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Rhode Island Court Declines to Decide Trust Amendment Case

Trusts are a common part of estate planning. Essentially, a trust is useful when you want to put aside property for someone else to manage for the benefit of a third party. For example, a grandparent may put money aside for their grandchild to be used for certain purposes or to be released to them at a specific time, such as at a certain age. In between the time the grandparent sets the money aside and the time the grandchild gets it, it will be managed by a third party called a “trustee.” There are more complicated laws and rules that surround the creation and disbursement of trusts. Your skilled Rhode Island estate planning attorney can help you to understand the best way to set up a trust to fit your circumstances.

People Involved in a Trust

Before we can dive it to what happened in this case, it’s important to understand the roles and titles of the different people in the trust. The person who provides the property that will at some point go to someone else is called the “settlor.” As explained above, the person (or entity) who is entrusted with the money is called the “trustee.” Finally, the person or people who will get the property at a specific point or upon the occurrence of certain events (such as the death of the settlor), are called “beneficiaries.

Set Up of the Trust

The settlor created this trust in 1928. The Bank of America was the trustee during all relevant time periods. The directives for the trust instructed the trustee to equally divide the net income from the trust between the grantor’s wife, his three daughters, and “their issue” at the time of his death. (“Issue” in this context means children.) The trust itself will terminate (and disburse the rest of the property) 21 years after the deaths of the settlor’s wife and daughters and two other people called “the Rickers.” (There are legal reasons to set up the trust this way, but they are beyond the scope of this post and too complicated to get into here.

Current Case

The plaintiff in this case is the grandchild of the settlor. Barbara, the settlor’s daughter and the plaintiff’s mother, is deceased. After her death, the court divided her interest in the trust among her four children, including plaintiff. Of Barbara’s four children, plaintiff is the only one without children. Thus, if he dies before the trust terminates his interest would go to his siblings. However, the plaintiff did adopt a son, though he was over 18 when the plaintiff adopted him. It is unclear whether they had a typical parent-child relationship or whether he did this solely for inheritance purposes. The question in this case is whether his adopted son could be a beneficiary of the trust even though he was adopted when he was over 18.

It is relatively rare for a court to decide on an issue before it occurs. Typically, there needs to be an actual case or controversy before the court will hear a matter. The court here held that as there were so many things that could happen between now and the termination of the trust, they were unwilling to decide this issue now but would consider it if this situation came to pass. At the time of the decision the Rickers were alive, though in their nineties, but there was still at least 21 years to go. There are lots of ways that the situation may look different than the plaintiff contemplates then. For example, the plaintiff may still be alive, or his son may be deceased, or a number of other scenarios that would affect his rights to the trust. Therefore, the court decided to hold off on the matter for now.

Contact One of Our Experienced Rhode Island Estate Planning Attorneys Today!

People of all ages should have up to date estate plans in case the worst happens. The experienced Rhode Island estate planning attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC can help you to create the estate plan that works best for you and your loved ones. An up to date estate plan may help your family save money and headaches after you die. Contact us today by using the form on this website or calling us at (401) 300-4055. The initial consultation is free.

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Rhode Island Superior Court Dismisses Petition to Amend the Trust


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