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Murphy v. Trustee of Star Financial Bank

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 13, 2020

Jayne Murphy, Stephen Kelker, and Cristine Pisula, Appellants-Intervenors,
v.
Trustee of Star Financial Bank, Laura Lynne Bradford, Amy Myers, Abbie Fellrath, Courtney Ulrey, Eric Franke, Anne Marie Cochrane, Jason Franke, Lisa Kay Osburn Harkless, Heather Alwine Eracleous, Trent Talbott, Chris Anderson, Bradley Anderson, and Matthew Anderson, Appellees-Intervenors.

          Appeal from the Allen Superior Court The Honorable Jennifer L. DeGroote, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 02D03-1809-TR-18

          Attorney for Appellants David P. Murphy Greenfield, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellees Calvert S. Miller Kimberly Martin Carson LLP Fort Wayne, Indiana

          Riley, Judge.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         [¶1] Appellants-Intervenors, Jayne Murphy, Stephen Kelker, and Christine Pistula (collectively, Kelker Children), appeal the trial court's summary judgment, determining that there was no genuine issue of material fact precluding judgment in favor of Appellees-Intervenors, Laura Lynne Bradford, Amy Myers, Abbie Fellrath, Courtney Ulrey, Eric Franke, Anne Marie Cochrane, Jason Franke, Lisa Osburn, Alwine Harkless, Heather Alwine Eracieous, Trent Talbott, Chris Anderson, Bradley Anderson, and Matthew Anderson (collectively, Franke Grandchildren), regarding the interpretation of the Living Trust Agreement.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶3] The Kelker Children present one issue on appeal, which we restate as: Whether a genuine issue of material fact exists with respect to the language of the Distribution Provision in the Living Trust Agreement.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         [¶4] On November 7, 1990, Janice Dray (Janice) executed a Living Trust Agreement, creating the revocable Janice A. Dray Living Trust (Trust) and naming herself as Trustee. Pursuant to the terms of the Living Trust Agreement, the income derived from the Trust was to be distributed to Janice's sister-in-law, Jacqueline Pearl Dray (Jacqueline), in a life estate, provided Jacqueline survived Janice and Janice's husband, Virgil Dray (Virgil). Upon

          Jacqueline's death, the Trust property was to be converted to cash and distributed in equal shares to Janice's sister, Alma Franke (Alma), and brother, Ralph Kelker (Ralph). Specifically, the Distribution Provision of the Living Trust Agreement provided:

At the death of [Jacqueline], the remaining assets are to be converted to cash and distributed in equal shares, share and share alike, to [Ralph], brother of [Janice], and [Alma], sister of [Janice], and if either said [Ralph] or [Alma] is not then living, to their surviving children, per stirpes.

(Appellant's App. Vol. II, p. 148). The Living Trust Agreement does not include a residuary beneficiary provision other than the Distribution Provision. When the Living Trust Agreement was executed, Ralph had five children and Alma had six children, of which five were surviving, in addition to many grandchildren in both families.

         [¶5] In 1993, three years after the creation of the Trust, attorney Thomas Locke (Attorney Locke), discussed estate planning with Janice and drafted a power of attorney, living will declaration, and a last will and testament (collectively, Alternative Estate Documents). This last will and ...


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