IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF EARL W. LONG, DECEASED
Considered on Briefs: February 18, 2014.
APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SEVENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT FALL RIVER COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA. THE HONORABLE WALLY EKLUND, Judge.
PATRICK M. GINSBACH, Farrell, Farrell & Ginsbach, PC, Hot Springs, South Dakota, Attorneys for appellant Brenda F. Long-Chafin.
AARON T. GALLOWAY, Lynn, Jackson, Shultz & Lebrun, PC, Rapid City, South Dakota, Attorneys for appellee Vicky J. Smith.
QUENTIN L. RIGGINS, Gunderson Palmer Nelson & Ashmore, LLP, Rapid City, South Dakota, Attorneys for appellee Lynda Davis.
GILBERTSON, Chief Justice. KONENKAMP, ZINTER, SEVERSON, and WILBUR, Justices, concur.
GILBERTSON, Chief Justice.
[¶1] Brenda Chafin challenges the validity of her father's estate plan. After a formal probate proceeding, the circuit court determined that the estate plan was valid. We affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
[¶2] Earl Long passed away at the age of 78 on February 26, 2010. He was survived by four daughters: Vicky, Lynda, Diann, and Brenda. Earl's daughters are the only heirs of the estate.
[¶3] Prior to his death, Earl and his late wife, Shirley, had operated two seasonal resorts. One of the resorts, Long's Seasonal Resort, was active at the time of Earl's death. Although each daughter worked at the Seasonal Resort, Vicky and her husband, Dean, worked there most consistently and for the longest period of time.
[¶4] Earl began the process of planning his estate in 2005. His first step in the planning process was a meeting with his attorney, Mark Walters. Three of Earl's daughters also attended the meeting; however, Vicky and Dean did not attend. Among the topics discussed at the meeting were strategies to reduce conflict upon Earl's death, trust protection for Brenda, gifting of land, and a creation of a limited liability company (LLC) to hold property separate from Earl's trust.
[¶5] On August 30, 2008, Earl properly executed a " pourover" will. The will stated that all property would be distributed to his trust " as amended." On the same day, Earl executed The Earl W. Long Trust, which was a revocable trust with Earl appointed as trustee.
[¶6] Following the execution of his will and trust, Earl began gifting some of his assets. On October 3, 2009, Earl executed a memorandum of gifts, which was notarized by Walters and witnessed by Vicky and Dean. Earl executed a second memorandum of gifts on October 5, which was witnessed by Dean and Lynda. The contents of both memorandums were relatively the same. The memorandums documented gifts to Earl's four daughters of approximately $250,000 each.
[¶7] In accordance with the memorandums of gifts, Earl acquired land from Vicky so that the land could be given to the other three daughters. In return, Earl deeded Vicky his half interest in the " home place." Earl intended for the value of the home place to be greater than the value of the land deeded by Vicky so that the difference in value between the two properties was a gift to Vicky. The October 5 memorandum specified that Vicky acquired the home place subject to a life estate, which reserved the income from the Seasonal Resort in favor of Earl.
[¶8] Earl next gave property to his other daughters. Diann received a gift of land free of encumbrances by warranty deed on October 3. Lynda also received a gift of land free of encumbrances on October 3. In July 2007, Earl had purchased both a piece of property and a mobile home for Brenda, which became her permanent residence. In September 2008, Brenda deeded her half interest as a joint tenant in the property to Earl. In exchange, Earl created a trust for Brenda to provide for her after his passing. Brenda ...