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Judges disagree on trust jurisdiction issue

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In a matter of first impression, Indiana Court of Appeals judges disagreed whether an Indiana probate court had subject matter and personal jurisdiction over a trust based in Virginia.

In the case In re the matter of: the Marvine W. Alford Trust, Joseph and Sarah Rogers v. J. Robert Lyons, as Trustee, No. 49A02-0805-CV-413, Chief Judge John Baker and Judge Paul Mathias agreed with a Marion Superior judge's dismissal of a petition to remove J. Robert Lyons as trustee for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The majority examined Marvine W. Alford's will and trust documents and ruled the trust was to be administered in accordance with Virginia laws, where Lyons lived.

Joseph and Sarah Rogers are the guardians of Shirley Rogers, who is the granddaughter of Alford. Alford had two children - Lyons and Marvine Mae Rogers, who is Shirley's mother. The Rogerses lived in Indiana and requested Lyons send a copy of Alford's will, the trust instrument, and a current statement of accounts after Marvine Mae's death. After Lyons delayed in sending the documents, the Rogerses filed a petition in the trial court to remove him as trustee, and sought an accounting and award of attorney fees.

Lyons filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 12(b)(1), which the trial court granted.

The majority reviewed provisions of the Section 199 Restatement (Second) of Trusts, Restatement of Conflict of Laws, Indiana Code, and caselaw to help them affirm the trial court's dismissal of the complaint. In the majority's view, the provisions in Alford's will instructing Lyons "of Alexandria, Virginia" to become trustee expressed her intent that Lyons administer the trust in Virginia, wrote Chief Judge Baker. Any jurisdiction Indiana courts may have had over the trust ended when Alford's estate assets were transferred to Lyons as trustee to be held and administered in Virginia.

"Moreover, it is undisputed that Lyons has continuously and exclusively administered the Alford Trust and the assets in Virginia, and he has been a resident of Virginia since Alford executed her will," he wrote. As such, all claims regarding the administration are to be heard in Virginia courts.

Judge Elaine Brown dissented, writing that she doesn't believe the will's reference to "Robert Lyons, of Alexandria, Virginia" shows an intent the trust should be administered in Virginia. Judge Brown wrote the trial court had subject matter and personal jurisdiction over the case and she would hold the court erred by granting Lyons' motion to dismiss.

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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