In re Estate of Deeter, 042320 UTCA, 20190179-CA

Docket Nº:20190179-CA
Opinion Judge:CHRISTIANSEN FORSTER, JUDGE
Party Name:In the Matter of the Estate of Ronald Clifton Deeter v. Robert Barry Deeter, Appellee. Emily Deeter, Appellant,
Attorney:Brett W. Hastings, Attorney for Appellant Joseph A. Skinner, Attorney for Appellee
Judge Panel:Judge Michele M. Christiansen Forster authored this Opinion, in which Judge Kate Appleby concurred. Judge David N. Mortensen concurred, with opinion. MORTENSEN, Judge (concurring):
Case Date:April 23, 2020
Court:Court of Appeals of Utah
 
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2020 UT App 65

In the Matter of the Estate of Ronald Clifton Deeter

Emily Deeter, Appellant,

v.

Robert Barry Deeter, Appellee.

No. 20190179-CA

Court of Appeals of Utah

April 23, 2020

Second District Court, Ogden Department The Honorable Mark R. DeCaria No. 180900536

Brett W. Hastings, Attorney for Appellant

Joseph A. Skinner, Attorney for Appellee

Judge Michele M. Christiansen Forster authored this Opinion, in which Judge Kate Appleby concurred. Judge David N. Mortensen concurred, with opinion.

CHRISTIANSEN FORSTER, JUDGE

¶1 Emily Deeter and the Estate of Ronald Clifton Deeter (collectively, Emily) appeal the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Robert Barry Deeter (Barry).1 We affirm.

BACKGROUND

¶2 In 1999, Ronald Deeter (Ron) opened several retirement accounts with TIAA/CREF through his employment at Weber State University. At the same time, Ron executed a designation of beneficiary for these retirement accounts (the 1999 Beneficiary Designation) naming his then-wife, Christy, as the primary beneficiary and his brother, Barry, as the contingent beneficiary.

¶3 Ron divorced Christy in 2004 and married Emily in 2005. Ron never changed the beneficiaries on his retirement accounts, though Christy was removed by operation of law following their divorce. In 2015, Ron opened new accounts with Fidelity Investments. Ron named Emily as the primary beneficiary and Barry as the contingent beneficiary of the Fidelity accounts. Ron told Emily that she was to be the sole beneficiary of his retirement accounts. However, he never changed the 1999 Beneficiary Designation. Ron passed away on June 3, 2016, at which time approximately $299, 000 remained in his TIAA/CREF accounts.

¶4 Pursuant to the 1999 Beneficiary Designation, TIAA/CREF distributed all the funds in the TIAA/CREF accounts to Barry. Emily asked Barry to give her the funds because Ron had intended for her to have them. Barry refused, and Emily sued him. Emily raised claims based on testamentary intent and unjust enrichment, requesting that the district court order Barry to remit the funds to her.

¶5 Barry moved for summary judgment on both claims. He asserted that testamentary intent is irrelevant because the retirement accounts are administered based on a contract and are therefore nontestamentary in nature. He further argued that Emily could not claim unjust enrichment, because she did not confer a benefit on him and because a contract governed the distribution of the funds.

¶6 Emily opposed Barry's motion, asserting that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment and that summary judgment was premature because discovery was still ongoing. She did not file a rule 56(d) affidavit requesting additional time for discovery. A week before the hearing on the summary judgment motion, Emily moved the court for leave to amend her complaint to add TIAA/CREF as a defendant and to allege additional facts and causes of action.

¶7 The district court held a hearing on Barry's summary judgment motion and took the matter under advisement. The court did not address Emily's motion to amend other than to acknowledge that it had been filed but was not ripe for consideration, as Barry had not yet had the opportunity to respond.

¶8 Following the summary judgment hearing, the parties completed briefing on the motion to amend, but Emily never submitted the motion to the court for decision. Subsequently, the district court issued an order granting Barry's summary judgment motion. The order did not address Emily's motion to amend.

¶9 In ruling on the summary judgment motion, the court determined that Ron's retirement accounts were nontestamentary. Therefore, it concluded that "testamentary intent does not apply and is insufficient to modify the contract" between TIAA/CREF and Ron. The court determined "that there are no genuine issues of material fact concerning the validity of the beneficiary designation and [Barry] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." With respect to Emily's assertion that more discovery was needed, the court determined that Emily "failed to meet the requirements of 56(d) by not providing an affidavit or declaration specifying the need for discovery" and that, in any event, the likelihood of finding anything to defeat summary judgment through further discovery was speculative. Based on these conclusions, the court granted Barry's motion for summary judgment. Emily now appeals.

ISSUES AND STANDARDS OF REVIEW

¶10 Emily first asserts that the district court entered summary judgment prematurely and should have given her additional time for discovery before considering the motion. We review the denial of a request for further discovery for abuse of discretion. See Energy Mgmt. Services, LLC v. Shaw, 2005 UT App 90, ¶ 8, 110 P.3d 158.

¶11 She further challenges the...

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