Possible Undue Influence in Trust Modification

On remand from the Supreme Court, the Superior Court has held that, even if the settlor and beneficiaries could modify an irrevocable trust to allow the beneficiaries to remove and replace trustees, the modification might still be void for undue influence by the beneficiaries over the settlor. For an inter vivos transaction, only a confidential relationship needs to be shown in order to create a presumption of undue influence, not weakened intellect or substantial benefit, and allegations that children of the settlor conducted an “escalating pattern of direct contact” and “exploited” their positions as “beloved children” were sufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment. Finally, it was error for the Orphans’ Court to sua sponte raise the issue of the standing of the executor of the settlor’s estate when the parties had waived the issue by not raising it. Trust under Deed of Walter R. Garrison, 2023 PA Super 151, ___ A.3d ___ (8/8/2023), affirming in part, vacating in part, and remanding 10 Fid.Rep.3d 189 (Montgomery O.C. 2020), after remand by ___ Pa. ___, 288 A.3d 866 (2023).

[DBE Comment: The conclusion that children might have a “confidential relationship” with a parent merely because they are loved by the parent would seem to open up new opportunities for intra-family litigation.]

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