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Sixth Circuit Court Of Appeals Affirms Decision In Favor Of Taft Clients In Inheritance Dispute – Trials & Appeals & Compensation



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On June 16, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth
Circuit affirmed a District Court decision in favor of Taft clients
in a matter involving the unique “probate exception” to
federal court jurisdiction.

Taft partners Julia Meister, David Wallace, and Philip
Williamson represented clients who had inherited assets from a
family member more than 20 years ago. Taft had prevailed in the
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against a
party who was seeking to challenge our clients’ and another
entity’s receipt of assets from the administration of the
estate by a state probate court. The plaintiff appealed to the
Sixth Circuit and Taft represented the appellees.

The plaintiff had attempted to offer posthumous DNA evidence and
asserted she was the daughter of the decedent, arguing her
entitlement to assets from his much earlier-administered estate.
She was unable to establish standing as a heir or to challenge the
will because she did not bring an action to establish paternity
within the time period required under Ohio law. In addition, the
District Court found it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the
plaintiff’s case under the “probate exception”
doctrine, made famous by a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court case involving Vickie Lynn Marshall (aka Anna
Nicole Smith) and the estate of her husband, petroleum billionaire
J. Howard Marshall. That landmark decision outlined the probate
exception to federal jurisdiction. The District Court also
explained it could not exercise jurisdiction because doing so would
interfere with probate administration proceedings that are reserved
for state probate courts.

In an opinion written by Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton,
the Sixth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision to
dismiss the case for lack of standing.

The case is Carroll v. Hill, et al., No. 21-3885
(6th Cir. 2022).

Julia Meister is a partner in Taft’s Cincinnati office and
member of the Litigation and Private Client groups. She heads the
firm’s Wealth Transfer Litigation practice. She has first chair
bench and jury trial experience and has prevailed for the plaintiff
and for the defense in challenges to estate planning documents and
fiduciary conduct.

David Wallace represents clients in cases involving complex
business litigation, class action, and shareholder litigation. He
has state and federal court experience managing class action,
derivative, and multiparty litigation matters concerning a wide
variety of issues. He is the Taft Cleveland Litigation chair.

Philip Williamson has briefed appeals in multiple U.S. Courts of
Appeals, including the Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits, as well
as state appellate courts in Ohio, Kentucky, and Georgia. He is a
partner in Taft’s Cincinnati office.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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