In re Margaret L. Matthews Revocable Trust

Nebraska Supreme Court Online Library 09/09/2022 08:05 AM CDT - 381 - Nebraska Supreme Court Advance Sheets 312 Nebraska Reports IN RE MARGARET L. MATTHEWS REVOCABLE TRUST Cite as 312 Neb. 381 In re Margaret L. Matthews Revocable Trust. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., as Trustee of the Margaret L. Matthews Revocable Trust, appellee, v. Salvation Army and Visiting Nurse Association of the Midlands, doing business as Visiting Nurse Association, appellees, and Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, substituted for Pella Evangelical Lutheran Church, appellant. ___ N.W.2d ___ Filed September 9, 2022. No. S-21-507. 1. Trusts: Equity: Appeal and Error. Absent an equity question, an appellate court reviews trust administration matters for error appear- ing on the record; but where an equity question is presented, appellate review of that issue is de novo on the record. 2. Declaratory Judgments. Whether an action for declaratory judgment is to be treated as one at law or one in equity is to be determined by the nature of the dispute. The test is whether, in the absence of the prayer for declaratory judgment, the issues presented should properly be dis- posed of in an equitable action, as opposed to a legal action. 3. Evidence: Appeal and Error. In a review de novo on the record, an appellate court reappraises the evidence as presented by the record and reaches its own independent conclusions concerning the matters at issue. However, the court may give weight to the fact that the trial court heard and observed the witnesses and their manner of testifying, and accepted one version of the facts rather than the other. 4. Jurisdiction: Appeal and Error. Before reaching the legal issues pre- sented for review, it is an appellate court’s duty to determine whether it has jurisdiction to decide the issues presented. 5. ____: ____. Where a lower court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the merits of a claim, issue, or question, an appellate court - 382 - Nebraska Supreme Court Advance Sheets 312 Nebraska Reports IN RE MARGARET L. MATTHEWS REVOCABLE TRUST Cite as 312 Neb. 381 also lacks the power to determine the merits of the claim, issue, or ques- tion presented to the lower court. 6. Trusts: Declaratory Judgments. Nebraska’s declaratory judgment stat- utes allow trustees and persons interested in the administration of a trust to seek a declaration regarding any question arising in the administration of a trust. 7. Trusts. A trustee or beneficiary may apply to an appropriate court for instructions regarding the administration or distribution of the trust if there is reasonable doubt about the powers or duties of the trusteeship or about the proper interpretation of the trust provisions. 8. Jurisdiction: Final Orders: Appeal and Error. For an appellate court to acquire jurisdiction of an appeal, there must be a final judgment or final order entered by the tribunal from which the appeal is taken. 9. Final Orders: Words and Phrases. To be final, an order must dispose of the whole merits …

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