Articles Posted in Trust Litigation

In 1983, Alma and Israel Zivin executed a mutual last will and testament. The will stated that upon either the death of Alma or Israel, all property would go to the other. The will further stated that in the event that they both died or upon the death of their survivor, 50% of their estate should go to the specified family and friends and the remainder would pass to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in New York City.

The Zivins had no children. Israel passed away in 1984 and his estate was bequeathed in accordance with the terms of the will to Alma.

In 2004, Alma signed her own will, which expressly revoked any and all prior wills. Her new will made specific bequests of personal items and gave the remainder of her estate to a “pour over trust” with no provision made to Hebrew University.

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The Illinois Appellate Court has ruled in a dispute regarding who should inherit a home in Highland Park, Ill. Although a trust instrument stated the house was part of the trust, there was no separate, formal documentation showing that a transfer of the house had been placed in the trust. The court In re Estate of Mendelson considered whether the house was properly transferred into the trust. The court noted that it could “find no Illinois authority on point.”

The Illinois Appellate Court held that the house was a part of the trust because it was described in it although there was no recorded deed transferring the real estate to the trust.

In the Mendelson case, the chain of title to the house was complex. In 2005, Diane Mendelson executed the deed that placed title to the house in joint tenancy with herself and her son. The deed was never recorded because she enjoyed a property tax benefit as the sole title owner of the property.

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Former Republican U.S. Senator John Danforth has left the St. Louis law firm of Bryan Cave because of a high-profile case that involved a $77 million jury verdict against Wells Fargo & Company. It was an odd ending to a long relationship of a stalwart of Missouri politics and law. Danforth’s family has a long, proud history in business, law, politics and philanthropy in St. Louis and the state of Missouri.

Danforth has worked at the St. Louis-based law firm Bryan Cave for decades but left because of a dispute over a claimed conflict of interest. He testified in a St. Louis court supporting the plaintiff Barbara Morriss, who sued Wells Fargo Bank because it was claimed to have mismanaged the family’s trust allegedly costing her millions of dollars. Bryan Cave had represented Reuben Morriss, a former chairman of a now merged St. Louis bank, Boatmen’s Trust Co. Wells Fargo through two predecessors was acting a custodian of one of the Morriss trusts and a trustee of another trust fund.

Danforth testified that the bank was legally to blame for the losses of the family’s trust and thus took the side of Ms. Morriss, the plaintiff against the firm’s client, Wells Fargo. It was reported that Danforth was a longtime family friend of Ms. Morriss and her husband, Reuben Morriss, who died in 2006. The case centered on the claim that while Reuben Morriss was in a “stupor” caused by Alzheimer’s disease his son Doug Morriss in cooperation with Wells Fargo lost millions of dollars from the family’s trust. The law firm of Dowd, Bennett represented Morriss in the lawsuit. It was claimed that Wells Fargo chose not to inform Barbara Morriss that the investment strategies taken were risky and that the bank had a conflict of interest in that it loaned $40 million to Doug Morriss using the family trust as collateral.

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The beneficiaries of the Barbara B. Kaull Trust included the biological children of Mark James Kaull’s father, Mark Kaull, who died in 2010. Mary Kaull, acting as trustee of the Barbara B. Kaull Trust, petitioned the court for a ruling on whether Mark, the elder, was also the father of Ryan Donald Schrader. Mark James Kaull might be the brother of Ryan Donald Schrader. To determine whether they were in fact brothers, Mary Kaull asked the court for an order compelling Mark James Kaull to submit to a DNA test. Mark James Kaull refused and was held in contempt of court. Mark James Kaull argued that the Illinois Supreme Court Rule 215 as revised and amended in 1996 is unconstitutional under the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions.

Mark James claimed that the revised Rule 215 violated the prohibition on reasonable searches and seizures under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, plus his right under Article 1, Section 6 of the Illinois Constitution to be free from unreasonable searches, seizures and invasions of privacy.

This case, which was set in Winnebago County, Ill., granted Mary’s request for the DNA testing. Mark appealed from that order which fined him $100 and a dollar a day for declining to obey.

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The Illinois Appellate Court has affirmed the decision by a Cook County associate judge who ordered the removal of the guardian of a disabled person.

On Feb. 24, 2009, Patricia Herard was adjudicated by the court to be disabled. Herard was diagnosed with “profound mental retardation and legal blindness.”  It was also reported that she has epilepsy, behavior reminiscent of autism and functioning “in the age ranges of 9 months to just fewer than 3 years.” Patricia’s mother was appointed her legal guardian.

An agreement was signed and delivered to the court between Herard’s parents, her guardian ad litem and the Bank of America.  The agreement required Herard’s parents to grant reasonable access to Herard for a court-appointed case manager, in this case, Rehab Assist Guardianship Services.  The reasonable access was intended to include both announced and unannounced visits.

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In an Illinois Appellate Court decision, it was found that a trust’s beneficiaries had sufficient minimum contact with the state simply through their ownership interest of a trust administered by an Illinois resident.

In May 2012, a Cook County associate court judge dismissed the trust dispute case for lack of jurisdiction. 

The trial judge had relied on an opinion that lacked precedential value that undermined that court’s holding, so said the opinion of appellate court Justice Robert E. Gordon. The Illinois Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s ruling dismissing the case.

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