In In re Ruff Mgmt. Trust, the settlor and primary beneficiary sought and obtained a modification of a trust regarding who could name a successor trustee. No. 05-19-01505-CV, 2020 Tex. App. LEXIS 9467 (Tex. App.—Dallas December 3, 2020, no pet. history). The trust document provided that the settlor and her son would name a successor trustee. If they did not do so, then the settlor’s children would automatically be named co-trustees. The settlor had previously had a very contentious arbitration dispute with her son, and sought to modify the trust to have it state that she could, by herself, name a successor trustee. After the trial court granted that relief, the settlor’s other children (other than the son) appealed that decision. The court of appeals affirmed the modification, not because there was evidence to support it, but because the modification allegedly did not affect the appealing children’s rights.
Continue Reading Court Affirmed An Order Modifying A Trust Where The Complaining Beneficiaries Were Not Affected By The Modification, Where The Modification Was Not Contrary To The Purpose Of The Trust, And Where The Beneficiaries Waived Their Right To A Jury Trial

In Lavizadeh v. Moghadam, a trustee purchased real estate and then had a dispute with a guarantor. No. 05-18-00955-CV, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 10835 (Tex. App.—Dallas December 13, 2019, no pet. history). The trial court ruled against the trustee, and the trustee objected to the failure to have a jury trial. The trial court overruled that objection, and the trustee appealed. The court of appeals first held that the trustee waived any issue on the procedure by expressly agreeing to same:

During the hearing conducted prior to jury selection, the Trust’s counsel initially stated “for the record that we’re here on a jury trial setting” and he believed “factual issues [existed] that may need to be presented to the jury. . .”, however, he subsequently agreed to Moghadam’s counsel’s proposal to stipulate all exhibits into evidence. More specifically, the Trust agreed, “it would be appropriate” to have a “summary trial by the Judge on those issues, and then if we need a jury on a fact issue . . . “ the parties would return to court for further proceedings. Following this exchange and an off-the-record discussion, the Trust offered 18 exhibits into evidence, and the court admitted them. Moghadam’s exhibits were likewise deemed admitted at the same time although submitted electronically a few days later. We conclude the Trust’s agreement with this procedure waived any objection to the court’s refusal to submit any issues to a jury.

Id. The court also held that any failure to provide a jury trial was harmless as there were no questions of fact: “The right to a jury trial attaches only when controverted questions of fact exist.” Id.
Continue Reading Court Rules Against Trustee’s Right to a Jury Trial Where the Trustee Agreed To A Summary Proceeding

In In re Troy S. Poe Trust, trustees of a trust that was embroiled in litigation filed suit to modify the trust to increase the number of trustees and change the method for trustees to vote on issues. No. 08-18-00074-CV, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 7838 (Tex. App.—El Paso August 28, 2019, no pet.). After the trial court granted the modification, a party to the proceeding appealed and argued that the trial court erred in refusing him a jury trial on initial issues of fact.

The court of appeals first looked at a party’s general right to a jury trial in Texas:

 The Texas Constitution addresses the right to a jury trial in two distinct provisions. The first, found in the Bill of Rights, provides that the “right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate.” But this provision has been held to “maintain a right to trial by jury for those actions, or analogous actions, tried by jury when the Constitution was adopted in 1876.” And Richard has not shown that trust modifications were tried to a jury in 1876 or before. The Texas Constitution also contains another provision governing jury trials in its judiciary article: “In the trial of all causes in the District Courts, the plaintiff or defendant shall, upon application made in open court, have the right of trial by jury; but no jury shall be empaneled in any civil case unless demanded by a party to the case, and a jury fee be paid by the party demanding a jury, for such sum, and with such exceptions as may be prescribed by the Legislature.” This section is broader than the Section 15 right to jury in the sense that it does not depend on court practice in 1876 or before. It is narrower in the sense that it only applies to “causes.” But the Texas Supreme Court views the term “causes” expansively, and that court has only restricted the right to jury trial in specific contexts where “some special reason” made jury trials unsuitable, such civil contempt proceedings, election contests, suits to remove a sheriff, and appeals in administrative proceedings. The Texas Constitution also gives the legislature authority to regulate jury trials to maintain their “purity and efficiency.” In that regard, we look to the statutory framework to determine whether parties possess a right to a jury trial.

Id. (internal citation omitted). The court then analyzed whether the Texas Property Code waived a party’s right to a jury trial regarding a claim to modify a trust:
Continue Reading Court Holds That A Party Was Entitled To A Jury Trial On Initial Issues Before A Trial Court Could Modify A Trust