The Appellate Group

In re Estate of Deeter

In re Estate of Deeter, 2020 UT App 65 (Christiansen Forster, J., majority; Mortensen, J., concurring)


Husband opened several retirement accounts through his employer and named First Wife as the primary beneficiary and Brother as the contingent beneficiary. Husband and First Wife divorced, and Husband married Second Wife. Husband did not change the beneficiary designation on his older retirement accounts, but he did tell Second Wife she would be a beneficiary on those accounts and opened up new accounts with her as a beneficiary. Husband died, and the employer retirement accounts went to Brother. Second Wife sued Brother, raising claims on testamentary intent and unjust enrichment. Brother moved for summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Brother. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:

  • The Second Wife did not file a Utah R. Civ. P. 56(d) affidavit or declaration explaining why she was unable to support her opposition to summary judgment with the information she possessed. Rather, she merely stated in her opposition to summary judgment that summary judgment was premature because discovery was not finished. Because Second Wife did not comply with rule 56(d), the district court did not abuse its discretion in disregarding it.
  • The district court did not err in granting summary judgment to Brother. Retirement contracts are nontestamentary. Utah Code § 75-6-201. Consequently, the beneficiary designation on the employer’s retirement accounts are governed by contract law and not by Husband’s testamentary intent.
  • Concurrence: The concurring judge noted that rule 56(d) is widely misused and abused. Rule 56(d) motions do not exist; rather, rule 56(d) affidavits do. In his view, the drafters of rule 56(d) intended the rule to work as follows: if the nonmoving party cannot sufficiently oppose a motion for summary judgment because that party needs to do further discovery, locate other evidence, or needs further time to obtain an affidavit, the party must file a rule 56(d) affidavit that explains what specifically needs to be obtained. Then in the memorandum opposing summary judgment, the party explains how and why that evidence matters in the context of the of the pending motion for summary judgment.

Read the full court opinion