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Bertha Whitehead As Trustee, Etc v. Carol Ladouceur

January 19, 2011

BERTHA WHITEHEAD AS TRUSTEE, ETC., PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
CAROL LADOUCEUR, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Super. Ct. No. PR38678)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hull , J.

Whitehead v. Ladouceur

CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

This case centers on the interpretation of a trust, specifically, whether plaintiff Bertha Whitehead was entitled to the income from trust assets during her lifetime or whether these assets passed immediately to the ultimate beneficiary, defendant Carol Ladouceur, upon the death of the settlor. The trial court found that the trust provisions were ambiguous and held a hearing to determine the settlor's intent. The court concluded that plaintiff was entitled to the trust income during her lifetime and entered judgment accordingly. Defendant appeals. We affirm the judgment.

FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

George Reagan (George) lived with plaintiff for approximately 18 years until his death in 2007 at the age of 90. Both plaintiff and George were widowed, but they did not marry because plaintiff would lose her deceased husband's pension. George owned a mobile home in Desert Hot Springs and plaintiff owned a mobile home in Riverside, and the couple spent time in each location.

George established a trust in October 1999, about 10 years after he and plaintiff began living together. George was named trustee and plaintiff was named as the successor trustee, with Heather Slupfel as the next successor trustee. This appeal centers on two paragraphs in article II, section C, outlining the disposition of trust assets after George's death.

Article II, paragraph C1 (paragraph C1) of the original trust provided, "The Trustee shall set aside all of the then remaining trust assets for the benefit of [plaintiff]. The Trustee shall pay to her all the income thereon, including interest, dividends and possession rights, for the duration of her lifetime."

Article II, paragraph C2 (paragraph C2) of the trust provided, "Upon the death of [plaintiff], or in the event that [plaintiff] has predeceased the Trustor, the Trustee shall distribute all of the then remaining trust assets to Heather Slupfel, free and clear of trust."

In August 2002, George amended his trust to remove Heather Slupfel as both successor trustee and trust beneficiary, and substituted Nelson Carter in her stead. All other provisions remained the same.

In February 2004, George executed a second amendment to his trust, removing Nelson Carter as successor trustee and beneficiary, and substituting defendant, his niece. Again, all other provisions remained the same, including paragraph C1 giving plaintiff a life interest in the estate assets.

A third amendment, appointing plaintiff and defendant as co-successor trustees, was drafted but it is unclear whether ...


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