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Summary Disposition Granted in Case Regarding Surviving Spouse’s Right to Amend a Trust

Robert and Pamela, husband and wife, created a joint trust, which could be amended or revoked by both Robert and Pamela, or the survivor after one of them died. They named Robert’s children from his prior marriage, and Pamela’s children from her prior marriage, as the equal remainder beneficiaries of the joint trust. Later, Robert and Pamela wrote a long letter to their respective children, which appeared to make changes to the dispositive terms of the joint trust, some of which favored Robert’s children. However, in this letter, Robert and Pamela did not change the ability of the survivor to amend or revoke the trust. Robert died first, and after his death, Pamela amended the joint trust to leave all assets to her son at her death, removing her daughter and Robert’s two children as beneficiaries. In 2022, after Pamela’s death, Robert’s children sued the successor trustee to enforce the terms of Robert and Pamela’s letter on the theory that it was a trust amendment. The successor trustee, represented by David Skidmore, responded that Pamela had the ability to amend the trust after Robert’s death, regardless of the terms of any prior amendments. Robert’s children then amended their pleading to allege that the letter was not a trust amendment, but rather some type of contractual agreement which was binding on Pamela. David filed a motion for summary disposition, asking the Kent County Probate Court to immediately dismiss the claim by Robert’s children, on the ground that there was no question that Pamela possessed the right to amend the trust. In January 2023, following oral argument, the Probate Court granted the motion, dismissing the lawsuit, and Robert’s children did not file an appeal as of right.