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PROBATE 11: A trust may be modified upon the consent of the trustee and beneficiaries.

This case arises from the beneficiaries and the trustee agreeing to amend the distribution of the trust after the settlor’s death; the facts are mostly undisputed. In August 2007, the Trust was established. Settlor served as the initial trustee and Settlor’s granddaughter, was named the successor trustee. The beneficiaries of the Trust are the Settlor’s six children and two grandchildren of a deceased child. Upon Settlor’s death, Roger was to receive a piece of real property, while the other children and the grandchildren were to receive a proportional share of the Trust residue. It appears that the Trust’s primary asset was an 80-acre farm.

Settlor passed away in January 2015. After her funeral, Settlor’s granddaughter was approached by the man who was leasing the farm. He offered to buy the farm for $600,000. Settlor’s granddaughter convened a meeting to discuss the offer and all of the beneficiaries were present, except one who participated by telephone. It was agreed that the offer would be accepted. However, at this meeting it was proposed that Roger be included in the distribution of the Trust’s residue.  It was explained that after Settlor had set up the trust, several years later, she realized that the 80-acre farm was more valuable. And she had asked to make sure that Roger got the same share as everybody else.

It appears that when the Trust was created, Settlor deemed the piece of property that Roger was to receive as being roughly equal in value to the other sibling’s shares of the Trust residue. But as the farm’s property value increased, Roger’s share of the Trust became inferior. Two of the beneficiaries, as well as Settlor’s granddaughter, testified that all the beneficiaries agreed to Roger be included in the distribution of the Trust’s residue.  Russell maintained that he did not consent to the change. However, in February 2015, he undisputedly signed an agreement to that effect, as did Settlor’s granddaughter and the other beneficiaries.

Russell later requested for reimbursement of trust funds distributed to Roger.

The probate court found that based on the testimony, it was the Settlor’s intent to reform this trust. That she wanted the children to receive the same approximate amount. The court then determined that the agreement was entered into by all the individuals voluntarily and knowingly and that the modification or agreement that was entered was consistent with the material purposes of the trust.  The probate court denied Russell’s requested relief.

A noncharitable irrevocable trust may be modified or terminated by the court upon the consent of the trustee and the qualified trust beneficiaries, if the court concludes that the modification or termination of the trust is consistent with the material purposes of the trust or that continuance of the trust is not necessary to achieve any material purpose of the trust.

Aldrich Legal Services represents clients in a wide range of probate litigation matters.  Given the emotional nature of these disputes and their financial impact on all involved, it is critical that anyone involved in such a dispute retain highly qualified legal counsel. Contact Aldrich Legal Services to schedule a free consultation.

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