Supreme Court to Hear Standing Dispute

The Supreme Court has allowed an appeal from the Superior Court decision in Trust under Will of Augustus T. Ashton, 203 EAL 2020 (12/2/2020). The order states the issue to be:

Did the Superior Court err when it held that the equitable property interest in the trust res of a current vested beneficiary does not establish the beneficiary’s automatic standing to raise issues with the Trustees’ breach of fiduciary duties to the Trust, but instead a court must evaluate each and every beneficiary’s individualized financial loss to determine if it meets some unknown threshold sufficient to meet the “substantial, direct and immediate” test?

Going forward, the docket number in the Supreme Court will be 36 EAP 2020.

As previously reported, the beneficiary in question is entitled to an annuity of $2,400 each year for life from the trust. The Superior Court held that the beneficiary did not have have a “direct, immediate and substantial” interest in transactions reported in the trustee’s account covering a period during which the trust fund increased from about $5.56 million to about $73 million and so did not have standing to object to those transactions or to petition for the appointment of a co-trustee, but did have standing to object to the division of the trust into separate trusts, only one of which would be used to pay the annuity. Trust under Will of Augustus T. Ashton, Deceased, Dated January 20, 19502020 PA Super 130 (6/3/2020), rev’g No. 1039 ST of 1952 (Philadelphia O.C. 2/25/2019).

Update: On 10/4/2021, the Supreme Court issued an opinion reversing the Superior Court in part. Trust under Will of Augustus T. Ashton, Deceased, Dated January 20, 1950, ___ Pa. ___, ___ A.3d ___, 36 EAP 2020 (Pa. 10/4/2021), (with concurrence by Wecht, J.).

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