October 30, 2014

Colorado Court of Appeals: Consent of All Beneficiaries Necessary to Ratify Action Contravened by Terms of Trust

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re Estate of Foiles: Foiles v. Foiles on Thursday, August 14, 2014.

Trust—Beneficiaries—Breach of Fiduciary Duty.

The trustees of the Clyde Foiles Trust were Ruth Foiles, Larry Foiles, and the Farmers State Bank of Fort Morgan (Bank). Larry Foiles, along with Larry’s two children and his nephew Gregory Foiles, were beneficiaries of the trust. The trust prohibited Larry Foiles from exercising powers as trustee that were directly or indirectly for his own benefit, and required that any such actions be taken solely by the Bank. Gregory Foiles contested two transactions undertaken at least in part by Larry Foiles, alleging that the transactions were a breach of his fiduciary duty. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Larry Foiles.

On appeal, Gregory Foiles contended that the trial court improperly ruled on his breach of fiduciary duty claim. In the absence of a trust provision that would allow ratification by a co-trustee of otherwise invalid actions of a trustee, only the consent of all beneficiaries, with full capacity to give such consent and full knowledge of the relevant facts, could ratify an action of a trustee that is in violation of the express terms of a trust. Here, because Larry Foiles’s undertaking of the 2001 Section 1031 exchange of real property violated the terms of the trust, the Bank, as co-trustee, could not validly ratify that action. Under the terms of the trust, only the Bank would have been authorized to undertake such a transaction. Therefore, Gregory Foiles established a prima facie claim that Larry breached his fiduciary duty, and the trial court erred in ruling that ratification by the Bank precluded Gregory Foiles’s breach of fiduciary duty claim. The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded to the trial court to make additional findings as to whether Larry Foiles met his burden to go forward with some evidence that the questionable transaction was fair and reasonable, and, ultimately, whether he was liable for breach of fiduciary duty in connection with that transaction.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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