In re Estate of Meland, No. 23776.

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Writing for the CourtSabers
Citation712 N.W.2d 1,2006 SD 22
PartiesIn the Matter of the ESTATE OF Clifford T. MELAND, Deceased.
Docket NumberNo. 23776.
Decision Date08 March 2006

Page 1

712 N.W.2d 1
2006 SD 22
In the Matter of the ESTATE OF Clifford T. MELAND, Deceased.
No. 23776.
Supreme Court of South Dakota.
Argued February 15, 2006.
Decided March 8, 2006.

Lawrence E. Long, Attorney General, Daniel J. Todd, Assistant Attorney General, Pierre, South Dakota, Attorneys for appellant Department of Social Services.

Gordon P. Nielsen of Delaney, Vander Linden, Delaney, Nielsen & Sannes, Sisseton, South Dakota, Attorneys for appellee Estate.

SABERS, Justice.


[¶ 1.] The Department of Social Services (Department) petitioned the circuit court to allow its claim of $113,973.28 in the Estate of Clifford Meland. The Estate responded by filing a petition seeking to disclaim $166,849.77 that had passed to the Estate on account of various certificates of deposit and bonds that Clifford inherited from his sister, Alice Meland (Alice). The circuit court found that the disclaimer was untimely but operated as an assignment. The court then held that the assignment was not subject to the Department's claim. We reverse.

FACTS

[¶ 2.] Alice died testate on October 1, 1997. Alice's will directed that her assets be distributed equally amongst her four brothers. However, the will noted the following

Page 2

in regards to her brother, Clifford Meland (Clifford):

My brother Clifford and his wife, Margaret are both in the nursing home so Clifford's share shall be distributed, perstirpes among the children of Clifford Meland.

In addition to the probate assets, Alice left a significant amount of non-probate assets in the form of bonds and certificates of deposit. Clifford was named a joint owner of some these non-probate assets.

[¶ 3.] After paying nursing home related expenses for nearly four years, it was determined that Clifford did not have the resources to pay for future care. He applied for, and was determined eligible to receive Medicaid assistance through the Department. According to Department records, Medicaid paid approximately $113,973.28 on Clifford's behalf.

[¶ 4.] Clifford died testate on October 30, 2003. The Department was served with notice of the probate proceedings on August 19, 2004. Shortly thereafter, the Department filed a statement of claim for the $113,973.28 in Medicaid benefits expended on Clifford's behalf.1 The Estate rejected the Department's claim. The Estate then filed a petition seeking to disclaim approximately $166,849.77 that passed to Clifford by virtue of the non-probate assets he inherited from Alice.

[¶ 5.] The circuit court held a hearing on the Estate's petition for disclaimer. The court found that neither Clifford nor the Estate attempted to disclaim the assets received from Alice within the nine-month period mandated by SDCL 29A-2-801. As a result, the court held that the attempted disclaimer was to be viewed as an assignment to the heirs of Alice's estate. Additionally, the court held that the assets were to be assigned "free and clear of any claim" made by the Department and "said assets will pass as if Clifford [ ] Meland had predeceased Alice Meland." The Department raises the following issues:

1. Whether the circuit court erred in determining the assignment is not subject to the Department's claim.

2. Whether the circuit court erred in determining the assignment was in the best interest of the Estate.

3. Whether the circuit court erred in denying the Department's petition for allowance of claim.

Standard of Review

[¶ 6.] This case requires us to interpret SDCL 29A-2-801, which is part of South Dakota's Uniform Probate Code. "[C]onstruing a statute entails answering a question of law; thus, we review the trial court's statutory interpretation de novo." In re Estate of Howe, 2004 SD 118, ¶ 16, 689 N.W.2d 22, 27. As this Court has previously noted:

Statutes are to be construed to give effect to each statute and so as to have them exist in harmony. It is a fundamental rule of statutory construction that the intention of the law is to be primarily ascertained from the language expressed in the statute. In addition, we are statutorily mandated to interpret uniform laws such as the [UPC] "to effectuate its general purpose to make uniform the law of those states which enact it." SDCL 2-14-13.

In re Estate of Jetter, 1997 SD 125, ¶ 11, 570 N.W.2d 26, 29 (quoting Rushmore State Bank v. Kurylas, 424 N.W.2d 649, 653 (S.D.1988)) (internal citations omitted).

