Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates
by
In this case, Jonathan Garaas and David Garaas, serving as co-trustees of multiple family trusts, appealed a dismissal of their complaint against Petro-Hunt, L.L.C., an oil company operating on land in which the trusts own mineral interests. The trusts claimed that Petro-Hunt had decreased their royalty interest without proper basis and sought both a declaratory judgment affirming their higher royalty interest and damages for underpayment. The district court dismissed the complaint without prejudice, stating that the trusts had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies before the North Dakota Industrial Commission.The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision, stating that the trusts needed to exhaust their administrative remedies before bringing their claims to the court. The court reasoned that the issues raised by the trusts involved factual matters related to the correlative rights of landowners within the drilling unit, which fall within the jurisdiction of the Industrial Commission. The court held that the commission should first consider these issues, make findings of fact, and develop a complete record before the case proceeds to the district court. It further noted that, after exhausting their administrative remedies, the trusts could then bring an appropriate action for declaratory relief or damages in district court. View "Garaas v. Petro-Hunt" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this case is the triggering event for the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse actions. Timothy Jones’ estate (Estate) brought negligence and wrongful death claims against the State of Washington. Timothy was born to Jaqueline Jones in 1990. In 2003, Jacqueline lost her home to foreclosure, and Timothy moved in with Price Nick Miller Jr., a family friend. A month later, the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) was alerted that Miller was paying too much attention to children who were not his own. After investigating the report, DCYF removed Timothy from Miller’s home based on this inappropriate behavior. In November 2003, Timothy was placed in foster care and DCYF filed a dependency petition. Timothy’s dependency case was dismissed in 2006. Later that year, Timothy told a counselor that Miller had abused him sexually, physically, and emotionally from 1998 to 2006. In 2008, Miller pleaded guilty to second degree child rape connected to his abuse of Timothy and second degree child molestation related to another child. In 2007 or 2008, Jacqueline sued Miller on Timothy’s behalf. The attorney did not advise Timothy or his mother that there may be a lawsuit against the State or that the State may be liable for allowing Miller’s abuse to occur. Sometime in mid-2017, and prompted by a news story about childhood sexual abuse, Timothy and a romantic parter Jimmy Acevedo discussed whether Timothy may have a claim against the State. Acevedo recommended that Timothy consult a lawyer. In fall 2017, Timothy contacted a firm that began investigating Timothy’s case. In June 2018, Timothy committed suicide. Jacqueline was appointed personal representative of Timothy’s estate and filed claims for negligence, negligent investigation, and wrongful death against the State. On cross motions for summary judgment, the trial court concluded the statute of limitations for negligence claims begins when a victim recognizes the causal connection between the intentional abuse and their injuries. The court granted summary judgment for the State and dismissed the Estate’s claims as time barred. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Washington Supreme Court reversed, finding no evidence was presented that Timothy made the causal connection between that alleged act and his injuries until August or September 2017, and the Estate filed its claims on March 12, 2020, within RCW 4.16.340(1)(c)’s three-year time period. View "Wolf v. Washington" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the South Dakota Life and Health Guaranty Association denying the protests brought by the South Dakota Bankers Benefit Plan Trust as to the Association's assessment schedule it established to cover an insolvent insurer's obligations, holding that the Trust was not liable to pay the contested assessments.In 2017, the Association, which covers impaired and insolvent insurers' obligations to their insureds by assessing Association members, assumed liability for the insolvent insurer at issue and established a five-year assessment schedule. The Trust paid three years of the five-year schedule but protested the requirement to pay the remaining two because they were assessed after the insolvent insurer's membership in the Association ended. The Association denied the protests. The South Dakota Division of Insurance's Office of Hearing Examiners reversed, determining that the Association lacked authority to assess the Trust for the last two assessments. The circuit court reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Trust was not liable to pay the Association's 2020 and 2021 assessments. View "S.D. Life & Health Guaranty Ass'n v. S.D. Bankers Benefit Plan Trust" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court concluding that the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) was entitled to a detailed accounting and all of the residual funds The Center for Special Needs Trust Administration, Inc. had retained from Steven Muller's trust subaccount, holding that the district court erred.The Center for Special Needs Trust Administration, Inc. acted as trustee over a pooled special needs trust subaccount for the benefit of Muller. After Muller died, the Center retained all residual funds in his trust subaccount. DHS sought judicial intervention to obtain a detailed accounting of the retained funds. The district court decided in favor of DHS and ordered the Center to pay DHS all of the funds it had retained from the subaccount. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Center provided an adequate accounting, and therefore, the district court lacked authority to grant the relief it provided to remedy the Center's alleged failure to account for the retained funds. View "In re Medical Assistance Pooled Special Needs Trust of Steven Muller" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for the Center for Special Needs Trust Administration, Inc., as trustee of a polled special needs trust held for the benefit of Scott Hewitt, and dismissing this action brought by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) claiming it was entitled to a detailed accounting, holding that the trustee provided an adequate accounting.Title XIX of the Social Security Act required that the funds remaining in Hewitt's trust subaccount when he died must first be used to reimburse the state for its Medicaid expenditures. DHS filed a petition to invoke jurisdiction over the irrevocable trust, claiming that it was entitled to a detailed accounting to ensure that the funds retained by by the pooled special needs trust were used for a proper purpose. The district court granted summary judgment for the Center, concluding that no further accounting was required absent evidence that the Center breached its duties as trustee. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that DHS was not entitled to relief on its claims of error. View "In re Medical Assistance Pooled Special Needs Trust Of Scott Hewitt" on Justia Law

