David F. Johnson presented “Trust Issues In Divorce Proceedings” on November 17, 2021. This presentation covered trust issues that arise in divorce disputes, such as spouses creating an irrevocable trust, fraud claims to void a trust, conflict of interest issues raised by the same attorney drafting both spouse’s estate/trust documents, characterization of trust assets and

David F. Johnson presented “Trustee’s Obligation to Inform Beneficiaries: Avoiding Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims” to a national audience on November 16, 2021, via Strafford publishing with his co-presenter Scott E. Rahn, founder of RMO LLP. A critical obligation for trustees of irrevocable trusts is the duty to inform beneficiaries of the trust’s existence and

David will cover recent statutory changes and case law updates. He will discuss extending the rule against perpetuities, de jure versus de facto status as trustee, modifications to trusts, trust construction, temporary injunctions against trustees, trustee authority to sell real estate, trust management of closely held businesses, co-trustee management, exculpatory clauses, acceptance-of-the-benefits doctrine, will reformation

David F. Johnson co-presented “Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims Against Trustees/Managers of Closely Held Businesses” with Kenneth J. Fair from Wright, Close & Barger LLP to the AFHE (Attorneys For Family-Held Enterprises) Fall Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 29, 2021. This presentation discussed how and why trusts own closely held business interests, trustee’s duties

David F. Johnson presented his paper “Is There a Trustee Get Out of Jail Free Card? The Use of Exculpatory Clauses in Trust Documents in Texas” to the Dallas Bar Association Probate, Trusts, and Estates Section on October 26, 2021. This presentation discussed the different types of exculpatory clauses in trust documents, why they exist,

David Johnson presented his paper entitled “Fiduciary Litigation Update 2020-2021” to the Texas Bankers Association’s Wealth Management & Trust Conference on September 30, 2021. This presentation covered recent statutory changes and case law updates. He discussed extending the rule against perpetuities, de jure versus de facto status as trustee, modifications to trusts, trust construction, temporary

Trust beneficiaries often request a corporate trustee to prepare a statutory accounting. The Texas Trust Code in Section 113.151 provides that a beneficiary may request a written statement of accounts. Tex. Prop. Code 113.151. Regarding what information needs to be contained in a written statement of accounts, parties and the courts must first look to the terms of the trust. Tex. Prop. Code § 111.0035(b). As one commentator provides: “The settlor may specify in the terms of the trust instrument what must be contained in an accounting by the trustee. When the trust instrument is silent concerning the contents of an accounting, the Trust Code provides a list of items that must be included in every accounting.” 4 Texas Probate, Estate and Trust Administration § 81.63. A trustee and a court should give deference to the trust document and follow its requirements (whether more stringent or less stringent than a statutes require).
Continue Reading Corporate Trustee’s Statements May Suffice For A Statutory Accounting

Parties often add limitation-of-liability clauses to their agreements. These types of clauses can purport to limit a party’s claims or damages or both.  Damage-limitation clauses can take many different forms. For example, such a clause may forbid the recovery of consequential or loss profits damages. Cont’l Holdings, Ltd. v. Leahy, 132 S.W.3d 471, 475-76 (Tex. App.—Eastland 2003, no pet.). Further, a contractual provision setting an upper limit on the amount recoverable is a limitation of liability provision. Arthur’s Garage, Inc. v. Racal-Chubb Sec. Sys., 997 S.W.2d 803, 810 (Tex. App.—Dallas 1999, no pet.); Fox Elec. Co. v. Tone Guard Sec., Inc., 861 S.W.2d 79, 83 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 1993, no writ). If a plaintiff brings suit, the terms of the contract determine the relative positions of the parties and control the level of liability of either party. Federated Dept. Stores, Inc. v. Houston Lighting & Power Co., 646 S.W.2d 509, 511 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1982, no writ).
Continue Reading A Limitation-Of-Liability Clause May Or May Not Be Enforceable For Breach Of Fiduciary Duty Claims

The Texas Legislatures recently passed a bill that takes effect on September 1, 2021 that extends the rule against perpetuities to 300 years for trusts. The Legislature forwarded the bill (HB 654) to the governor on May 20, 2021, but he has not yet signed the bill into law. But unless he vetoes the bill, it will become law after ten days.

The Texas Constitution prohibits perpetuities: “Perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free government, and shall never be allowed . . . .” Tex. Const. art. I, § 26. A perpetuity is a restriction on the power of alienation that lasts longer than a prescribed period. ConocoPhillips Co. v. Koopmann, 547 S.W.3d 858, 866-67 (Tex. 2018). The rule against perpetuities “should be a check on vain, capricious action by wealthy empire builders. But it should not be a constantly present threat to reasonable dispositions which slightly overstep a technical line.” Rekdahl v. Long, Tex., 417 S.W.2d 387 (1967) (Steakley, J., dissenting) (citing W. B. Leach & O. Tudor, The Rule Against Perpetuities § 24.11 at 43 (1957)).
Continue Reading Texas Legislature Extends The Rule Against Perpetuities To 300 Years For Trusts