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Knopik v. Shelby Investments, LLC

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division

May 14, 2019

SAMUEL S. KNOPIK, Appellant,
v.
SHELBY INVESTMENTS, LLC, Respondent.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JACKSON COUNTY The Honorable Mark A. Styles, Jr., Judge

          Before Victor C. Howard, Presiding Judge, Lisa White Hardwick and Gary D. Witt, Judges

          Lisa White Hardwick, Judge

         After Samuel Knopik stopped receiving monthly distributions from a trust of which he was the sole beneficiary, he filed suit against the trustee, Shelby Investments, L.L.C., ("Trustee") for breach of trust and removal of the trustee. Trustee filed a counterclaim for a judgment declaring that Knopik's petition violated the trust's no-contest clause and, as a result, revoked and canceled all trust provisions in his favor. The circuit court granted Trustee's motion for summary judgment on its counterclaim. Knopik appeals, asserting that the no-contest clause is unenforceable. For reasons explained herein, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural History

         On December 21, 2016, Gift L.L.C., ("the settlor"), and Trustee, as the sole trustee, entered into a trust agreement called the "Knopik Irrevocable Trust." Knopik was the sole beneficiary of the trust. Section 2 of the trust provided:

2. Distribution of Income and Principal during Sam Knopik's Lifetime.
During Sam Knopik's lifetime, each month, on the first business day of the month, beginning in December 2016 and ending in December 2020, the Trustee shall distribute to Sam Knopik One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) from the trust estate. The Trustee shall add any undistributed net income to principal. On January 4, 2021, the Trustee shall distribute the remaining trust estate to the Settlor, terminating the trust.

         In February 2017, Knopik received a single payment of $100 pursuant to the terms of the trust. Since February 2017, Trustee has not made any monthly payments to Knopik. Trustee has affirmatively stated that it does not intend to make any future payments to Knopik.

         On August 18, 2017, Knopik filed his petition against Trustee. In Count I, he alleged that Trustee breached its fiduciary duties as trustee. In Count II, Knopik sought the removal of Trustee and requested the appointment of a replacement trustee.

         Trustee filed an answer admitting many of the allegations set forth by Knopik and counterclaiming for declaratory judgment. In its counterclaim, Trustee asserted that Knopik's petition violated Section 12 of the trust, which stated:

         12. No Contest.

In case any beneficiary shall (i) contest the validity of this trust, or any provision hereof, in whole or in part; (ii) make a claim against a trustee for maladministration or breach of trust; or (iii) attempt to remove a trustee for any reason, with or without cause; then such contest or claim and such attempt shall cancel and terminate all provisions for or in favor of the beneficiary making or inciting such contest or claim, without regard to whether such contest or claim shall succeed or not; and all and any provisions or provision herein in favor of the beneficiary so making such contest or claim, or attempting or inciting the same, to be revoked and of no force and effect; and the entire trust estate shall revert to the Settlor and be distributed to the Settlor.

         Trustee requested a judgment declaring that Knopik violated the no-contest clause by asserting a claim of breach of trust and by seeking to remove Trustee. Trustee further requested that the court declare that, as a result of Knopik's violation of the no-contest clause, all trust provisions in favor of ...


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