In a recent Rhode Island estate law case, six trust beneficiaries (collectively, ‘respondents’) moved to dismiss the petitioner’s petition for declaratory relief or, in the alternative, to either amend the trust or allow the other beneficiaries to disclaim their interest in the petitioner’s share of the trust. Petitioner sought to permit his adopted son—whom he adopted as an adult—to succeed to his interest in his grandfather’s trust. The court had jurisdiction pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 9-30-1.
The trust was established in 1928 by the settlor. Rhode Island Hospital Trust served as the initial trustee, and thereafter replaced by its successor entity, Bank of America. Following the settlor’s death, the trust directed the trustee to equally divide the remaining net income from the trust to the benefit of his wife, three daughters, and their issue. The trust further provided for its termination 21 years following the death of the settlor’s wife and daughters and two other named individuals (collectively, ‘the R. family’). At the time the case came before the Rhode Island Superior Court, members of the R. family were the only surviving named individuals, both in their nineties.
Petitioner’s mother, one of settlor’s daughters, became a beneficiary of the trust following the settlor’s death. Petitioner and his three sisters succeeded to their mother’s interest in the trust upon her death. In 2001, at the direction of the superior court, the daughter’s interest in the trust was divided into four separate shares—one for each of her children. The 2001 judgment further provided that “[i]f, at any point, a child of [the daughter] is deceased and no issue of that child survives,” then the deceased child‘s share of the trust will be divided evenly among the surviving siblings.