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Raborn v. Menotte

974 So. 2d 328 (2008)

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Raborn v. Menotte

Florida Supreme Court

974 So. 2d 328 (2008)

Facts

Robert Raborn and Lenore Raborn established a private express trust for their three children, Douglas (plaintiff), Robin, and Richard, the corpus of which was the family horse farm. Douglas was named trustee, and Douglas, Robin, and Richard were beneficiaries. Robert and Lenore executed two documents to effectuate their intentions: (1) Raborn Farm Trust Agreement and (2) Conveyance Deed to Trustee Under Trust Agreement. The deed named Robert and Lenore as “settlors under the Raborn Farm Trust Agreement” and named Douglas as “Trustee under the Raborn Farm Trust Agreement.” The deed repeatedly referenced the trust agreement and the trustee’s broad powers over the farm property. The trust agreement was not recorded, but the deed was recorded. In 2001, Douglas filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Deborah Menotte (defendant), the bankruptcy trustee, sought to include the farm property in the bankruptcy estate, arguing that the deed conveying the farm property to Douglas conveyed a fee simple interest and not mere legal title in his capacity as trustee. The bankruptcy court denied Menotte’s petition and held the farm was not part of the bankruptcy estate. Menotte appealed, and the district court reversed, holding that the deed failed to meet statutory requirements for a conveyance in trust to a trustee, that Douglas held title in fee simple, and that the farm was therefore part of the bankruptcy estate. Douglas appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which certified a question to the Florida Supreme Court about whether the deed as written conveyed a fee simple interest or mere legal title.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bell, J.)

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