report and denying her motion to compel the chapter 7 trustee to abandon $16,893.44 he had received from the Ruth E. Thompson Revocable Trust. The court agreed with the bankruptcy court that pursuant to paragraph 5.3.4 of the trust agreement, debtor's interest in the Trust was fully alienable by her on the petition date, and her interest in the Trust was not excluded from the bankruptcy estate under 11 U.S.C. 541(c)(2). Accordingly, the court affirmed the bankruptcy court's order. View "Thompson-Rossbach v. Doeling" on Justia Law