Lange v. Lynda Nusser, as Trustee

2011 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1576 (2011)

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Lange v. Lynda Nusser, as Trustee

California Court of Appeal
2011 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1576 (2011)

Facts

Ardene Joan Lange executed a living trust, giving her daughter, Lynda Nusser (defendant), a 58 percent residual beneficial interest and her two other children and one grandchild (the other beneficiaries) (plaintiffs) a shared 42 percent interest. At Lange’s death, Nusser became the trustee over the trust’s sole asset, her home. The trust provided that upon Lange’s death, the trustee was to use any and all of the trust estate, at the sole discretion of the trustee, to care for any cats that were in Lange’s possession at the time of her death. The residue of the trust estate was to be distributed 58 percent to Nusser and 42 percent to the other beneficiaries. The trust provided that any beneficiary who contested the trust would forfeit any interest in the trust assets. Nusser lived in the house and cared for the cats for over a year following Lange’s death. The other beneficiaries then brought a petition for interpretation of the trust, an accounting, damages for breach of Nusser’s fiduciary duty as trustee, and removal of Nusser as trustee. Specifically, the other beneficiaries argued that the cat provision was unenforceable because there was no identification of any cats at the time of Lange’s death, rendering it ambiguous. The other beneficiaries sought for Nusser to place the cats in other homes, sell the house, and distribute the proceeds accordingly. The probate court found in favor of Nusser and further found that the other beneficiaries forfeited their interest in the trust by challenging the cat provision. The other beneficiaries appealed the forfeiture finding.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Aronson, J.)

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