Justia Delaware Court of Chancery Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Trusts & Estates
In re Latimer Trust
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
In re Ethel F. Peierls Charitable Lead Unitrust
Petitioners in this case were the current trustees of a Washington charitable trust. Petitioners petitioned the Court of Chancery for orders (1) approving their resignations, (2) confirming the appointment of Northern Trust Company of Delaware as successor trustee, (3) confirming Delaware as the situs of the trust, (4) determining that Delaware law governs the administration of the trust, (5) accepting jurisdiction over the trust, and (6) reforming the trust to include an array of additional administrative positions. The Court accepted jurisdiction over the trust for the limited purpose of considering the application for reformation and held (1) Petitioners' first four requests sought impermissible advisory opinions, and to the extent the petition sought these declarations, it was dismissed; (2) Petitioners' application for reformation was denied, as Petitioners did not advance any recognized basis for reforming the Trust; and (3) jurisdiction over the trust was not retained. View "In re Ethel F. Peierls Charitable Lead Unitrust" on Justia Law
In re Peierls Family Testamentary Trusts
Petitioners in this case were current beneficiaries of seven testamentary trusts. Petitioners sought orders approving the resignations of individual trustees, confirming the appointment of Northern Trust Company of Delaware as the successor corporate trustee for each trust, confirming Delaware as the situs of each trust, reforming the trust, and accepting jurisdiction over the trusts. The Court of Chancery dismissed the petitions, declining to adjudicate this multistate trust matter in deference to the courts which asserted jurisdiction over and had an ongoing supervisory role with respect to the testamentary trusts. Specifically, the Court held (1) the petitions for the 1960 and 1969 trusts should be filed in New Jersey and Texas, if appropriate; and (2) the petition for the 2005 trusts should be filed in the jurisdiction where probate matters were ongoing or refiled with supplemental information in the Court of Chancery. View "In re Peierls Family Testamentary Trusts" on Justia Law
In re Peierls Family Inter Vivos Trusts
Petitioners in this case were current beneficiaries of five inter vivos trusts. Seeking declarations designed to cause Delaware to govern the administration of the trusts so they could be reformed to take advantage of features authorized by the Delaware trust statute, Petitioners requested orders approving the resignations of individual trustees, confirming the appointment of Northern Trust Company of Delaware as the sole successor trustee for each trust, and confirming Delaware as the situs of each trust. The Court of Chancery denied the petitions, holding that the petitions failed primarily because Delaware law did not govern the trusts, as each of the trusts affirmatively selected the governing law of a different jurisdiction. View "In re Peierls Family Inter Vivos Trusts" on Justia Law
In re Riley
This action came before the Court of Chancery on a petition for a decree of distribution in an estate matter. Petitioner and his sister, Respondent, were the intestate heirs of their mother's estate. Ordinarily the estate would be divided evenly between the two of them. Petitioner argued, however, that his sister was not entitled to any additional funds from the estate because (1) she benefited when the estate's property was sold and the proceeds were used to pay off a mortgage she owed on the property, which had the effect of decreasing the amount available in the estate for distribution to the heirs, and (2) Respondent's actions as administratrix depleted the value of the estate. The Court of Chancery ordered that all of the assets in the estate should be distributed to Petitioner, concluding that, after accounting for the benefit Respondent received when the mortgage was paid off, and the loss caused to the estate by the breach of Respondent's fiduciary duties, there were no funds remaining in Respondent's share of the estate. View "In re Riley" on Justia Law
Protas v. Cavanagh, et al.
This matter involved allegations of breach of duty made by a common stockholder of a Delaware statutory trust against the trustee of that trust, as well as claims by the stockholder against those entities she alleged aided and abetted the breach. Plaintiff failed to make a pre-suit demand against defendant trustees, who she conceded were independent and disinterested when they took the actions complained of. The court found that plaintiff's claims were derivative and not direct. To survive a motion to dismiss in these circumstances under Section 3816 of the Delaware Statutory Trust Act (DSTA), 12 Del. C. 3816, a plaintiff must plead particularized facts raising a reasonable doubt that the actions of the trustees were taken honestly and in good faith. Because a careful reading of the complaint disclosed that plaintiff failed to so plead, her complaint must be dismissed. View "Protas v. Cavanagh, et al." on Justia Law
Knutkowski v. Cross
Plaintiff, individually and as personal representative of the estate of George D. Knutkowski, asserted claims against defendant, the decedent's widow, for, among other things, failing to repay two loans that decedent made to defendant. Defendant filed an answer denying that she had failed to repay any loans but did not raise any other defenses to the loan claims. Defendant subsequently moved to amend her answer to add the statue of limitations, laches, and waiver as affirmative defenses to the loan claims. The Master in Chancery granted that motion in a Final Report and plaintiff filed exceptions to the Final Report. The court held that the Master correctly exercised his discretion in allowing the amendment. Therefore, plaintiff's exceptions to that decision were denied. Plaintiff's exception to the Master's decision not to award him the attorney's fees and costs he incurred in opposing the amendment was also denied. View "Knutkowski v. Cross" on Justia Law
RBC Capital Markets, LLC v. Education Loan Trust IV, et al.
This case involved a suit by a holder of auction rate notes issued under an Indenture of Trust and certain "Supplemental Indentures" thereto, against the issuer of the notes, and the trust. Plaintiff claimed that the issuer caused the trust to pay millions of dollars in excessive fees to the issuer and an affiliate of the issuer in breach of limits on those fees set forth in the Supplemental Indentures. The court held that because plaintiff had not pled that it had met any of the conditions precedent to suit required by the no-action clause, the court dismissed plaintiff's claims. View "RBC Capital Markets, LLC v. Education Loan Trust IV, et al." on Justia Law
Brown v. Wiltbank, et al.
This matter involved a dispute over the disposition of a certain parcel of real estate that was the residence of Arlington J. Wiltbank, who died on December 5, 2002 and was survived by three children, including Claudia Wiltbank-Johnson. Pursuant to Court of Chancery Rule 144, the court carefully reviewed de novo the record of the trial before the Master and also heard live testimony regarding certain potentially dispositive credibility issues that the court had found existed based on its review of the record. The court concluded that Claudia had not satisfied her burden of proving that Wiltbank granted her a life estate in the property in exchange for caring for him toward the end of his life. Therefore, the partition of the property could proceed. View "Brown v. Wiltbank, et al." on Justia Law
Brinckerhoff v. Enbridge Energy Co., Inc., et al.
Plaintiff, individually and as trustee of the Peter R. Brinckerhoff Revocable Trust, was the holder of limited partnership units (LP units) of Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P. (the Partnership). Plaintiff, both derivatively, on behalf of the Partnership, and directly, on behalf of the public holders of the Partnership LP units, brought various claims against defendants. Defendants subsequently moved to dismiss all of plaintiff's claims. The court held that Count I was dismissed because plaintiff failed to plead facts suggesting that defendants acted in bad faith; Count II and IV were dismissed for failure to state a claim; and Count III was dismissed because plaintiff could not plead an implied covenant claim. View "Brinckerhoff v. Enbridge Energy Co., Inc., et al." on Justia Law