EGW, a minor, and AW, a minor, by their Court Appointed Guardian Ad Litem, Stephanie J. Withrow, Appellants (Plaintiffs),
FIRST FEDERAL SAVINGS BANK OF SHERIDAN, WYOMING, in its capacity as purported Successor Trustee of the Allen F. Willey Trust Dated September 12, 2001, as competently amended, and IRMA BERTHA WILLEY, SUSAN WILLIAMS, MARTIN MARTINEZ, LESLIE LUBE, and BRITTANY PHILLIPS, Appellees (Defendants).
from the District Court of Sheridan County The Honorable John
G. Fenn, Judge
Representing Appellants: Steve C.M. Aron, Aron and Hennig,
LLP, Laramie, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee First Federal Savings Bank of Sheridan:
Mistee L. Elliott, Lonabaugh & Riggs, LLP, Sheridan,
Representing Appellees Irma Bertha Willey, Susan Williams,
Martin Martinez, Leslie Lube, and Brittany Phillips: Debra J.
Wendtland, Wendtland & Wendtland, LLP, Sheridan Wyoming.
BURKE, C.J., and HILL [*] , DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
Appellants, E.W. and A.W., the grandchildren of Allen F.
Willey, filed suit in the district court seeking to prevent
the sale of land held in Mr. Willey's revocable trust.
They challenge the district court's grant of summary
judgment in favor of Appellees, First Federal Savings Bank of
Sheridan, the successor trustee, and the beneficiaries of the
trust. The district court determined that Appellants are no
longer beneficiaries of the trust as a result of their
father's 2014 lawsuit against Mr. Willey and his wife. We
Appellants present the following issues:
1. By the doctrine of res judicata, is an attempt by
Appellants' father to file a legal challenge to their
grandfather's Trust void where Appellants' father
lacked legal standing to file the action?
2. Whether the 2014 in terrorem clause in the Trust,
forfeiting the property rights of minor children by the act
of a third party, violates the statutory and constitutionally
established public policies of the State of Wyoming.
3. Whether, as a matter of law, Appellants' father's
2014 lawsuit challenged only the 2010 Trust Amendment, at a
time when the in terrorem clause did not disqualify
4. Did the district court err in disqualifying
Appellants' father from serving as Appellants'
representative in this action?
The underlying facts of this case are set forth at length in
Willey v. Willey, 2016 WY 116, 385 P.3d 290 (Wyo.
2016), and will be briefly summarized here. In 2001, Allen
Willey created the Allen F. Willey Trust Agreement and
Declaration of Trust, a revocable trust that provided for the
management of his assets during his lifetime, and for
distribution of the assets upon his death. The Willey Ranch,
located in Sheridan County, was included as a trust asset.
Mr. Willey served as the trustee of the trust during his
lifetime. Mr. Willey's trust initially named his son,
Spencer, as successor trustee and the trust ultimately
benefitted Spencer's minor children, E.W. and A.W.
Mr. Willey amended the trust in 2006 and 2009, adding his
wife's daughter and granddaughter as beneficiaries under
the trust. In 2010, he executed the Allen F. Willey Amended
and Restated Declaration of Trust, which made additional
changes to the original trust. Most significantly, the
amendment removed Spencer as beneficiary and successor
trustee. Appellants, however, remained as beneficiaries.
In March 2014, Mr. Willey amended the trust again. The
amendment changed the successor trustee to First Interstate
Bank of Sheridan and provided that under no circumstances
should Spencer or any lineal descendant of Mr. Willey be
named trustee. The amendment also added the following in
terrorem, or "no-contest" clause, which is the
subject of this appeal:
It is my intention that the provisions of my Trust be honored
and respected without challenge from my son SPENCER WILLEY,
from my grandchildren, from my sisters or their children, or
from anyone purportedly acting on behalf of any of the
foregoing. Any challenge to this Trust made directly by or on
behalf of my son or grandchildren shall immediately terminate
any interest in the Trust of any descendant of mine[.]
