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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. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  2. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  3. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  4. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  5. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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