Sandstead-Corona v. Sandstead

This case involved a dispute between two sisters, Shauna Sandstead-Corona (“Corona”) and Vicki Jo Sandstead (“Sandstead”), over how to divide their mother Auriel Sandstead’s (“Auriel”) estate. Prior to her death, Auriel placed proceeds from the sale of the family’s farm into a multi-party bank account (“Wells Fargo”) on which Sandstead and Corona were also signatories, with the intent that the money would transfer to Sandstead and Corona outside of probate upon Auriel’s death. With Auriel’s permission, Sandstead later moved a large portion of the funds into different bank accounts (“Citizens Bank”) that Corona could not access. Auriel subsequently died, and the court appointed Sandstead as the personal representative of Auriel’s probate estate. Corona filed a motion to surcharge Sandstead for her use of the funds removed from Wells Fargo and placed in Citizens Bank. The probate court held a hearing on Corona’s surcharge motion and determined that Sandstead’s custody of the funds prior to filing a probate proceeding was “in the nature of an implied trust,” and that Sandstead failed to account properly for the funds, thus warranting a surcharge for the unaccounted amounts. In the course of the probate proceeding, a pour-over will and related revocable trust executed by Auriel and her late husband were discovered. Corona contested the will and trust on the ground that Auriel and her husband had revoked the trust. The trial court rejected this contention, however, and further concluded that under the trust’s no-contest clause, because Corona had contested the will and trust, she forfeited all property that she would have inherited under the will. Both Sandstead and Corona appealed. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court had erred in surcharging Sandstead for her use of the farm proceeds. The division also affirmed the trial court’s determination regarding the no-contest clause. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider: (1) whether an implied trust could be imposed on the farm proceeds placed in Citizens Bank; (2) whether the fiduciary oversight statute in the probate code permitted the trial court to sanction Sandstead for actions taken prior to Auriel’s death and prior to appointment as personal representative of Auriel’s estate; (3) whether the trial court erred in applying the no-contest clause; and (4) whether Corona had probable cause to contest the will. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's ruling: (1) the trial court properly imposed an implied trust over at least a portion of the farm proceeds; (2) because an implied trust is included in the fiduciary oversight statute’s definition of an “estate,” the trial court could properly surcharge Sandstead for her malfeasance as to the funds in the implied trust; and (3) although the no-contest clause in the trust was incorporated by reference into the will, by its plain language, that clause applied only to actions contesting the trust, not challenges to the will. Accordingly, the trial court erred in enforcing the no-contest clause against Corona based on her actions contesting the will. The Court did not need to reach the final issue on which it granted certiorari. View "Sandstead-Corona v. Sandstead" on Justia Law