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Courtney Evans, As Beneficiary of the Finlay Family Trust and v. Peter F. Moyer

August 15, 2012

COURTNEY EVANS, AS BENEFICIARY OF THE FINLAY FAMILY TRUST AND CONTINGENT BENEFICIARY OF THE JOAN HENRIETTE FINLAY TRUST, APPELLANT (PLAINTIFF),
v.
PETER F. MOYER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS THE TRUSTEE OF THE FINLAY FAMILY TRUST AND THE JOAN HENRIETTE FINLAY TRUST, APPELLEE (DEFENDANT).



Appeal from the District Court of Teton County The Honorable Dennis L. Sanderson, Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kite, Chief Justice.

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, VOIGT, and BURKE, JJ.

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of typographical or other formal errors so correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] As a beneficiary of a trust created by her grandfather, Courtney Evans brought an action against the trustee, Peter F. Moyer, for an accounting and distribution of income. The district court generally ruled in Mr. Moyer's favor, and Ms. Evans appealed arguing that the district court's interpretation of the trust was erroneous and Mr. Moyer's accounting was insufficient. We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] Ms. Evans presents a lengthy statement of the issues on appeal:

A. Whether the district court erred in holding that the Plaintiff is not entitled to regular, quarterly distributions of income from the Finlay Family Trust.

B. Whether the Plaintiff is entitled to distributions of income that have not been made from the Finlay Family Trust.

C. Whether the Plaintiff is a beneficiary of the Finlay Family Trust and entitled to regular accountings from the Trustee.

D. Whether the district court erred in determining that Mr. Moyer's final accounting was sufficient.

E. Whether the Trustee may make distributions of principal for the benefit of Courtney Evans during the lifetime of her father Bruce Evans so as to assure the support, maintenance, health and education of Courtney Evans.

F. Whether the district court erred in prohibiting the Plaintiff from conducting discovery.

G. Whether the district court erred in finding that the Sixth Amendment had application and that Pamela Evans properly received distributions from the Finlay Family Trust.

H. Whether the district court erred in failing to require the Trustee to segregate for accounting purposes the shares of Courtney and Dillon in the Finlay Family Trust.

I. Whether the district court erred in failing to grant Plaintiff's motion to remove Peter Moyer as Trustee of the Finlay Family Trust.

J. Whether the Court erred in failing to award the Plaintiff her attorney fees and costs.

Mr. Moyer's statement of the issues is similar, although he presents an additional issue:

1. Does this court lack jurisdiction to consider the appeal because Ms. Evans failed to file a notice of appeal from the district court's final order within the time allotted by Rule 2.02?

a. Did Ms. Evans' improper post-judgment motion fail to toll the time for filing a notice of appeal?

b. Did Ms. Evans fail to appeal from the final order disposing of issues in this case?

FACTS

[¶3] Ms. Evans and her brother Dylan are Robert Finlay's grandchildren. Prior to his death in 2003, Mr. Finlay executed a trust agreement and numerous amendments. Upon his death, Mr. Finlay's trust estate was divided into two trusts, the Joan Henriette Finlay Trust to benefit his wife and the Finlay Family Trust to benefit Ms. Evans and Dylan. The Finlay Family Trust included provisions for distribution of income and principal. It also included provisions designed to avoid the federal generation skipping transfer (GST) tax and to prevent distributions of principal to the beneficiaries while their father, Bruce Evans, was still living. Mr. Moyer, who is Mr. Finlay's nephew, was designated as trustee.

[¶4] Ms. Evans filed a petition against Mr. Moyer seeking an accounting of the Finlay Family Trust activities; distribution of income; a declaration of the meaning of the trust documents; and attorney fees. After the trustee answered her petition, Ms. Evans filed several motions, including motions to compel discovery and a motion for temporary orders requiring the trustee to pay her educational costs. The district court denied Ms. Evans' motion for temporary orders but ordered Mr. Moyer to provide an accounting. It also stayed the discovery issues, pending a hearing on the meaning of the trust documents.

[¶5] Mr. Moyer prepared an accounting, but at the hearing held December 29, 2010, the district court ordered Mr. Moyer to supplement his accounting. Mr. Moyer filed another accounting on January 18, 2011. The district court issued a decision letter on April 5, 2011, generally ruling that the Trustee was not required to make distributions of principal for Ms. Evans' education; the interest income had been properly distributed; Ms. Evans had received all income owed to her; Mr. Moyer properly allocated the principal and income of the trust; Mr. Moyer's previous accountings were inadequate; and ordering Mr. Moyer to provide a complete accounting. The district court directed the trustee's attorney to prepare the order. The Order on Petition for Accounting and Distribution of Income entered April 22, 2011, contained, in addition to the rulings in the decision letter, a denial of attorney fees to Ms. Evans.

[¶6] Ms. Evans filed a motion to alter or amend judgment, asserting that the district court had committed a number of errors of law. She contested the denial of attorney fees in her motion to alter or amend judgment and filed a separate motion for attorney fees. Mr. Moyer filed his supplemental accounting on May 16, 2011, and Ms. Evans again objected, posing seventeen questions about the trust account.

[¶7] The district court entered an order on June 28, 2011, denying Ms. Evans' motion to alter or amend judgment and her motion for attorney fees. It also ordered the parties to "provide a concise and cogent memorandum explaining whether [Ms. Evans] has a right to demand an accounting to be filed. In the alternative, [Mr. Moyer] can provide a written response to the seventeen questions raised in [Ms. Evans'] objection . . . ." The parties filed memoranda addressing the legal issue of whether Ms. Evans was entitled to an accounting under the Uniform Trust Code and/or the trust document. In addition, Mr. Moyer filed a response to the seventeen questions posed in Ms. Evans' objection to his accounting.

[¶8] On July 18, 2011, Ms. Evans filed a notice of appeal, appealing from the district court's April 22, 2011 order and its June 28, 2011 order. On October 7, 2011, the district court entered an order ruling the Uniform Trust Code in general and the specific accounting requirements contained in the code did not apply to the trust because it predated the adoption of the code. The district court also stated that Ms. Evans was "not entitled to anything else by way of her Petition at this time."

DISCUSSION

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