105 F.3d 669 (10th Cir. 1997), 95-3145, Ernzen v. Ernzen

Docket Nº:95-3145.
Citation:105 F.3d 669
Party Name:Yvonne M. ERNZEN, as special administrator for the Daniel Ernzen Estate, and Shirley Ann Ernzen, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Ronald F. ERNZEN and Alan Schuler, as executors of the Frances Ernzen Estate, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:January 09, 1997
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
 
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Page 669

105 F.3d 669 (10th Cir. 1997)

Yvonne M. ERNZEN, as special administrator for the Daniel Ernzen Estate, and Shirley Ann Ernzen, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

Ronald F. ERNZEN and Alan Schuler, as executors of the Frances Ernzen Estate, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 95-3145.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

January 9, 1997

Editorial Note:

This opinion appears in the Federal reporter in a table titled "Table of Decisions Without Reported Opinions". (See FI CTA10 Rule 36.3 regarding use of unpublished opinions)

97 CJ C.A.R. 115

Before SEYMOUR, PORFILIO and LUCERO, Circuit Judges.

ORDER AND JUDGMENT [*]

LUCERO, Circuit Judge.

Frances Ernzen died in 1982. Shortly thereafter, Dan Ernzen and his wife Shirley Ernzen purchased farm land from the Francis Ernzen estate. Their purchase enabled the estate to claim a "special use" valuation under 26 U.S.C. § 2032A, thereby saving the estate approximately $125,000.00 in taxes. However, these tax savings remained subject to recapture should the Ernzens fail to comply with the provisions of § 2032A for a period of ten years. With this possibility in mind, the executors opted to keep the estate open with enough money to pay the recapture tax should it become due.

Things went well down on the farm during the intervening years, at least from a § 2032A standpoint. The Ernzens' uninterrupted compliance with the statute enabled the tax savings to become fully vested in 1992, at which time the Internal Revenue Service filed a Certificate of Release of Federal Estate Tax Lien. Thereafter, the executors filed a Petition for Final Settlement in the probate division of the District Court of Atchison County, Kansas.

Dan and Shirley Ernzen challenged the pro rata distribution called for by Frances Ernzen's will, arguing that their compliance with § 2032A entitled them to a larger share of the estate. The state probate court charged with deciding the matter voluntarily stayed its proceedings to permit the Ernzens to seek declaratory relief in federal court. When the Ernzens sought such relief, appellees countered with a motion to dismiss for lack of federal subject-matter jurisdiction. The district court granted appellees' motion, and this appeal ensued.

Unlike state courts, federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and may only exercise jurisdiction when specifically authorized to do so. 1 A party seeking to invoke a federal court's jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing that such jurisdiction exists. McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936). We review jurisdictional questions de novo, see United States ex....

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