Justia Corporate Compliance Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Trusts & Estates
Nelsen v. Nelsen
This appeal stemmed from a family dispute concerning ownership interests in Nelsen Farms, LLC (“LLC”). The LLC, as originally established, included equal ownership for two of the Nelsen’s sons, Jack S. and Jonathan. However, in 2015, Jack H. Nelsen (“Jack H.”) and Joan Nelsen modified their estate plans and decided to pass their interests in the LLC to Jonathan via an inter vivos transfer, rather than through their wills. In August 2017, members of the LLC held a special meeting, during which the transfer of the membership interest to Jonathan was approved. The next month, Jack S., his wife and son, and Jack S.’s sister Janice Lehman, filed a complaint against Jack H., Joan and Jonathan alleging Jack H. and Joan were incompetent and lacked testamentary capacity to modify their 2015 wills and to make the 2017 inter vivos conveyance. Appellants also alleged Jonathan unduly influenced Jack H. and Joan to obtain the estate modification. Appellants amended their complaint in October 2017, adding a claim for dissolution of the LLC. The district court ultimately granted summary judgment to Respondents and dismissed all of Appellants’ claims. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court in all respects save one: dissolution of the LLC. To this, the Court held that when the district court granted dissolution on summary judgment, Jack S. was ipso facto deprived of his membership interest and relegated to the status of economic interest holder, without the right to petition for dissolution since, under the statute, only members could do so. Jack S. was reinstated as a member of the LLC, and had the right to seek dissolution upon remand. View "Nelsen v. Nelsen" on Justia Law
Stockham v. Ladd
Margaret Stockham, as personal representative of the estate of Herbert Stockham, deceased ("Stockham"), appealed a circuit court judgment denying her motion for reimbursement for costs and attorney fees. The costs and fees at issue in this appeal related to a lawsuit brought by a beneficiary of three trusts that each held preferred and common stock in SVI Corporation, on whose board of directors Stockham served. Judgment was entered in favor of Stockham and other defendants. Stockham filed a motion for reimbursement of fees and expenses for defense of the beneficiary's action against Herbert Stockham. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the circuit court erred indenting Stockham's motion for reimbursement of costs and attorney fees based on the beneficiary's newly-revised argument Herbert had willfully and wantonly committed material breaches of the trusts. Accordingly, the Court reversed the circuit court's judgment and remanded this case for the circuit court to reconsider Stockham's motion for reimbursement without consideration of the beneficiary's newly raised arguments. View "Stockham v. Ladd" on Justia Law
William R. Lee Irrevocable Trust v. Lee
Lester and William Lee created LIA in 1974 as a public company. William’s sons (Lester's nephews) later joined the business. LIA subsequently bought out the public shareholders, leaving Lester owning 516 shares; William owned 484. William created the Trust to hold his shares. The nephews served as trustees. Lester encountered difficulties with another company he owned, Maxim. He proposed that Maxim merge with LIA; William rejected this idea. Lester told the nephews, “I will screw you at every opportunity,” and made other threats, then, as majority shareholder, approved a merger of LIA and another company. The Trust asserted its rights under Indiana’s Dissenters’ Rights Statute. Lester gutted LIA to prevent the Trust from collecting the value of its LIA shares. He bought property from LIA on terms favorable to him and realized substantial profits. LIA subsidiaries were transferred for little or no consideration to Lester’s immediate family. Lester also perpetrated a collusive lawsuit, resulting in an agreed judgment that all LIA assets should be transferred to him and his companies. Lester did not disclose these actions to the nephews. In 2008, the Jennings Circuit Court conducted an appraisal in the dissenters’ rights action. Between the trial and the judgment, Lester dissolved LIA. The court entered a $7,522,879.73 judgment for the Trust. In 2012, Lester petitioned for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Trust initiated a successful adversary proceeding to pierce LIA’s corporate veil and hold Lester personally liable for the judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting the facts were undisputed. View "William R. Lee Irrevocable Trust v. Lee" on Justia Law
Westerman v. United States
Plaintiff, president and owner of WestCorp, sued the government for a refund of an IRS tax penalty that he paid. At issue was the treatment of admittedly incomplete payments WestCorp made from 2000-2001. To maximize its recovery, the IRS applied those payments first toward WestCorp's non-trust fund taxes rather than dividing the payments proportionally between WestCorp's trust fund and non-trust fund taxes. The court agreed with the district court that the undisputed facts show, as a matter of law, that plaintiff willfully failed to pay the trust fund taxes at issue; the court also agreed with the district court that the IRS properly allocated the undesignated payments at issue; and the court rejected plaintiff's contention that the IRS should nonetheless have applied at least part of the undesignated payments toward WestCorp's trust fund obligations. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Westerman v. United States" on Justia Law
Brinckerhoff v. Enbridge Energy Co., Inc., et al.
Plaintiff, individually and as trustee of the Peter R. Brinckerhoff Revocable Trust, was the holder of limited partnership units (LP units) of Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P. (the Partnership). Plaintiff, both derivatively, on behalf of the Partnership, and directly, on behalf of the public holders of the Partnership LP units, brought various claims against defendants. Defendants subsequently moved to dismiss all of plaintiff's claims. The court held that Count I was dismissed because plaintiff failed to plead facts suggesting that defendants acted in bad faith; Count II and IV were dismissed for failure to state a claim; and Count III was dismissed because plaintiff could not plead an implied covenant claim. View "Brinckerhoff v. Enbridge Energy Co., Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Estate of Anne Y. Petter, et al.
This case arose when taxpayer transferred membership units in a family-owned LLC partly as a gift and partly by a sale to two trusts and coupled the transfers with simultaneous gifts of LLC units to two charitable foundations. Subsequent to an IRS audit, which determined that the units had been undervalued, the foundations discovered they would receive additional units. At issue was whether the taxpayer was entitled to a charitable deduction equal to the value of the additional units the foundations would receive. The court held that Treasury Regulation 25.2522(c)-3(b)(1) did not bar a charitable deduction equal to the value of the additional units the foundations would receive. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Estate of Anne Y. Petter, et al." on Justia Law