Probate and Trust Law

Bhavik R. Patel, Esquire
Mara Lahnar, Esquire
Erin Kolb, Esquire

While the trustee of a trust may authorize an agent to act on its behalf, such trustee and the trust will be liable for any contracts entered into by the agent where the agent enters into a contract on behalf of the trust without disclosing his agency or without disclosing the identity of the principal provided that the trustee of the trust authorized the agent. Lorimont Place, Inc. v. Jerry Lipps, Inc., et al., No. 98455 (Mo. App. E.D., June 25, 2013), Clayton, III, J.

Plaintiff filed a breach of contract suit against defendant trustees to recover commissions plaintiff believed it was owed under a listing contract entered into by a Doug Lipps as agent for defendant trustees regarding property held in the subject trust. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of defendants, holding that plaintiff was unable to make a submissible case.

Held: Reversed.
The court of appeals disagreed with the trial court and found that even though Doug Lipps did not identify defendant trustees by name, both himself and defendant trustees are liable under a contract entered into on behalf of the trust by Doug provided that Doug was acting as an authorized agent on behalf of the trust. Based on the evidence, the court found facts demonstrating that Ruth Lipps, as trustee, authorized Doug to enter into the listing agreement with Plaintiff, but that Jerry Lipps, Inc. did not. Therefore, the court found that Ruth Lipps could be held liable under the terms of the listing agreement.

Undue influence was found where there was significant testimony regarding the extensive influence of decedent’s two children over their mother for the purpose of excluding decedent’s third child from decedent’s estate. Kirchoff v. Hutchinson, et al., No. 98439 (Mo. App. E.D., June 25, 2013), Clayton, III, J.

Hutchinson and Nolan appealed the judgment of the trial court in favor of Kirchoff, finding that Hutchinson and Nolan exercised undue influence over decedent.

Affirm in part and reverse and remand in part. The court of appeals found sufficient evidence to affirm the trial court’s finding that Hutchinson and Nolan exercised undue influence where there was testimony that they used lies, accusations and manipulations to exclude Kirchoff from decedent’s estate, where decedent no longer handled her own affairs, and where Hutchinson’s former husband testified that Hutchinson would berate her mother. Although the attorney who prepared decedent’s estate plan testified that disinheriting Kirchoff was decedent’s wishes, he also admitted that it was possible decedent was being influenced without his knowledge. The court found that the mere presence of contradictory evidence does not result in a reversal of the trial court’s decision. The court reversed and remanded the decision as to the trial court’s calculation of interest and damages for loss of use.