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Goza v. SunTrust Bank

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

July 22, 2015

EDE GOZA, ET AL.
v.
SUNTRUST BANK

Session Date: January 23, 2015

Appeal from the Chancery Court for Shelby County No. CH-13-1314, CH-13-1316 Kenny W. Armstrong, Chancellor

Larry E. Parrish, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, Ede Goza and Shirley Sue Noble Shaw.

Kenneth P. Jones and M. Matthew Thornton, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Suntrust Bank, N.A.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General & Reporter; Joseph F. Whalen, Acting Solicitor General; and Janet M. Kleinfelter, Deputy Attorney General; Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Attorney General.

W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Andy D. Bennett and Richard H. Dinkins, JJ. joined.

OPINION

W. NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE

I. Factual and Procedural Background

This is our seventh decision relating to the assets of the late Helen B. Goza. See Morrow v. SunTrust Bank, No. W2010-01547-COA-R3-CV, 2011 WL 334507 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 31, 2011) [hereinafter "Goza I"] (an appeal from the Chancery Court for Shelby County); In re Estate of Goza, 397 S.W.3d 564 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2012) [hereinafter "Goza II"] (an appeal from the Probate Court for Shelby County), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. Sept. 20, 2012); Estate of Goza v. Wells, No. W2012-01745-COA-R3-CV, 2013 WL 4766544 (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 4, 2013) [hereinafter "Goza III"] (an appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. June 13, 2014); In re Estate of Goza, No. W2013-00678-COA-R3-CV, 2014 WL 7235166 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 19, 2014) [hereinafter "Goza IV"] (an appeal following the remand of Goza II); In re Estate of Goza, No. W2013-02240-COA-R3-CV, 2014 WL 7246509 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 19, 2014) [hereinafter "Goza V"] (a second appeal following the remand of Goza II), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. May 19, 2015); In re Estate of Goza, No. W2013-02759-COA-R3-CV, 2014 WL 7246147 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 19, 2014) [hereinafter "Goza VI"] (a third appeal following the remand of Goza II), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. May 18, 2015). We provide only a brief recitation of the underlying facts. A more complete review of the facts can be found in Goza I.

During her life, Helen B. Goza created a living trust to provide for herself and her son, John J. Goza. Goza I, 2011 WL 334507, at *1. In March 1999 and again in April 1999, Ms. Goza executed two separate amended and restated revocable trust agreements, which amended the original living trust agreement. Id. at *1-2. The March 1999 agreement provided for certain changes to the disposition of the trust corpus upon the death of Ms. Goza. Id. at *1. If her son survived her, the agreement placed a portion of the trust estate into a separate trust for her son's benefit with the balance of the trust estate being placed in a perpetual trust for organizations serving the mentally disabled. Id. at *1. However, the March 1999 agreement did not provide for a full distribution of assets held in the trust for Mr. Goza upon his death. Id. The April 1999 agreement corrected this oversight. Upon Mr. Goza's death, after a $5, 000 donation to the American Diabetes Association, that the remainder of the trust for the benefit of Mr. Goza be deposited into the perpetual trust for organizations serving the mentally disabled. Id. at *2.

Ms. Goza died in May 2001, survived by her son. Id. Mr. Goza passed away in September 2007. Id.

A. Goza I

In Goza I, David L. Morrow and Judy M. Wright[1] filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in Shelby County Chancery Court against SunTrust Bank ("SunTrust"), the trustee of the perpetual trust. Id. Mr. Morrow and Ms. Wright claimed that, because the March 1999 agreement failed to provide for the complete disposition of assets following Mr. Goza's death, the residue from the separate trust should pass to them as Ms. Goza's heirs through intestate succession. Id. Because the heirs' claim involved the assets of a charitable trust, the Attorney General intervened under Tennessee Code Annotated § 35- 13-110 (2007). Id. SunTrust and the Attorney General each argued that the April 1999 amendment superseded the March 1999 amendment and provided for a full disposition of the trust assets. Id. The chancery court granted the Attorney General's motion for summary judgment, finding that the April 1999 amendment distributed all of the separate trust's assets following Mr. Goza's death. Id. at *4. Therefore, no assets remained to pass under the laws of intestacy. Id.

On appeal, the heirs argued that the chancery court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and that it effectively entered an advisory opinion declaring the trust effective. Id. at *5. We found that the heirs' request for declaratory judgment put at issue-and the chancery court necessarily decided-the validity of the trust, as well as the distribution of the separate trust's assets following Mr. Goza's death. Id. at *8. We concluded that there was a justiciable controversy between the parties and affirmed the chancery court's grant of summary judgment. Id.

B. Goza II

As our decision was pending in Goza I, Mr. Morrow initiated proceedings in Shelby County Probate Court, which would eventually lead to our decisions in Goza II, IV, V, and VI. Goza IV, 2014 WL 7235166, at *2. The probate court appointed Mr. Morrow administrator of Mr. Goza's Estate (the "Estate").[2]Goza II, 397 S.W.3d at 566. As administrator, Mr. Morrow filed a petition seeking to compel SunTrust to turn over the assets of the perpetual trust. Id. at 566-67. Following the issuance of our opinion in Goza I, ...


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