Articles Posted in Estate Planning

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Defendant Paul Wentzlaff, an insurance agent, stole thousands of dollars from Harvey Severson, an elderly man who asked Defendant to help manage his financial affairs. Plaintiff Donald Hass, as personal representative for Severson’s estate, sued Defendant and two insurance companies who appointed Defendant as an agent, North American Company for Life and Health Insurance (North American) and Allianz Life Insurance of North America (Allianz). Hass and North American each moved for summary judgment and Allianz joined North American’s motion. After a hearing, the circuit court denied Plaintiff's motion and granted the insurance companies’ motion. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the insurance companies were vicariously liable for Defendant's acts. Based on undisputed material facts on the record in this case, the Supreme Court found that Defendant Wentzlaff was not acting within the scope of his employment when he stole money from Severson, and thus, as a matter of law, North American and Allianz were not vicariously liable for his acts. The Court affirmed the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the insurance companies. View "Hass v. Wentzlaff" on Justia Law

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A circuit court found Appellant David Cannon in contempt of court for violating (1) an order mandating that Appellant give up all authority and cease all activities relating to the James Brown estate, the Brown trusts, and all Brown entities (which he violated by filing amended tax returns without authority); and (2) an order requiring Cannon to pay back money he had misappropriated from Brown's estate. The circuit court ordered Appellant to be incarcerated for six months for contempt. However, the circuit court stated Appellant could purge himself of the contempt "by the payment of the aforementioned [money, with a portion] to be applied towards the payment of attorneys' fees incurred by the various parties, and the payment of a fine." The Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings; upholding all of the circuit court's findings regarding the contempt except for the amount awarded towards attorneys' fees and the imposition of the fine. The Court of Appeals found the circuit court abused its discretion as to attorneys' fees because it did not make the necessary factual findings to support the amount awarded, so it "reverse[d] and remand[ed] the issue of attorneys' fees to the circuit court for findings of fact as to the proper amount. On remand, the circuit court held a hearing for the sole purpose of making findings of fact regarding the proper amount of attorneys' fees to be awarded for reimbursing the parties for attorneys' time related to the issue of Appellant's contemptuous conduct, and held that Appellant should pay. Appellant appealed this order, arguing payment of fees was mooted by his serving his jail sentence. The case was transferred from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, concluding the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering Appellant pay attorneys' fees. Further, the Court held that the issue of attorneys' fees was not mooted by Appellant serving his jail sentence.View "Ex parte: Cannon v. Estate of James Brown" on Justia Law