Articles Posted in California Supreme Court

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A trust and an amendment to the trust both contained no contest clauses. In 2009, two of the trust’s beneficiaries filed a safe harbor proceeding seeking a determination that the petition they proposed to file challenging trustee conduct would not trigger the no contest clauses of the trust’s amendment. The probate court concluded the proposed petition did not constitute a contest. At issue on appeal was whether the no contest clause law that became operative in 2010, while the beneficiaries’ application was pending, or the no contest clause law in effect at the time the beneficiaries filed their application applied to the beneficiaries’ proposed petition. The court of appeal held (1) the former no contest law applied, and (2) the beneficiaries’ challenge constituted a contest. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) safe harbor proceedings filed before 2010 were not affected by the repeal of the former law, which previously authorized safe harbor applications, and therefore, the probate court correctly ruled on the beneficiaries’ application; (2) the current law governed the question of whether the beneficiaries’ proposed claims triggered the no contest clauses; and (3) under the current law, the no contest clauses in the amended trust were unenforceable against the beneficiaries’ proposed petition. View "Donkin v. Donkin" on Justia Law

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This case involved a revocable trust. After the settlor died, the beneficiaries sued the trustee for breach of the fiduciary duty committed while the settlor was still alive and the trust was still revocable rather than irrevocable. The trial court ruled in favor of the beneficiaries, finding that the trustee had violated his duty in various respects. The court of appeal reversed, holding that the beneficiaries did not have standing to maintain claims for breach of fiduciary duty against the trustee, as the trustee's duties were owed solely to the settlor during the settlor's lifetime and not to the trust beneficiaries. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because a trustee's breach of the fiduciary duty owed to the settlor can substantially harm the beneficiaries by reducing the trust's value against the settlor's wishes, the beneficiaries do have standing to sue for a breach of that duty after the settlor has died. View "Giraldin v. Giraldin" on Justia Law