In re Henry B. Wilson, Jr., Revocable Trust Dated June 27, 2002.
Roger A. Wilson and Roseannnn M. Wilson, Cotrustees of the Henry B. Wilson, Jr., Revocable Trust Dated June 27, 2002, appellees. Lou Annnn Godinging, appellant,
Trusts: Equity: Appeal and Error. Absent an
equity question, an appellate court reviews trust
administration matters for error appearing on the record; but
where an equity question is presented, appellate review of
that issue is de novo on the record.
Judgments: Appeal and Error. When reviewing
a judgment for errors appearing on the record, the inquiry is
whether the decision conforms to the law, is supported by
competent evidence, and is neither arbitrary, capricious, nor
Decedents' Estates: Trusts: Equity: Appeal and
Error. The removal of a trustee is a question of
equity, and therefore an appellate court reviews de novo the
question of whether a trustee was properly removed.
Pleadings. The issues in a given case will
generally be limited to those which are pled. 5.
Appeal and Error. An appellate court is not
obligated to engage in an analysis that is not necessary to
adjudicate the case and controversy before it.
Courts: Judgments: Appeal and Error. Upon
further review from a judgment of the Nebraska Court of
Appeals, the Nebraska Supreme Court will not reverse a
judgment which it deems to be correct simply because its
reasoning differs from that employed by the Court of Appeals.
Petition for further review from the Court of Appeals, Moore.
Chief Judge, and Riedmann and Bishop, Judges, on appeal [300
Neb. 456] thereto from the County Court for Sherman County,
Tami K. Schendt, Judge. Judgment of Court of Appeals
Seckman Jilek, Robert M. Schartz, and Thomas J. Malicki, of
Abrahams, Kaslow & Cassman, L.L.P., and, on brief,
Jeffrey J. Blumel, for appellant.
W. Beucke, of Parker, Grossart, Bahensky, Beucke, Bowman
& Symington, L.L.P., and Sheila A. Bentzen and Anthony M.
Aerts, of Rembolt Ludtke, L.L.P, for appellees.
Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, and
Papik, JJ., and Vaughan, District Judge.
matter concerns the administration of the "Henry B.
Wilson, Jr., Revocable Trust Dated June 27, 2002"
(Henry's Trust or Trust), and the related issue of the
administration of three subtrusts created by Henry's
Trust upon his death. Henry B. Wilson, Jr.'s daughter,
Lou Ann Goding (Lou Ann), filed suit, asserting the
mismanagement of Henry's Trust, and following a trial,
the county court for Sherman County removed the cotrustees of
Henry's Trust. Lou Ann appealed, asserting several
errors, including that the county court failed to remove the
cotrustees of her subtrust.
memorandum opinion, the Nebraska Court of Appeals interpreted
the county court's order to have removed the cotrustees
of Lou Ann's subtrust and concluded that there was no
error in need of correction. Upon further review, we determine
the Court of Appeals erred in interpreting the county
court's order to have removed the cotrustees of the
subtrusts. However, our ultimate conclusion on the judgment
is the same. Therefore, although our reasoning differs from
that of the Court of Appeals, we affirm.
Neb. 457] BACKGROUND
died on December 23, 2010. He was preceded in death by his
wife, Eleanor Wilson, and was survived by three adult
children, Lou Ann, Roseann Wilson, and Roger Wilson. During
their lifetimes, Henry and Eleanor created an estate plan
which included revocable trusts and pour-over wills. After
Henry's death, Roseann and Roger were named successor
cotrustees of Henry's Trust and copersonal
representatives of Henry's estate.
documents for Henry's Trust and Eleanor's trust
provided that upon the death of the last surviving spouse,
real property interests within each trust were to be
distributed to three separate and unequal subtrusts in the
name of each of their children: the "Lou Ann Goding
Trust," the "Roger A. Wilson Trust," and the
"Roseann M. Wilson Trust." Henry's Trust and
Eleanor's trust also distributed the residue of their
respective trusts in equal shares to their three children.
The three separate and unequal subtrusts had identical
language regarding trust management. In relevant part, the
instructions for the Lou Ann Goding Trust directed the
trustee of the sub-trust, "Until the death of my said
daughter, LOUANN [sic] GODING, the trustee shall pay the net
income from the trust in convenient installments (at least
annually) to my said daughter so long as my said daughter
time of Henry's death, Henry's Trust owned
approximately 4, 200 acres of land. In accordance with the
Trust's language, in December 2011, the successor
trustees transferred real estate previously owned by
Henry's Trust and Eleanor's trust to the three
subtrusts. However, no other steps were taken to administer
the three subtrusts, such as opening separate bank accounts,
obtaining federal tax identification numbers, or filing tax
returns. The cotrustees continued to operate Henry's
Trust for convenience as opposed to separately operating the
estate proceeding was opened in county court to address
assets that were not identified in Henry's Trust, did not
have [300 Neb. 458] a beneficiary, or were not payable on
death to the Trust. An estate inventory was filed on December
28, 2011, and an inheritance tax worksheet and receipt were
all signed "right at the end of December."
According to the attorney who prepared Henry's estate
plan and drafted Henry's will and Henry's Trust, the
estate was ready to close at that point, but it had not been
closed because of the pending litigation.
separate cases, Lou Ann filed petitions for the removal of
Roseann and Roger as copersonal representatives of
Henry's estate and cotrustees of Henry's Trust, and
the matters were consolidated for trial.
trust case, the county court concluded that Roseann and Roger
had breached their fiduciary duties as cotrustees of
Henry's Trust, under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-3875
(Reissue 2016), by failing to keep accurate records,
commingling assets, and not keeping the cotrustees'
property separate from Henry's Trust property. The court
also found the cotrustees breached their fiduciary duties
under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-3878 (Reissue 2016) by
failing to keep beneficiaries of the Trust reasonably
informed about the administration of the Trust and of the
material facts necessary for them to protect their interests.
Finally, the county court determined the cotrustees breached
their fiduciary duties by ...