by
The Medi-Cal program, California’s enactment of the federal Medicaid program, was administered by the California Department of Health Care Services (the department) administers the Medi-Cal program. In this case, the department sought reimbursement from a revocable inter vivos trust for the Medi-Cal benefits provided on behalf of Joseph Snukst during his lifetime. Following his death, the probate court ordered the assets in the revocable inter vivos trust to be distributed to the sole beneficiary, Shawna Snukst, rather than to the department. The Court of Appeal concluded federal and state law governing revocable inter vivos trusts, as well as public policy, required that the department be reimbursed from the trust before any distribution to its beneficiary. Judgment was therefore reversed and remanded. View "Riverside County Public Guardian v. Snukst" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Estate of Peter Dodier, appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) order denying the estate’s claim for workers’ compensation and death benefits following Peter Dodier’s death. The CAB denied the estate’s claim based on its determination that Dodier’s anxiety and depression were not a compensable injury. It therefore did not reach the issue of death benefits. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that Dodier’s anxiety and depression were compensable, it reversed the CAB’s decision and remanded for its consideration of whether the estate was entitled to death benefits. View "Appeal of Estate of Peter Dodier" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court reversing the determination of the Massachusetts Office of Medicaid's board of hearings that Plaintiff's home was a countable asset, making her ineligible for Medicaid long-term care benefits, holding that the superior court did not err.While they were both still living, Plaintiff and her husband created an irrevocable trust, the corpus of which included their home. The terms of the trust granted Plaintiff, during her lifetime, a limited power of appointment to appoint all or any portion of the trust principal to a nonprofit or charitable organization over which she had no controlling interest. MassHealth denied Plaintiff's application for long-term care benefits, determining that the home was a countable asset because Plaintiff purportedly could use her limited power of appointment to appoint portions of the home's equity, which was included as part of the trust principal, to the nursing home where Plaintiff lived as payment for her care. The superior court reversed. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the plain terms of the trust neither intended for nor permitted Plaintiff to exercise her limited power of appointment for her benefit, as contemplated by MassHealth. View "Fournier v. Secretary of Executive Office of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed an order of the district court affirming an administrative law judge's proposed order that trust principal consisting of a jointly owned home constituted a countable asset for the purpose of the Medicaid eligibility of Marilyn Scheidecker, holding that there were no circumstances under which payment from the trust's corpus could be made for Marilyn's benefit.The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services denied Marilyn's application for Medicaid, concluding that Marilyn's one-half interest in the trust's principal was a countable resource placing her over Medicaid's resource limit. The ALJ upheld the denial. The district court affirmed the ALJ's ultimate conclusion that the trust was a countable asset pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1396p(d)(3), holding that circumstances existed by which payments form the trust's corpus could be made to or for Marilyn's benefit. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court was incorrect in its application of the federal statute. View "Estate of Scheidecker v. Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

by
Nora D. was an 82-year-old woman residing in an assisted living facility. She suffered a stroke in April 2016, and she reportedly continued to suffer resulting physical and mental limitations. In 2017 Nora gave her son, Cliff, a general power of attorney. In 2018 Adult Protective Services petitioned for a conservatorship to protect Nora’s finances and property after the office received reports of harm alleging that Cliff had made decisions not in Nora’s best interests. The Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) was appointed as Nora’s conservator in 2018. In September 2019 Nora’s daughter Naomi petitioned for a full guardianship for Nora. Naomi alleged that a guardianship was necessary because Nora was unable to attend to her own physical needs and Cliff was unable to care for Nora. A day later Naomi’s son Kevin petitioned for review of the conservatorship, and sought appointment as Nora’s guardian, which could replace OPA’s conservatorship. The superior court ordered a Nora attend a psychiatric evaluation and answer all questions posed to her by Kevin’s retained expert. But the guardianship statute provided that a respondent may refuse to answer questions during examinations and evaluations. The only exception to that statute applied in an interview to determine whether the respondent has capacity to make informed decisions about care and treatment services. The Alaska Supreme Court granted the Nora’s petition for review to consider the scope of the statute’s protection, and the Supreme Court concluded that Nora could refuse to answer any questions other than those directed at determining her capacity to make personal medical decisions. The Supreme Court therefore vacated the superior court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "In the Matter of the Protective Proceeings of Nora D." on Justia Law