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Cate-Schweyen v. Cate
Montana Supreme Court
303 Mont. 232 (2000)
In 1988, Jerome J. Cate drafted a handwritten document entitled “Irrevocable Trust Reserving Income for Life.” The document purported to transfer mineral interests that Jerome had inherited from his mother and uncle to a trust benefitting Jerome’s daughters from his first marriage. The document named Jerome’s daughter Shannon Cate-Schweyen (plaintiff) trustee and granted Jerome a life interest in the trust property. The document granted the daughters a 20-year-term interest after Jerome’s death, followed by an outright distribution of any remaining property to the daughters or their heirs, per stirpes. Jerome specified that the document was made in contemplation of his pending marriage to JoAnn Cate (defendant). Jerome never executed a separate document conveying the mineral interests to the trust to or to Shannon as trustee. After Jerome’s death, JoAnn was appointed personal representative of his estate and refused to transfer the mineral interests to his daughters. Shannon, on her own behalf and as conservator of her sister Sara, petitioned the trial court for a declaration that the handwritten document had created a valid testamentary trust and that JoAnn was required to fund the trust with the mineral interests. JoAnn opposed the petition, arguing that the document had created an inter vivos trust that was unenforceable because Jerome had failed to fund the trust during his lifetime. The trial court found for Shannon, and JoAnn appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Nelson, J.)
Dissent (Turnage, C.J.)
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