Every trust agreement I draft has a venue clause and a choice of law clause. That clause identifies where disputes are to be heard. Virtually every trust agreement I prepare also identifies successor trustees. What happens when these clauses conflict such that Minnesota is supposed to be the venue, but the trustees do not reside in Minnesota?
In Paulucci, et al. v. Nelson, et al. the Minnesota Court of Appeals, in August of 2016, affirmed a case wherein the district court dismissed suit brought by two Minnesota beneficiaries of a trust against the two trustees of a trust on the grounds of forum non-conveniens. The essential fact for this article are that the beneficiaries who commenced suit reside in Minnesota. The trustees they sued both reside in Florida. The trust stated Florida law is to be applied to the trust. There are other facts that played into the court's decision, but these facts were the most influential. These facts caused the Minnesota courts to refuse to hear the litigation brought by the Minnesota plaintiffs, concluding that based on the above the lawsuit should be brought in Florida.
Forum non conveniens is a doctrine that requires the court to consider where a lawsuit should be heard from the perspective of the defendants. This is an important doctrine to keep in mind when preparing a trust for it can lead to a result never intended, and in fact not wanted, by the settlor of the trust.
There are many important things to keep in mind when preparing a trust agreement. I take as much time as you need to walk through the options and consequences of your decision. Please give me a call to set a time to meet and walk through your personal estate plan.
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