In 2013, Mr. Willey entered into a listing agreement with a
real estate broker for the purpose of selling the Willey
Ranch. In May 2014, Spencer filed a Complaint for Injunction
and Declaratory Judgment against Mr. Willey, individually and
as trustee of the Allen F. Willey trust, and Mr. Willey's
wife, Bertha. Spencer sought to set aside the listing of the
ranch and requested that Mr. Willey be removed as trustee due
to incapacity. Spencer also alleged that Bertha Willey had
exercised undue influence over Mr. Willey's weakened
condition to convince him to sell the ranch instead of
leaving it in the trust for the benefit of E.W. and A.W. He
sought a declaration that would void any part of the trust
permitting sale of the ranch.
In May 2015, Spencer amended the Complaint, adding a claim
that Bertha Willey had exercised undue influence over Mr.
Willey by convincing him to remove Spencer from the trust,
reduce the benefits to E.W. and A.W., and grant additional
benefits to Mrs. Willey. He further alleged that he had an
oral agreement with his father that he would inherit the
Willey Ranch, and that the sale of the Ranch constituted a
breach of that agreement. The defendants moved for summary
judgment on the breach of contract claim, and the district
court granted the motion.
Approximately one month after the Amended Complaint was
filed, Mr. Willey died. The case subsequently went to trial
and the jury found that the trust amendments were not the
product of undue influence. Spencer appealed, challenging the
award of summary judgment and several aspects of the trial,
and we affirmed. Willey, ¶ 51, 385 P.3d at 304.
In early 2016, while the appeal in Willey v. Willey
was pending, Appellants filed the present action through
Spencer, who acted as "next friend" for his
children.Appellants sought an injunction preventing
sale of the Willey Ranch, a declaratory judgment that the
in terrorem clause would not apply to them, removal
of First Federal as trustee, and damages for First
Federal's alleged breach of fiduciary duties. Appellees
answered and subsequently moved for summary judgment on the
grounds that, due to Spencer's 2014 suit, Appellants were
no longer beneficiaries of the trust by operation of the
in terrorem clause. Appellants responded by claiming
that, in Willey, the district court had determined
that Spencer did not have standing to challenge his removal
from the trust. They asserted that, because Spencer lacked
standing, the 2014 suit did not trigger the in
terrorem clause. They also claimed that the in
terrorem clause was void because it violated public
Following a hearing, the district court granted summary
judgment to Appellees. The court concluded that
Appellants' claims relating to Spencer's standing in
the 2014 suit lacked cogent supporting argument or authority.
The court also determined, however, that Spencer had standing
to challenge the trust in the 2014 action and that the
challenge terminated E.W.'s and A.W.'s interest in
the trust. The court further concluded that the in
terrorem provision of the trust did not violate public
policy. This appeal followed.
We apply the following standard of review to a district
court's summary judgment decision:
Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine
issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. W.R.C.P. 56(c); Metz
Beverage Co. v. Wyoming Beverages, Inc., 2002 WY 21,
¶ 9, 39 P.3d 1051, 1055 (Wyo. 2002). "A genuine
issue of material fact exists when a disputed fact, if it
were proven, would establish or refute an essential element
of a cause of action or a defense that the parties have
asserted." Id. Because summary judgment
involves a purely legal determination, we undertake de
novo review of a trial court's summary judgment
decision. Glenn v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., 2008 WY
16, ¶ 6, 176 P.3d 640, 642 (Wyo. 2008).
Fugle v. Sublette Cty. Sch. Dist. No. 9, 2015 WY 98,
¶ 5, 353 P.3d 732, 734 (Wyo. 2015) (quoting Singer
v. Lajaunie, 2014 WY 159, ¶ 19, 339 P.3d 277, 283
(Wyo. 2014)). We consider the record from a viewpoint most
favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, giving to
him all favorable inferences that can be drawn reasonably
from the facts set forth in the affidavits, depositions, ...