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Undue Influence in Trust Amendment Results in Attorneys Fees

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that
the nearly disinherited step-grandchildren of an elderly decedent are
entitled to attorneys fees in their action to set aside a trust
amendment that was obtained through undue influence. Corr v. Smith (Okla., No. 102687, Feb. 12, 2008).

Rachel Corr established a trust that divided her estate between
her husband and her sister. Mrs. Corr’s husband, her stepson, and her
sister all predeceased her. After her husband died, Mrs. Corr was
largely bedridden and her great-niece, Linda Smith, and her husband
moved in to her home. During this time, Mrs. Corr executed an amendment
to the trust that disinherited the Corr family and substituted her
nieces and nephews as the primary beneficiaries.

Mrs. Corr’s step-grandchildren sued to have the trust
amendment set aside as being a product of undue influence. The trial
court agreed and declared the trust amendment to be void. The
grandchildren asked for attorney fees under a state law, which provided
this remedy for cases "involving a trust." The court granted the fees,
and the Smiths appealed arguing the attorney fee provision applies only
to actions for breach of trust. The appeals court reversed the award of
fees and expenses. The Corrs appealed.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court reverses, finding that the statute
unambiguously allows for attorneys fees in cases, such as this, that
involve a trust. According to the court, "Mrs. Corr’s trust was the
target of the Smith’s actions and they were in "breach of trust" from
the moment they succeeded in having [Mrs. Corr] execute the amendment."

For the full text of this decision, go to:

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