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Estate Beneficiary Death.

Byline: Derek Hawkins

7th Circuit Court of Appeals Case Name: National Foundation for Special Needs Integrity, Inc., v. Devon Reese Case No.: 17-117 Officials: RIPPLE, SYKES, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges. Focus: Estate Beneficiary Death In this case, we apply Indiana law to a trust agreement to determine who receives the remainder funds upon the beneficiarys death. Plaintiff National Foundation for Special Needs Integrity signed an agreement with Theresa Givens establishing a trust that the Foundation was to manage for her benefit while she lived. In the agreement, Givens named herself as the only contingent remainder beneficiary. Givens died just a month after funding the trust, leaving more than $234,000 in the trust. The district court rejected the Estates arguments, finding that the trust agreement is unambiguous and that the Estates evidence does not warrant any equitable remedy. The court also found that the equitable defense of laches would bar the Estates equitable theories. We reverse. We find that the trust agreement is ambiguous on the key question. Beyond the document, the overwhelming weight of evidence shows that Givens intended that any remaining assets pass to her children as the beneficiaries of her Estate rather than to the Foundation. We therefore remand and direct entry of judgment for the Estate, without reaching the equitable theories or the laches defense. On remand the district court will need to award damages and prejudgment interest in favor of the Estate. Remanded Full Text [box type="shadow" ] Attorney Derek A. Hawkins is the managing partner at Hawkins Law Offices LLC, where he heads up the firms startup law practice. He specializes in business formation, corporate governance, intellectual property protection, private equity and venture capital funding and mergers & acquisitions. Check out the website at or contact them at 262-737-25.[/box]

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Publication:Wisconsin Law Journal
Date:Feb 15, 2018
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