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Kevin S. Bennett Trust v. Bennett

June 19, 2008

THE KEVIN S. BENNETT TRUST U/A DATED AUGUST 2, 1989, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS / COUNTERCLAIM DEFENDANTS,
v.
ROBERT S. BENNETT, AS TRUSTEE FOR THE BETTY KOPLAR BENNETT TRUST AGREEMENT DATED MAY 13, 1992, DEFENDANT / COUNTERCLAIM PLAINTIFF.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The Parties in this case each claim to own and/or control the same 5% share in a limited partnership known as the New Jersey and H Limited Partnership. Plaintiffs allege that they received the 5% share through a distribution under a 1989 trust agreement. Defendant alleges that the 5% share was assigned from the 1989 trust to a different trust established in 1992, and that he has the right to control the 5% share based on his status as sole trustee of the 1992 trust. Currently before the Court is Plaintiffs' [5] Motion to Dismiss Defendant's counterclaim concerning that purported assignment. After thoroughly reviewing the Parties' submissions, including the attachments thereto, applicable case law and statutory authority, the Court shall grant Plaintiffs' [5] Motion to Dismiss Defendant's counterclaim, for the reasons set forth below.

I. BACKGROUND

Because the facts of this case are significantly more complex than the legal issues they present, the Court shall divide this section into four parts: Part A describes the relevant provisions of the 1989 trust agreement; Part B describes the purported assignment of the 5% share; Part C describes the Parties' present dispute; and Part D describes the procedural history of this case.

A. The 1989 Trust Agreement

On August 2, 1989, Richard A. Bennet, Jr. (the "Settlor") established a trust pursuant to the Betty Koplar Bennett Trust Agreement dated August 2, 1989 (the "1989 Trust" and the "1989 Trust Agreement"). See Pls.' Mot., Ex. 1 at 1 (1989 Trust Agreement). The initial trustees of the 1989 Trust were the Settlor and the Settlor's mother, Betty Koplar Bennett. Id. The trust agreement instructed the trustees to hold and administer the trust's assets for the benefit of its life beneficiary, Betty Koplar Bennett, subject to the terms of the trust agreement. Id. at 2 (Art. II.A). Specifically, Betty Koplar Bennett was authorized to request and to distribute (together with her co-trustee) the trust principal to herself:

[T]he Trustees shall distribute from time to time so much of the principal of the trust, but in no event in excess of One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000) per year (which shall be non-cumulative), as the Settlor's mother may request or as the Trustees may deem advisable for the support, maintenance, or health of the Settlor's mother.

Id.

The 1989 Trust nevertheless contained a "spendthrift clause" that prevented Betty Koplar Bennett, as the trust's beneficiary, from assigning any of the trust's pre-distribution assets to a third-party creditor or anyone else:

No beneficiary of any trust hereunder shall have any right (other than a right to disclaim) to assign, transfer, hypothecate, or otherwise encumber his or her interest in any trust benefits or payments, and no trust assets, benefits or payments in the possession or control of the Trustees shall be subject to any levy or attachment to pay claims (including without limitation claims for alimony or support of any spouse or former spouse) against any beneficiary.

Id. at 3 (Art. II.C). In 1990, the Settlor added a 5% share in a limited partnership known as the New Jersey and H Limited Partnership to the 1989 Trust.*fn1 Compl. ¶ 11.

Upon Betty Koplar Bennett's death, the 1989 Trust Agreement provided that the trust would terminate and all remaining trust principal would be divided among the then-living descendants of the Settlor, per stirpes. Pls.' Mot., Ex. 1 at 3 (1989 Trust Agreement, Art. II.B, II.C). Each share was to be distributed outright, or if a descendant was under the age of 38, a portion of the share would be distributed into a trust created by the Settlor for each descendent. Id. (Art. II.C). Plaintiffs in the present action are the three trusts created by the Settlor for his three descendants (The Kevin S. Bennett Trust U/A the Trust Agreement Dated August 2, 1989; The Bryan G. Bennett Trust U/A the Trust Agreement Dated August 2, 1989; and The Richard A. Bennett, III Trust U/A the Trust Agreement Dated August 2, 1989), along with two of the descendants individually (Kevin S. Bennett and Bryan G. Bennett). Plaintiffs indicate that the youngest of the three descendants, Richard A. Bennett, III, is not an individual Plaintiff because he is not yet entitled to a partial personal distribution from the trust established by the Settlor. See Pls.' Mot. at 8 n. 5.

B. The 1992 Assignment

On July 30, 1992, Betty Koplar Bennett executed an assignment of her interest in the New Jersey and H Limited Partnership to a trust established under the Betty Koplar Bennett Trust Agreement dated May 13, 1992 (the "1992 ...


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