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Judges split in adopted trust-beneficiaries matter

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In an issue of first impression regarding the retroactivity of a 2003 amendment to the state’s trust code, the Indiana Court of Appeals was divided on whether adopted children should have been included as beneficiaries of a trust.

Alex L. Taggart Jr. executed an irrevocable inter vivos trust in 1953, in which JPMorgan Chase Bank is now the trustee. When he created the trust, the entire income of the trust was to go to his son Henry Taggart, and upon Henry’s death, one-third would go to Henry’s widow with the rest divided equally among Henry's “surviving children.” At the time the trust was created, Henry wasn’t married and didn’t have any children.

Also in effect then was the stranger to the adoption rule, in which there’s a presumption a person doesn’t include adopted children in the provision in his will for a child or children of someone other than himself unless there is something in the will to rebut that presumption.

Henry later married and adopted two children, Gregory and Maria. He then divorced and had natural children Linda, Bonnie, and Brenda, by another marriage. Alex died in 1972 and Henry died in 2008. Henry’s second wife and five children survive him.

At issue in Bonnie E. Taggart Paloutzian and Linda M. Taggart v. Gregory A. Taggart and Belle Delint-Eaglesfield, No. 49A02-0908-CV-812, is whether the adopted children Gregory and Maria, now Belle Delinit-Eaglesfield, should be included as beneficiaries of the trust.

The trial court found the adopted children should be included because Indiana Code Section 30-4-2.1-2 can be applied retroactively. This 2003 amendment to the trust code abrogated the stranger to the adoption rule and placed adopted children on equal footing with natural children. It contains a retroactivity provision to apply to all trusts created prior to Sept. 2, 1971, unless doing so would adversely affect a right given to a beneficiary, give a right to any beneficiary he wasn’t intended to have when the trust was created, and other reasons not at issue in this appeal.

The natural children claimed application of the 2003 amendment adversely affects their rights and gives a right to the adopted children when they shouldn’t have one.

The majority applied the amendment to the date it went into effect in 2003 because that’s the day the adopted children received an interest in the trust. At that time, Henry was still alive and it was unknown who the surviving children would be. Therefore, the natural children couldn’t have been adversely affected by the retroactive application, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

Also, there’s no evidence that Alex intended to include or exclude the adopted children based on the wording of the trust, and the natural children didn’t prove that Alex wanted to exclude any adopted children.

But because at the time the trust was executed, the stranger to the adoption rule was in effect, the court should have assumed that Alex knew of it and intended only natural children to be beneficiaries, wrote Judge Terry Crone in his dissent.

He also found the inclusion of any adopted children in 2003 adversely affected the rights of natural children from that time forward and only the extent of the adverse affect was unknown until Henry’s death.
 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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