In re the Estate of: Ottie J. Beito, Deceased
St. Louis County District Court File No. 69VI-PR-11-30
Kevin L. Holden, Holden Law Offices, St. Cloud, Minnesota (for appellant Alice M. Wirth).
Bryan M. Lindsay, Trenti Law Firm, Virginia, Minnesota (for respondent Adrienne L. Maki).
Considered and decided by Worke, Presiding Judge; Rodenberg, Judge; and Smith, Judge.
We affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of respondent that the funds held in decedent's joint account belonged to the surviving accountholder under the Minnesota Multiparty Accounts Act (MPAA) because no genuine issues of material fact exist regarding decedent's intent.
Decedent Ottie Beito executed her last will and testament on October 20, 2006. The instrument indicated that (1) Beito had created a personal-property distribution list; (2) any remaining personal property should be divided "in equal shares" among her surviving children; and (3) that the "remainder and residue" of her estate should be distributed "in equal shares to [her surviving] children." Prior to executing her will, Beito added respondent Adrienne Maki as a joint owner of her Wells Fargo checking accounts and as the primary beneficiary of her Thrivent Financial life insurance policy. The proper distribution of these assets forms the basis of this appeal.
On October 23, 2006, the attorney who drafted Beito's will created a "Memo to File" that purported to further delineate Beito's intentions regarding her assets. The memorandum related that "[w]ith regard to other assets, such as savings, checking accounts, etc., [Beito] has directed that after the payment of last bills, expenses of last illness, and/or funeral are paid, that each [of her children] get an equal share." Beito never signed or initialed the memorandum.
Beito died on September 3, 2010. Appellant Alice Wirth petitioned for formal probate, contending that "the proceeds of a life insurance policy held by the Decedent naming [Maki] as sole beneficiary and the sums from a bank account that Decedent held as a joint owner with [Maki]" should be equally divided among Beito's surviving children. Maki moved for summary judgment. The district court granted Maki's motion. Regarding the "Memo to File, " the district court determined that "[t]he mere existence of this file memorandum . . . is refuted by the Decedent's actions of specific designation with regard to her bank account and life insurance policy." The district court noted that "[t]he memorandum simply is counsel's understanding of intent at that time and was never formalized." The district court concluded that Maki was entitled to summary judgment because no clear and convincing evidence existed that referred specifically to the challenged assets, demonstrated that Beito desired a distribution other than those outlined on the assets themselves.
On appeal from summary judgment, this court reviews the district court's order de novo to determine whether "the district court properly applied the law and whether there are genuine issues of material fact that preclude summary judgment." Riverview Muir Doran, LLC v. JADT Dev. Grp., 790 N.W.2d 167, 170 (Minn. 2010). No genuine issue for trial exists "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party." DLH, Inc. v. Russ, 566 N.W.2d 60, 69 (Minn. 1997) (quotation omitted). Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof on an essential element of their claim, the nonmoving party must make a showing sufficient to establish that essential element. Id. at 71. On ...