Judges disagree on trust jurisdiction issue

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.