In 2009, Elizabeth Briggs amended her revocable living trust to disinherit her son, Thomas, leaving the trust assets to her daughter, Judith. The amendment stated that Thomas knew the reasons for his disinheritance.
After Elizabeth died in 2013, an attorney for the estate and trust advised Thomas that he had received no property from his mother’s estate. The notice also advised Thomas that he had 60 days to commence any judicial proceeding against the trust.
Acting as his own lawyer, and within the 60 days, Thomas e-mailed the county clerk and the attorney a “Notice of Objection to the Trust Instrument of Elizabeth A. Briggs.” The nature of objection was not specified, and no relief was requested. No court file was opened.
Some 611 days after Thomas received the 60-day notice, he commenced a judicial proceeding to contest the amendments to the trust. He also alleged undue influence over Elizabeth by Judith, as well as that she had breached her fiduciary duties.
In 2010 the relevant state law (South Dakota) had been amended to create the 60-day window for lodging an objection to the validity of a trust or a trust amendment. That specific statute of limitations superseded the more general state statute of limitations governing undue influence claims, the lower court held, and the South Dakota Supreme Court now agrees. Thomas’ filing of an objection to the trust did not stop the clock. He had 60 days to commence his action; he did not, and so the current suit is untimely. The trust amendment is preserved, and Thomas is disinherited.
As to the alleged breach of fiduciary duty, Judith was not named as a defendant to the lawsuit. The trust is not liable for any of Judith’s actions as her mother’s caretaker, even assuming that she exercised undue influence. Accordingly, that claim was dismissed as well.
Of course we hope that you are never in a situation where you have to consider disinheriting one or more or your children. However, this situation does highlight the value of having a trust. We at The Trust Company of Kansas want to help ensure that disputes over beneficiary designations are avoided in any circumstance, and that your wishes for your estate are carried out upon your death.
THE TRUST COMPANY OF KANSAS ABIDES BY A SIMPLE PHILOSOPHY: MINIMIZE BURDEN, BESTOW FREEDOM.
As our longtime partners will tell you, we help our clients accomplish their goals, not our own. And we stay focused on the financial aspects of their lives so that they can stay focused on their priorities.
Our goal is to build a legacy by helping you protect yours. And we ensure that you meet your goals by closely monitoring your assets, so that you may continue enjoying a lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed.
The officers at The Trust Company of Kansas are always willing to discuss your goals for your estate and help you to create a plan that is well-aligned with your wishes. If you have a specific question about beneficiary designation, please contact us at (800) 530-5254 or visit tckansas.com/contactus, and one of our Certified Trust and Financial Advisors will be happy to assist you.