David F. Johnson has recently been named a Fellow with the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (“ACTEC”). ACTEC is an organization of almost 2,400 trust and estate lawyers and law professors who have been elected by their peers in recognition of having made outstanding contributions to the practice of trust and estate law.
David F. Johnson co-presented “Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims Against Trustees/Managers of Closely Held Businesses” with Kenneth J. Fair from Wright, Close & Barger LLP to the AFHE (Attorneys For Family-Held Enterprises) Fall Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 29, 2021. This presentation discussed how and why trusts own closely held business interests, trustee’s duties…
David F. Johnson presented his paper “Is There a Trustee Get Out of Jail Free Card? The Use of Exculpatory Clauses in Trust Documents in Texas” to the Dallas Bar Association Probate, Trusts, and Estates Section on October 26, 2021. This presentation discussed the different types of exculpatory clauses in trust documents, why they exist,…
David Johnson presented his paper entitled “Fiduciary Litigation Update 2020-2021” to the Texas Bankers Association’s Wealth Management & Trust Conference on September 30, 2021. This presentation covered recent statutory changes and case law updates. He discussed extending the rule against perpetuities, de jure versus de facto status as trustee, modifications to trusts, trust construction, temporary…
Trust beneficiaries often request a corporate trustee to prepare a statutory accounting. The Texas Trust Code in Section 113.151 provides that a beneficiary may request a written statement of accounts. Tex. Prop. Code 113.151. Regarding what information needs to be contained in a written statement of accounts, parties and the courts must first look to the terms of the trust. Tex. Prop. Code § 111.0035(b). As one commentator provides: “The settlor may specify in the terms of the trust instrument what must be contained in an accounting by the trustee. When the trust instrument is silent concerning the contents of an accounting, the Trust Code provides a list of items that must be included in every accounting.” 4 Texas Probate, Estate and Trust Administration § 81.63. A trustee and a court should give deference to the trust document and follow its requirements (whether more stringent or less stringent than a statutes require).
Continue Reading Corporate Trustee’s Statements May Suffice For A Statutory Accounting
Parties often add limitation-of-liability clauses to their agreements. These types of clauses can purport to limit a party’s claims or damages or both. Damage-limitation clauses can take many different forms. For example, such a clause may forbid the recovery of consequential or loss profits damages. Cont’l Holdings, Ltd. v. Leahy, 132 S.W.3d 471, 475-76 (Tex. App.—Eastland 2003, no pet.). Further, a contractual provision setting an upper limit on the amount recoverable is a limitation of liability provision. Arthur’s Garage, Inc. v. Racal-Chubb Sec. Sys., 997 S.W.2d 803, 810 (Tex. App.—Dallas 1999, no pet.); Fox Elec. Co. v. Tone Guard Sec., Inc., 861 S.W.2d 79, 83 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 1993, no writ). If a plaintiff brings suit, the terms of the contract determine the relative positions of the parties and control the level of liability of either party. Federated Dept. Stores, Inc. v. Houston Lighting & Power Co., 646 S.W.2d 509, 511 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1982, no writ).
Continue Reading A Limitation-Of-Liability Clause May Or May Not Be Enforceable For Breach Of Fiduciary Duty Claims
The Texas Legislatures recently passed a bill that takes effect on September 1, 2021 that extends the rule against perpetuities to 300 years for trusts. The Legislature forwarded the bill (HB 654) to the governor on May 20, 2021, but he has not yet signed the bill into law. But unless he vetoes the bill, it will become law after ten days.
The Texas Constitution prohibits perpetuities: “Perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free government, and shall never be allowed . . . .” Tex. Const. art. I, § 26. A perpetuity is a restriction on the power of alienation that lasts longer than a prescribed period. ConocoPhillips Co. v. Koopmann, 547 S.W.3d 858, 866-67 (Tex. 2018). The rule against perpetuities “should be a check on vain, capricious action by wealthy empire builders. But it should not be a constantly present threat to reasonable dispositions which slightly overstep a technical line.” Rekdahl v. Long, Tex., 417 S.W.2d 387 (1967) (Steakley, J., dissenting) (citing W. B. Leach & O. Tudor, The Rule Against Perpetuities § 24.11 at 43 (1957)).
Continue Reading Texas Legislature Extends The Rule Against Perpetuities To 300 Years For Trusts
A recent bill has been submitted that would provide a trustee release relief for transactions described in an accounting where a beneficiary fails to timely object to the accounting and there is no fraud, intentional misrepresentation, or material omission. The bill provides:
Sec. 113.153. BENEFICIARY’S APPROVAL OF ACCOUNTING.
(a) This section does not apply to a trust that is under judicial supervision.
(b) If a beneficiary does not object to a trustee’s accounting before the 180th day after the date a copy of the accounting has been delivered to the last known address of the beneficiary: (1) the beneficiary is considered to have approved the accounting; and (2) absent fraud, intentional misrepresentation, or material omission, the trustee is released from liability relating to all matters in the accounting.
David F. Johnson recently published a new law review article: “Tricks, Traps, and Snares in Appealing a Summary Judgment in Texas, 72 BAYLOR L. REV. 564 (Fall 2020).” David originally published this article in 1998 with Chief Justice William J. Cornelius of the Sixth Court of Appeals of Texas. David’s original article has been cited…
David F. Johnson recently published his article “Fiduciary Compensation and Forfeiture in Texas” in the Texas Tech Estate Planning and Community Property Law Journal. This article addresses many of the interesting issues that arise in trustee compensation disputes. The article addresses a trustee’s authority to compensation under the trust document, statutes, and common law, and…