Articles Posted in Trusts & Estates

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Petitioners sought a statutory partition of a house and lot owned by Petitioners and Respondent. Respondent objected and brought her objections as a counterclaim in which Respondent requested a private sale of the property and alleged that she was entitled to money from her mother’s estate. The master’s final report issued finding that Respondent had not raised a cognizable defense or counterclaim regarding the statutory partition and that the court lacked jurisdiction over the probate issues. The Court of Chancery affirmed the report in all respects based upon its independent findings of fact and law, holding that the Master correctly recommended that Respondent’s claims be dismissed without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction. View "Collins v. Collins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The beneficial owner of a Delaware statutory trust sought to inspect certain of the trust’s books and records. The trust denied the beneficial owner’s request, asserting that the form of the request and the motivations underlying the request were improper. The beneficial owner filed a complaint asserting both a contractual demand and a statutory demand. The Court of Chancery granted the beneficial owner’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the beneficial owner was entitled to inspect, examine, and copy the requested information under its contractual demand. View "Grand Acquisition, LLC v. Passco Indian Springs DST" on Justia Law

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After a beneficial owner (Grand Acquisition) of a Delaware statutory trust sought to inspect certain of the trust's books and records, the trust (Passco Trust) denied the request, arguing that the form of the request and the motivations underlying the request both were improper. The bulk of the parties’ dispute centers on whether the trust agreement incorporates the statutory requirements of 12 Del. C. 3819 and, if so, whether the beneficial owner has satisfied those requirements. In this case, the court concluded that Grand Acquisition is entitled to the requested information under its contractual demand where the owners' right to books and records under the Trust Agreement is not subject to the Delaware Statutory Trust Act's, 12 Del. C. 3801-3826, preconditions and defenses, the owners' right to books and records under the Trust Agreement includes the requested information, and Passco Trust has failed to prove its implied improper purpose defense. Accordingly, The court granted Grand Acquisition's motion for summary judgment and denied Passco Trust's motion for summary judgment. View "Grand Aquisition, LLC v. Passco Indian Springs DST" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Before Russell Banks died, Russell and his brother, David Banks, owned together fifteen parcels of real estate in Sussex County, Delaware. The granting language of the deed to each parcel stated that the property was conveyed to the brothers as “joint tenants with right of survivorship.” David asserted that this language granted joint tenancies with right of survivorship (WROS) and that the properties passed to him in full upon Russell’s death. Mackie Banks, the executrix of Russell’s estate, filed an inventory for Russell’s estate asserting that the properties were conveyed to the brothers as tenants in common and that the Estate held a fifty percent ownership interest in the properties. David filed a petition to quiet title on the properties. The Court of Chancery granted David’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that the language conveying the property as “joint tenants with right of survivorship” was sufficient to create a joint tenancy WROS and not a tenancy in common. View "Banks v. Banks" on Justia Law

