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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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