Page 3

Decision

[¶ 7.] Any person entitled to receive property, whether by will, intestate succession, "or as a surviving joint tenant of a decedent ... shall have the right to disclaim irrevocably the whole or any part of such property or beneficial interest." SDCL 29A-2-801(a). A surviving joint tenant should follow the procedures set forth in SDCL 29A-2-801(c) in order to disclaim his or her interest.2 That section provides:

If a disclaimer of an interest receivable by the surviving joint tenant of a decedent is made in writing and filed with the clerk of the court in which the joint tenancy or estate proceeding is pending not later than nine months after the decedent's death, then that disclaimer is retroactive to the decedent's death and the joint interest so disclaimed passes as if the surviving joint tenant had predeceased the decedent.

SDCL 29A-2-801(c). Thus, Clifford had nine months to disclaim the assets he received as a result of Alice's death. It is undisputed that Clifford failed to disclaim within the prescribed...

To continue reading

Request your trial
6 practice notes
  • State v. $1,010.00 in American Currency, No. 23878.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • September 6, 2006
    ...that the intention of the law is to be primarily ascertained from the language expressed in the statute. In re Estate of Meland, 2006 SD 22, ¶ 6, 712 N.W.2d 1, 2 (quoting In re Estate of Jetter, 1997 SD 125, ¶ 11, 570 N.W.2d 26, 29) (quoting Rushmore State Bank v. Kurylas, 424 N.W.2d 649, 6......
  • Kauth v. Bartlett, No. 24414.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • March 12, 2008
    ...¶ 14, 724 N.W.2d 175, 179 (quoting $1,010 746 N.W.2d 751 in Am. Currency, 2006 SD 84, ¶ 8, 722 N.W.2d at 94 (citing In re Estate of Meland, 2006 SD 22, ¶ 6, 712 N.W.2d 1, 2) (additional citations Child Support Calculated on Actual, Not Imputed Income [¶ 10.] The referee and the circuit cour......
  • American Gen. Life Ins. Co. v. Jenson, CIV. 11-5057-JLV
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Dakota
    • March 12, 2012
    ...are to be construed to give effect to each statute and so as to have them exist in harmony." In re Estate of Meland, 2006 S.D. 22, ¶ 6, 712 N.W.2d 1, 2 (quoting In re Estate of Jetter, 1997 S.D. 125, ¶ 11, 570 N.W.2d 26, 29). When interpreting uniform laws such as the UPC, courts are mandat......
  • Huber v. Department of Public Safety, No. 24004.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • November 1, 2006
    ...expressed in the statute." State v. $1,010 in American Currency, 2006 SD 84, ¶ 8, 722 N.W.2d 92, 94 (citing In re Estate of Meland, 2006 SD 22, ¶ 6, 712 N.W.2d 1, 2) (additional citations omitted). When determining legislative intent, "we assume no part of its statutory scheme be rendered m......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • State v. $1,010.00 in American Currency, No. 23878.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • September 6, 2006
    ...that the intention of the law is to be primarily ascertained from the language expressed in the statute. In re Estate of Meland, 2006 SD 22, ¶ 6, 712 N.W.2d 1, 2 (quoting In re Estate of Jetter, 1997 SD 125, ¶ 11, 570 N.W.2d 26, 29) (quoting Rushmore State Bank v. Kurylas, 424 N.W.2d 649, 6......
  • Kauth v. Bartlett, No. 24414.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • March 12, 2008
    ...¶ 14, 724 N.W.2d 175, 179 (quoting $1,010 746 N.W.2d 751 in Am. Currency, 2006 SD 84, ¶ 8, 722 N.W.2d at 94 (citing In re Estate of Meland, 2006 SD 22, ¶ 6, 712 N.W.2d 1, 2) (additional citations Child Support Calculated on Actual, Not Imputed Income [¶ 10.] The referee and the circuit cour......
  • American Gen. Life Ins. Co. v. Jenson, CIV. 11-5057-JLV
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Dakota
    • March 12, 2012
    ...are to be construed to give effect to each statute and so as to have them exist in harmony." In re Estate of Meland, 2006 S.D. 22, ¶ 6, 712 N.W.2d 1, 2 (quoting In re Estate of Jetter, 1997 S.D. 125, ¶ 11, 570 N.W.2d 26, 29). When interpreting uniform laws such as the UPC, courts are mandat......
  • Huber v. Department of Public Safety, No. 24004.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • November 1, 2006
    ...expressed in the statute." State v. $1,010 in American Currency, 2006 SD 84, ¶ 8, 722 N.W.2d 92, 94 (citing In re Estate of Meland, 2006 SD 22, ¶ 6, 712 N.W.2d 1, 2) (additional citations omitted). When determining legislative intent, "we assume no part of its statutory scheme be rendered m......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT