Articles Posted in Estate Planning

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Kenneth Jakeman appealed the trial court's dismissal of his claims against defendants Lawrence Group Management Company, LLC, Montgomery Memorial Cemetery ("MMC"), and Judy A. Jones. Lawrence Group owned and operated Montgomery Memorial Cemetery. Lawrence Group purchased the cemetery from Alderwoods, Inc. in or around 2002. In 1967, Jakeman's father, Ben, purchased a 'family plot' in the cemetery containing 10 separate burial spaces. The plot Ben selected was specifically chosen because of its location adjacent to plots owned by Ben's mother, Frances O'Neal. Pursuant to the terms of the purchase agreement, burial within Ben's plot was limited to members of either the Jakeman family or the O'Neal family. In 2002, MMC allegedly mistakenly conveyed two spaces in Ben's family plot to James Jones and his wife, Judy. James was interred in one of those two spaces. In 2006, Kenneth Jakeman learned that James had been buried in Ben's family plot, at which time, Kenneth says, he immediately notified MMC and Ben. In response to demands by Kenneth and Ben, MMC disinterred James and moved both his body and his marker; however, James was reinterred in another space on Ben's family plot. Ben died in 2008. At the time of Ben's death, James's body remained buried in one of the spaces in Ben's plot. Despite the offer of an exchange of burial spaces, and based upon their purported refusal to again exhume and move James's body and marker, in May 2010 Kenneth Jakeman filed suit against Alderwoods, Lawrence Group, MMC, and Judy Jones, alleging breach of contract; trespass; negligence, willfulness, and/or wantonness; the tort of outrage; and conversion. In her answer to Kenneth's complaint, Judy asserted her own cross-claim against Alderwoods, Lawrence Group, and MMC, based on their alleged error in conveying to her spaces already owned by Ben and the initial erroneous burial of James, his disinterment, and his subsequent erroneous reburial in another of Ben's spaces. Alderwoods moved to dismiss Kenneth Jakeman's complaint, arguing he lacked 'standing' to pursue the stated claims, that the asserted tort claims did not survive Ben's death, and that some of the claims were barred by the expiration of the applicable limitations periods. Lawrence Group and MMC later joined Alderwoods's dismissal motion. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded that Kenneth Jakeman was entitled to pursue his individual breach-of-contract claim concerning MMC's reinterment of James Jones in one of the his family's plots, and that he was entitled to pursue his claim for injunctive relief. View "Jakeman v. Lawrence Group Management Company, LLC, et al. " on Justia Law

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Daughters Bonnie Wehle, Penny Martin, and Sharon Ann Wehle appealed a Circuit Court's order on final settlement of the estate of their father, Robert G. Wehle. In this "final order," the circuit court denied the daughters' claims against Thomas H. Bradley III, James H. McGowan, and Grady Hartzog, as the co-personal representatives of the estate; the order also denied the daughters'request that McGowan be removed as a cotrustee of the family trust created under Robert G. Wehle's will. After review of the facts and circumstances of this case, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order insofar as the amount of compensation awarded to the personal representatives and insofar as it refused to remove McGowan as a cotrustee of the family trust. The Court reversed the circuit court's order insofar as it denied the daughters' interest claims, awarded attorney fees and costs to the personal representatives, and failed to tax the costs of the appeal in "Wehle I" against the personal representatives. The case was remanded back to the circuit court for the purpose of taxing the costs of the appeal in Wehle I against the personal representatives, and for the award of interest against the personal representatives.View "Wehle v. Bradley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Estate Planning

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The parties in this case separately petitioned the Supreme Court for review of the Court of Civil Appeals' judgment overturning an award of property from the estate of Estelle Haggerty Alexander. The decedent owned 270 acres of property, and died intestate. Following a bench trial, the court divided the six parcels of land that constituted Estelle's estate, finding that the plaintiffs and their ancestors had adversely possessed three parcels by living on the land and engaging in certain activities there but that the heirs of Larenda Jenkins, as holders of legal title, were entitled to the other three, farmed parcels. Holding that the plaintiffs' possession of the land was permissive rather than adverse, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the circuit court's judgment in part and instructed the circuit court that title to all six parcels should be quieted in the heirs of Larenda Jenkins. After careful consideration of the facts of this case, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded: "[t]he Court of Civil Appeals stated the ore tenus rule in its standard-of-review section, but in its analysis of the evidence did not accord the circuit court's findings the required deference. . . . we conclude that credible evidence was presented to support the circuit court's allotment to the plaintiffs of the three parcels . . .it is a rare case when this Court will overturn a finding by a trial judge who hears an adverse possession case presented ore tenus." View "Stokes, Jr. v. Cottrell" on Justia Law

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In appeal no. 1120678, Michael D. Beam appealed circuit court orders in a conservatorship proceeding. In appeal no. 1120679, Michael appealed a will-contest proceeding that was then-pending in the same court. Upon review of these cases, the Supreme Court concluded the circuit court never obtained subject-matter jurisdiction over the conservatorship proceeding and that the orders entered by the circuit court in were void and therefore should have been vacated. Because a void order will not support an appeal, the Court dismissed appeal no. 1120678 and directed the circuit court to vacate its orders. View "Beam v. Taylor" on Justia Law

Posted in: Estate Planning

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Denise Scott Ricks sought to admit a self-proving will to probate. After the will was admitted, Adam Dorough, Rufus Dorough, James Dorough, Patrick Dorough, and Robert Dorough brought a will contest at Circuit Court. The Circuit Court declared the will to be valid, and the Dorough brothers appealed. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the judgment of the Autauga Circuit Court. After its review, the Supreme Court affirmed the Circuit Court and reversed the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals. View "Dorough v. Ricks " on Justia Law

Posted in: Estate Planning