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Bennie Farren died leaving a will under which he bequeathed his former residence and other assets to a trust. The trust contemplated that Patricia McGlaughlin could live in Bennie’s former residence for the remainder of her life. Rebecca Courson, Bennie’s ex-wife, filed a claim against the Estate based on a child support order entered by a Florida court in 1986 and modified in 1987. Andrew Farren, Courson’s biological son and the executor of Bennie’s estate, accepted Courson’s claim as a valid debt of the Estate. Thereafter, Andrew filed a petition to sell Bennie’s former residence to raise additional funds. McGlaughlin opposed Andrew’s petition and also petitioned to remove Andrew as executor. The Court of Chancery (1) granted Andrew’s motion in part, holding that the Florida orders constituted a final judgment entitled to full faith and credit under the federal Constitution but that there was insufficient evidence in the record to consider the facts and equities involved in ordering a sale of Bennie’s residence; and (2) denied McGlaughlin’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the evidence was insufficient to support judgment as a matter of law as to Courson’s claim that Andrew breached his fiduciary duties by accepting his mother’s claim. View "In re Estate of Bennie P. Farren" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Wallace B. Flint established a detailed estate plan in his Last Will and Testament that created a testamentary trust that would receive as its corpus the residue of his estate (the Trust). Flint’s daughter, Katherine, was an income beneficiary of the Trust. Katherine filed a petition seeking (1) to modify the terms of the Trust by rewriting its administrative provisions, thus converting the Trust from a traditional, trustee-managed structure into a directed trust where the trustee would serve only an administrative role; and (2) to modify a previous order regarding the law governing the Trust that would create a contingent choice of law provision in which Delaware law would govern all issues of administration unless it would or might create adverse tax affects, in which case New York law - the law that originally governed the Trust under Flint’s estate plan - would spring back into effect. The Court of Chancery denied both requests, holding (1) Katherine’s petition sought to modify the Will in a manner that conflicted with Flint’s intent; and (2) the proposed provision of the petition seeking an order providing that Delaware law will govern the administration of the trust under certain circumstances contained language that was too vague and uncertain to be implemented. View "In re Trust Under Will of Flint" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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In 2004, Plaintiff retained Law Firm in connection with an action to inspect the books and records of certain defendants. Law Firm served as counsel in this litigation through the filing of claims against other defendants. In 2011, Law Firm withdrew as counsel. When some defendants prevailed at trial, the Court concluded that Law Firm should be awarded attorneys’ fees and expenses. Law Firm then moved to intervene, attaching a petition for a charging lien based on $766,166 in unpaid fees and expenses incurred in representing Plaintiff during the earlier stages of this litigation. The Court of Chancery granted the motion for leave to intervene, holding that Law Firm had an interest relating to the subject of the action, and Law Firm’s application was timely. View "Sutherland v. Sutherland" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a trust (“the Raiff Trust”) that had expired under the terms of the trust instrument that established the trust. The trust was funded with shares of Jenzabar, Inc. At the time of this litigation, the Raiff Trust continued to hold shares of Jenzabar stock on behalf of its beneficiary. Plaintiff, trustee of a trust holding stock in Jenzabar, brought derivative claims related to a bonus payment for Jenzabar’s CEO and Chairman. The Raiff Trust moved to intervene in the litigation. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the trust lacked the capacity to prosecute this action on behalf of Jenzabar because it had no beneficial or economic interest in Jenzabar. The Court of Chancery granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss, holding that the trust could take only actions related to preserving its assets for purposes of distribution and wind-up, together with those actions for which the trust instrument specifically provided, which did not include the maintenance of the derivative litigation contemplated in this action. View "In re Jenzabar, Inc. Derivative Litigation" on Justia Law

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During divorce proceedings between Daniel Kloiber (Dan) and Beth Ann Kloiber the Kentucky Family Court issued status quo orders that restricted Dan in his capacity as a human being over whom the Kentucky Family Court had personal jurisdiction, thereby restricting Dan’s actions as special trustee of the Daniel Kloiber Dynasty Trust and sole manager of three LLCs. Dan subsequently resigned from his positions and appointed Nick Kloiber as special trustee. Nick proceeded to take action contrary to the status quo orders, and the Kentucky Family Court issued a rule to show cause why Nick should not be held in contempt. PNC Delaware Trust Company (PNC), the trustee of the Dynasty Trust, and Nick filed petitions seeking instructions and declarations from the Court of Chancery, arguing that the Kentucky Family Court improperly asserted jurisdiction over the trustee, special trustee and trust and was requiring them to take actions contrary to their fiduciary duties. The Court of Chancery denied Nick’s application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent Beth from seeking to enforce the status quo orders, including the pending rule to show cause, holding that, because the Kentucky Family Court was not interfering with the Court’s jurisdiction, Nick lacked a colorable claim on which to base a TRO. View "In re Daniel Kloiber Dynasty Trust " on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Settlor established a trust (Trust) for the maintenance of two burial lots. The Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery (the Cemetery) and PNC Bank, N.A. (the Trustee) petitioned to modify the Trust, to direct that three percent of the net asset value of the Trust be distributed annually to the Cemetery for the general maintenance of the Cemetery. Contending that the Trust had a charitable purpose, the Cemetery and Trustee relied on the common law doctrine of cy pres, Delaware's statutory codification of the cy pres doctrine, and the common law doctrine of deviation in seeking modification. The Court of Chancery denied the petition, holding that petition did not provide any basis for modifying the Trust. View "In re Latimer Trust" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates