908 A.2d 1200 (D.C. 2006), 05-CV-652, Ackerman v. Genevieve Ackerman Family Trust

Docket Nº:05-CV-652.
Citation:908 A.2d 1200
Party Name:Stephen J. ACKERMAN, Jr., Appellant, v. GENEVIEVE ACKERMAN FAMILY TRUST, et al., Appellees.
Case Date:October 12, 2006
Court:Court of Appeals of Columbia District
 
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Page 1200

908 A.2d 1200 (D.C. 2006)

Stephen J. ACKERMAN, Jr., Appellant,

v.

GENEVIEVE ACKERMAN FAMILY TRUST, et al., Appellees.

No. 05-CV-652.

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

Oct. 12, 2006

Argued September 6, 2006

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CA-6642-03), Hon. Frederick H. Weisberg, Trial Judge

John T. Szymkowicz, with whom J.P. Szymkowicz, Washington, DC, was on the brief, for appellant.

Page 1201

George B. Huckabay, Bethesda, MD, for appellees.

Before REID and FISHER, Associate Judges, and SCHWELB, Senior Judge.

Fisher, Associate Judge

Appellant Stephen J. Ackerman, Jr., lost his lawsuit to reform a trust created by his mother. Enforcing a "no contest" provision of the trust, the trial court then declared that appellant had lost any and all interests he may have had under the trust and his mother's will. Appellant challenges the latter ruling, but we affirm.

I.

In May 2002 Genevieve Ackerman created a revocable trust (the Genevieve Ackerman Family Trust). Her husband, now deceased, created a similar trust, and the Ackermans placed most of their assets in those trusts. The couple's primary purpose was to pay for their health, comfort, and support in their remaining years. A secondary purpose was to provide support for their son, Stephen J. Ackerman, Jr., the appellant. Appellant and his sister, Mary Frances Abbott, were to share the assets remaining after the death of their parents.

Most of the trust provisions are unimportant to this appeal. We mention, however, that Frank Abbott, the Ackermans' son-in-law, was named trustee. Mary Frances Abbott was nominated to be the successor trustee if her husband was unable to serve. Most importantly for this litigation, Article XII of the Trust contained the following provision:

In the event that a beneficiary of any of the trust assets contests the validity of any provision of the Settlor's Will, any trusts which the Settlor or the Settlor's spouse have created, or any transfers to this trust or the trust for the Settlor's spouse, such beneficiary shall lose all of his or her right to any and all interests he or she may have from the Settlor's Will and any trusts which the Settlor or the Settlor's spouse have created. The person who has "contested" shall be deemed to have predeceased me.

Among the assets transferred to the trust were one-half tenant in common interests in three dwellings: (1) the home in the District of Columbia where the Ackermans lived; (2) a home in the District where appellant lived; and (3) a condominium at Sea Colony in Bethany Beach, Delaware. Those properties and other assets were described in Exhibit A, which was attached to the trust agreement "and made a part hereof." This controversy centers on the Delaware condominium, which appellant had hoped to inherit outright.[1]

In August 2003 Stephen J. Ackerman, Jr., filed a complaint which sought an accounting of the trust assets, income, liabilities, and distributions; removal and replacement of the trustee and successor trustee; and reformation of the trust. Appellant maintained that the condominium at Bethany Beach had been placed in the trust in defiance of his mother's wishes. Named as defendants were the current appellees the trust, Frank M. Abbott (the trustee), and Mary Frances Abbott. In addition to answering the complaint, appellees asserted a counterclaim for a declaratory...

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