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Grant v. Wells (In re Wells)
United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida
259 B.R. 776 (2001)
Ruth Clanton, decedent, and her daughter, Katherine Wells (defendant), entered into a trust agreement. Pursuant to the trust, Clanton was the settlor and held a lifetime interest, and Wells was the trustee. Upon Clanton’s death, Wells would also become the trust’s sole beneficiary. On the same day the trust was executed, Clanton executed a warranty deed transferring title to Five Points Shopping Center (Five Points) to Wells in her capacity as trustee. Approximately one year after Clanton’s death, Wells filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy case was then converted to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and Charles Grant (plaintiff) was appointed as the bankruptcy trustee. Grant filed a petition arguing that Five Points was part of Wells’s bankruptcy estate because (1) the trust terminated upon Clanton’s death; and (2) the merger doctrine converted Wells’s legal title to Five Points into a fee simple upon Clanton’s death, rendering it eligible for inclusion in the bankruptcy estate. Wells challenged, arguing that Five Points did not belong to the bankruptcy estate because the trust provisions allowed her, as beneficiary upon Clanton’s death, to continue the trust if desired.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Proctor, J.)
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