You wonder sometimes what people are thinking when they argue cases that seem like obvious losers, and even more so when these cases go up on appeal. The unpublished opinion of In Re Barbara A. Young Living Trust is one such case. (Click on the name to read the case.)
In this case, the Trust said that each grandchild gets $50,000 off the top, and the residue is split between the children. The Trustee (who happens to be one of the children) says that although there are sufficient assets in the Trust to satisfy the gifts to grandchildren, there is no cash and therefore the gift to grandchildren is adeemed.
The trial judge says that the trustee is confused. The trial judge directs the trustee to sell other assets to obtain the funds to pay the grandchildren their gifts. The trial judge explains that this is so because a specific gift of cash is not the same as a specific gift of some item, like a wedding ring, which if it no longer exists at the time of distribution can be subject to the doctrine of ademption.
Who didn’t know that? Right? Yet this Trustee not only argued the case, but believed she had grounds to appeal.
Not surprisingly the Court of Appeals affirms the decision of the trial judge.
And yet, in doing so, the COA corrects the language used by the trial judge and provides an interesting discussion and explanation on the differences between “general gifts,” “specific gifts,” and “demonstrative gifts.” Turns out, technically speaking, the gift of cash to the grandchildren is not a “specific devise” at all, but is rather a “general devise.”
So, notwithstanding the seeming pointlessness of the case, I learned something new.
Could it be I’m not as smart as I think I am?