389 N.E.2d 540 (Ill. 1979), 50870, People v. Chicago Title and Trust Co.

Docket Nº:50870.
Citation:389 N.E.2d 540, 75 Ill.2d 479, 27 Ill.Dec. 476
Party Name:The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant-Appellee, v. CHICAGO TITLE AND TRUST COMPANY et al., Appellees-Appellants.
Case Date:April 03, 1979
Court:Supreme Court of Illinois
 
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Page 540

389 N.E.2d 540 (Ill. 1979)

75 Ill.2d 479, 27 Ill.Dec. 476

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant-Appellee,

v.

CHICAGO TITLE AND TRUST COMPANY et al., Appellees-Appellants.

No. 50870.

Supreme Court of Illinois.

April 3, 1979.

Rehearing Denied May 30, 1979.

Page 541

[75 Ill.2d 483] [27 Ill.Dec. 477] Bernard Carey, State's Atty., Chicago (Paul P. Biebel, Jr., Henry A. Hauser, Nancy Krajec, and Michael F. Baccash, Asst. State's Attys., of counsel), for plaintiff-appellant.

Stanley J. Adelman of Sonnenschein, Carlin, Nath & Rosenthal, Chicago, for defendant-appellant LaSalle Nat. Bank.

Bowles & Ward, Chicago (Clyde O. Bowles, Jr., Chicago, of counsel), for defendant-appellee LaSalle Nat. Bank, as Trustee.

Chapman and Cutler, Chicago (Keehn Landis and Richard G. Smolev, Chicago, of counsel), for appellants-appellees Harris Trust and Savings Bank.

Jenner and Block, Chicago (Richard T. Franch and William C. Staszak, Chicago, of counsel), for appellants-appellees Cosmopolitan Nat. Bank of Chicago.

Concannon, Dillon, Snook & Morton, Chicago (William R. Dillon and John B. Dillon, Chicago, of counsel), for appellants[75 Ill.2d 484] -appellees Chicago Title and Trust Co.

Friedman & Koven and Feiwell, Galper & Lasky, Ltd., Chicago (James K. Gardner and Daniel C. Meenan, Jr., Chicago, of counsel), for appellants-appellees American Nat. Bank & Trust Co. of Chicago.

Peter V. Baugher of Schiff, Hardin & Waite, Morris G. Dyner of Fischel & Kahan, Alan S. Rutkoff of Altheimer & Gray, and Richard T. Wimmer of Collins & Amos, Chicago, for defendants-appellees Certain Land Trust Beneficiaries.

Page 542

[27 Ill.Dec. 478] Bernard Allen Fried, Jack Du Bow, and Jerome Feldman, Chicago, for defendants-appellees Certain Beneficiaries.

William H. Avery and George A. Platz, III of Sidley & Austin, Chicago, for amicus curiae Corporate Fiduciaries Association of Illinois, Illinois Bankers Ass'n, and Ass'n for Modern Banking in Illinois.

RYAN, Justice:

This case is a consolidation of six separate actions brought in the name of the People of the State of Illinois to recover unpaid real estate taxes on land held in land trusts. The State seeks to impose personal liability for the [75 Ill.2d 485] real estate taxes on three entities: the banks or trust companies in their individual corporate capacities; the banks or trust companies in their capacities as land trustees of land trust property, and the beneficiaries of the land trust, all as "owners" of the tracts of land trust property. The trial court found the trustees in their individual corporate capacities liable and dismissed the cases as to the banks and trust companies as trustees and as to the beneficiaries. Appeals were perfected by the various losing parties. This court granted motions for direct appeal to this court under Rule 302(b) (58 Ill.2d R. 302(b)).

The Revenue Act of 1939, section 27a (Ill.Rev.Stat.1977, ch. 120, par. 508a), imposes liability on the "owner" of real estate for unpaid taxes on that land. It provides:

"The owner of real property on January 1 * * * in any year shall be liable for the taxes of that year."

Section 275 of the Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1977, ch. 120, par. 756) authorizes suit by the county board in the name of the People of the State of Illinois to recover the unpaid taxes on forfeited property. The question posed in these cases is who is the owner of real estate held in a land trust against whom suit may be brought.

The factual bases of these six appeals are nearly identical. A land trust was created by execution of a deed in trust transferring all legal and equitable title to a trustee. The deed specifically provides that one dealing with the trustee need not inquire about the trust agreement and stipulates that the interest of the beneficiary is personal property. The deed was recorded. A second document, the trust agreement, was simultaneously executed, though not recorded. That agreement recites that all legal and equitable title remains with the trustee with an assignable personal property interest in the beneficiary. The beneficiary retains absolute control of the management and receives all the proceeds of the property. Under the [75 Ill.2d 486] agreement, all money advanced by the trustee must be paid by the beneficiary, and the trustee is not required to pay any taxes or assessments. The beneficiary may order the land sold at any time, and the trustee may not act except on written authorization of the beneficiary.

In each of these cases a complaint was filed against the trustee in its individual capacity, and was subsequently amended to add as defendants the trustee as trustee and the beneficiaries of the land trust. Prior to this action, the parcels had been listed on the county collector's application for judgment and sale for delinquent taxes, the Cook County circuit court had ordered the real estate sold, and it was offered for sale. The real estate was not purchased and was forfeited to the State. (Ill.Rev.Stat.1977, ch. 120, par. 727.) By this complaint the State seeks to impose personal liability under sections 27a and 275 of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Ill.Rev.Stat.1977, ch. 120, pars. 508a, 756) for the unpaid real estate taxes on the "owners" of the land held in the land trusts. The complaint alleges...

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