Trusts and Estates

Cundall v. Mitchell-Clyde

Cite as B293952
Filed June 29, 2020
Second District, Div. Two

By Golnaz Yazdchi
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP
https://www.sheppardmullin.com

Headnote:  Trusts – Revocation Procedure

Summary:  Unless a trust explicitly states that its revocation procedure is exclusive, a trustor can utilize the statutory method of revocation.

John Martin as trustor and initial trustee established a revocable trust for the benefit of Robert Cundall on February 11, 2009 (the February Trust).  After having a falling out with Cundall, Martin revoked the February Trust and established a new trust with different beneficiaries (the May Trust).  The February Trust stated that the trustor may revoke the trust at any time by delivering to the trustee (Martin) and successor trustee (Cundall) an appropriate written revocation document, signed by the trustor and his then-estate planning attorney, Frances Diaz.  Martin did not follow the revocation method specified in the February Trust.  Instead, Martin used the statutory revocation method, which requires that the trustor sign a revocation document and deliver it to the trustee.  Cundall filed a petition for instructions seeking a determination that the February Trust was not properly revoked.  He claimed that the procedure set forth in the February Trust was the exclusive method of revocation that Martin could employ, and because he failed to do so, all of the trust assets should pass to Cundall. The successor trustee and beneficiaries of the May Trust filed a petition seeking an order confirming the validity of the May Trust.  The trial court found that the February Trust did not provide an exclusive method for revocation, and concluded that Martin’s revocation was valid.

Held: Affirmed.  Cundall argued that the statutory revocation method could not apply to the February Trust because the trust required a particular person (i.e., attorney Diaz, a trust protector) other than the settlor to approve the revocation.  Cundall also claimed that even if the statute applied, the February Trust provided an exclusive method of revocation.  There is no exception to the statutory revocation procedure for trusts that require a person other than the settlor to approve a trustor’s revocation.  The statute applies to the method of revoking a trust, which can include the persons with authority to accomplish that task—there is no distinction.  Next, because the February Trust did not state that its revocation procedure was exclusive, Martin, as trustor, could utilize the statutory method.  Martin’s revocation was valid.

https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B293952.PDF

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