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Probate & Trust Law

Mara J. Isling, Esquire
Bhavik R. Patel, Esquire

Appeal by Bugg from the trial court's judgment allowing a writ of sequestration filed by the Estate of Laura Downs for the purpose of obtaining money owed by Eldon Bugg to the estate on a promissory note.  Judgment reversed where the writ had the unconstitutional effect of confining Bugg in prison until the bond was paid, which would then be used to pay the debt. Estate of Laura Downs v. Bugg, No. 72980 (Mo. App. W.D., May 10, 2011), Howard, J.

Bugg ("Bugg") was found to owe $17,573.71, plus interest, on a promissory note to the Estate of Laura Downs.  In an effort to obtain the funds owed, the estate filed a garnishment application followed by a motion for contempt.  As part of the judgment for civil contempt, the court ordered Bugg be confined in jail and post a $40,000 bond.  Thereafter, the estate sought a writ of sequestration to obtain the funds owed from the cash bond being held by the court.  Although Bugg filed a motion to quash the writ, the court denied it. 

Held: Reversed and remanded.
The trial court lacked any authority to allow sequestration of the bond money for the purpose of enforcing the promissory note debt.  Section 511.340 of the
Revised Missouri Statutes allows a trial court to hold a person in civil contempt but allows it only if the underlying judgment requires "performance of any other act than the payment of money" (emphasis added).  The Missouri Constitution explicitly states, "No person shall be imprisoned for debt, except for nonpayment of fines and penalties imposed by law."  The writ had the effect of confining Bugg in prison until he paid the bond which was used to pay the underlying debt.  Consequently, the writ violated the Missouri Constitution. 

Appeal by Rakestraw ("Rakestraw") from the trial court's ruling that her and her husband's beneficiary deed was effective.  Beneficiary deed held ineffective due to execution by non-owner. Delcour v. Rakestraw, et al., No. 30538 (Mo. App. S.D., April 25, 2011), Scott, C.J.

Rakestraw's mother-in-law gifted Rakestraw's husband 80 acres of sole property.  Subsequently, Rakestraw and her husband recorded a beneficiary deed in favor of husband's two children.  The deed identified both Rakestraw and her husband as the "Grantors" and conditioned effectiveness of the deed on Grantor's death or the last of Grantors to die.  After husband died, the court ruled the beneficiary deed was valid.    

Held:  Reversed and remanded.
The beneficiary deed is ineffective under Pippin v. Pippin.  In Pippin v. Pippin, the court held that a beneficiary deed conditioned to take effect on both the owner and a non-owner's death, was ineffective.  Here, Rakestraw was not an owner of the property.  While Section 461.005(8) of the Revised Missouri Statutes, amended the definition of "owner" to include joint owners, Rakestraw was not here a joint owner.    (See also Property Law, infra)

The Missouri Bar Courts Bulletin, 11-Jun