Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Summary 2008 WY 129

Summary of Decision issued October 22, 2008

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Case Name: Garwood v. Garwood

Citation: 2008 WY 129

Docket Number: S-07-0235

Appeal from the District Court of Platte County, the Honorable John C. Brooks, Judge.

Representing Appellants: Scott W. Meier and Howard V. Scotland III of Hickey & Evans, LLP, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee William J. Garwood: Frank J. Jones of Wheatland, Wyoming.

Facts/Discussion: Appellee William Garwood initiated this lawsuit in order to have the district court direct the Appellants, who are the trustees of the Family Trust to pay him a sum of money sufficient to provide for his support in the manner to which he was accustomed. The Appellants are two of his three children, Carol Jones and Orlan Garwood. Judy Kechter was named as a defendant below because she is a Trustee, but she has aligned herself with her father in the proceedings. The Trust at issue was created by Mr. Garwood and his wife in 1992. Mrs. Garwood died in 2005. When she died, the Trust divided into two separate trusts, a Marital Trust (Mr. Garwood as Trustee) and a Family Trust (the three Garwood children as Trustees.)

Allocation of the Assets: The Court concluded that the district court’s findings of fact were not clearly erroneous and its application of the law to the circumstances was likewise not erroneous. The Garwoods were victims of a “fill-in-the-blank” trust form that was ill-suited to their needs and has served to squander a significant portion of their savings on legal proceedings and attorney’s fees. The district court fashioned a suitable and practical resolution to the problems brought before it. It was not clear from the record which of its statutory, common law or equitable powers the district court relied upon in deciding the case, but any one or more of them could form a solid basis for the district court’s resolution of the case.
Appointment of Corporate Trustee:
The district court’s judgment simplified the role of the trustees to little more than sending Mr. Garwood a check once a month. If the Trust has not been exhausted by the time he dies, the Trustees are only required to divide the Trust residue into three equal parts and convey them to the Garwood children or their heirs.

Holding: The district court’s factual findings were not clearly erroneous, and its disposition of the issues was sound as a matter of law. Appellants demonstrated no need for the district court to alter the terms of the Trust with respect to who should serve as Trustees. Continuing litigation over matters associated with the instant case should be resolved expeditiously and in conformance with the spirit and letter of the opinion.


J. Hill delivered the decision.

C.J. Voigt special concurrence: The Chief Justice concurred with the result reached by the majority but thought that both the majority opinion and the specially concurring opinion of J. Burke went too far in addressing the issue of whether or not equity and the common law remain in the arsenal of the district court when faced with questions involving modification of a trust. Under the facts presented, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 4-10-413(a) justified the district court’s conclusion.

J. Burke special concurrence: J. Burke concurred with the result reached by the majority but wrote separately because he questioned the majority’s reliance on common law principles as support for the authority of the district court to modify a trust agreement.

Link: .

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses the "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when it was issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. Please note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you pinpoint cite to a quote, you should cite to this paragraph number rather than to any page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

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