Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division
from the Circuit Court of Warren County Honorable David B.
S. ODENWALD, JUDGE
Hoyt ("Husband") appeals the trial court's
grant of summary judgment in favor of David and Virginia
Robertson ("Parents") on two claims in
Husband's petition seeking to declare void an amendment
to the Debra R. Hoyt Trust (the "Trust"). Before
her death, Debra R. Hoyt ("Wife") petitioned to
dissolve her marriage to Husband. Wife also amended the Trust
by removing Husband as a successor trustee and income
beneficiary and appointing Parents as co-trustees (the
"Trust Amendment"). Wife's undivided one-half
interest in approximately 1000 acres of farmland ("the
Farm") that she inherited during the marriage was the
sole res of the Trust. Husband appeals the entry of summary
judgment, which found the Trust Amendment valid as a matter
Husband had no ownership interest in the Farm when it was
conveyed to the Trust, was not a cosettlor of the Trust, and
was not inequitably deprived of the means to protect his
interests when co-granting the Farm to the Trust, we deny
Husband's first three points on appeal. Further, because
the summary-judgment record raises no genuine issue of
material fact that Wife lacked capacity or was unduly
influenced by Parents at the time she executed the Trust
Amendment, we deny Husband's final point on appeal.
Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's judgment.
and Procedural History
and Wife married in 1983 and had one child ("Son").
Husband and Wife jointly owned several tracts of farmland. On
May 4, 2005, Wife inherited an undivided one-half interest as
tenant in common in the Farm from Wife's grandparents.
Wife's mother is the tenant in common for the remaining
one-half interest in the Farm.
November 23, 2005, Husband and Wife directed an attorney to
prepare two deeds and two revocable trusts: the Trust and a
joint trust (the "Joint Trust"). Husband and Wife
conveyed their jointly owned farmland into the Joint Trust.
Wife's inherited one-half interest in the Farm was placed
in the Trust. Attached to the Trust under Schedule 1 was a
warranty deed (the "Deed") executed by Wife and
Husband as cograntors conveying the Farm to the Trust. The
Trust named Wife as sole grantor and sole trustee. The
fourteenth provision of the Trust expressly reserved to Wife
the exclusive right to amend or revoke the Trust in whole or
in part as well as to withdraw property from the Trust (the
"Amendment Provision"). The Trust provided that in
the event Wife predeceased Husband, "the Trustee shall
distribute to Grantor's spouse [Husband] not less often
than quarter-annually all of the net income of the
Trust." After Husband's death, the income benefits
passed to Wife's children (e.g., Son). The Trust provided
that, in the event Wife predeceased Husband, Husband would
become the successor trustee. In the event Husband also died,
Parents would become successor trustees, followed by other
members of Wife's family.
affidavit filed with the summary-judgment record, Husband
claimed a property right in the Farm which funded the Trust.
Specifically, Husband stated that the property funding the
Trust was "the 50% stake we held in the three farms she
had inherited from her grandparents into the trust. I was
advised that my signature was needed[.]" Husband further
stated that he and Wife discussed and orally agreed that he
would sign the Deed conveying the Farm to the Trust because,
under the Trust, Husband and Wife would be lifetime income
beneficiaries until their deaths. Husband stated that he did
not read the Trust or know of its provisions, including the
Amendment Provision. Husband explained: "I had made a
deal, and was assured that in exchange for my signature on
the deed conveying the property to [Wife], as trustee, the
[T]rust would provide as we had agreed."
and Wife's relationship deteriorated. In 2014, Wife
petitioned to dissolve her marriage to Husband on the basis
that the marriage was irretrievably broken. In his answer and
counter-petition for dissolution, Husband admitted the
marriage was irretrievably broken.
suffered from lupus and, later, lymphoma. The
summary-judgment record contains no medical records or
reports nor affidavits of incapacity. Husband submitted
affidavits from himself and Son providing details about
Wife's health struggles near the end of her life,
including how Son drove Wife when she could not drive and
that Wife experienced bouts of delirium.
29, 2016, Wife amended the Trust to revoke the provisions
benefiting Husband. Wife's attorney and the notary public
who witnessed the execution of the Trust Amendment attested
that Wife had testamentary capacity and was not unduly
influenced when she executed the Trust Amendment. The Trust
Amendment removed Husband as successor trustee and named
Parents as successor trustees. The Trust Amendment also
removed Husband as an income beneficiary and substituted Son
as the income beneficiary.
died on August 28, 2016, while her petition to divorce
Husband remained pending. In addition to the Trust and Joint
Trust, Wife had executed a will (the "Will"). The
Will, like the Trust, provided for Husband and Son and gave
her remaining estate to the Joint Trust. Wife did not amend
the Will before her death.
March 3, 2017, Husband filed a petition seeking to invalidate
the Trust Amendment removing him as sole trustee and income
beneficiary and appointing Parents as co-trustees (the
"Petition"). Husband brought five counts:
declaratory relief to void the Trust Amendment based on being
a co-settlor of the Trust and Wife being unable to amend the
Trust without his assent (Count I); breach of trust (or
fiduciary duty) by Parents acting as trustees (Count II); an
accounting (Count III); alternative relief to set aside the
conveyance of the Farm into the Trust for (a) lack of
consideration, (b) fraud on marital rights, or (c) improperly
delivered deed (Count IV); and lack of capacity and duress
(Count V). Parents counterclaimed for a court-ordered
partition and sale of the Trust property and for
attorneys' fees incurred in upholding the validity of the
moved for partial summary judgment on Counts I, IV
(declaratory relief) and V (capacity and duress). Husband
thereafter sought leave to amend his Petition. The trial
court held a hearing on Parents' summary-judgment motion
regarding the validity of the Trust Amendment. After the
hearing, Husband cross-moved for partial summary judgment on
Counts I (declaratory relief) and II (accounting), raising
the theory of equitable estoppel under Count I. In their
response, Parents noted that Husband had not pleaded
equitable estoppel in his Petition.
reviewing the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment, the trial court entered judgment in favor of
Parents on Counts I, IV, and V on January 11, 2018 (the
"2018 Judgment"). The trial court denied Husband
leave to amend Counts I, IV, and V, only granting him leave
to amend Counts II and III.
moved for the trial court to reconsider and set aside the
2018 Judgment and to certify the interlocutory 2018 Judgment
as final under Rule 74.01(b). The trial court denied
Husband's motion to reconsider and set aside the 2018
Judgment twice (due to a change of judge), granted
Husband's request to certify the 2018 Judgment as final
for purposes of appeal, and denied as moot Husband's
motion for partial summary judgment on Count I.
then appealed the 2018 Judgment with respect to Count I
(declaratory relief) and V (capacity and duress). Husband did
not appeal the trial court's grant of summary judgment on
Count IV (marital fraud, lack of consideration, or improperly
delivered deed). This Court issued an order to show cause why
the appeal should not be dismissed for lack of a final
judgment. The trial court then entered an order re-certifying
the 2018 Judgment for appeal.This Court took the jurisdictional
issue with the case.
raises four points on appeal. In each point, Husband argues
the trial court misapplied the law and therefore erred in
granting summary judgment to Parents on Counts I and V of his
Petition. In Point One, Husband alleges the trial court erred
in determining that Husband had no marital interest in the
Farm when it was conveyed to the Trust because he had
inheritance rights in the Farm under Chapter
Points Two and Three flow directly from Point One. In Point
Two, Husband asserts that the trial court erred in granting
summary judgment to Parents on Count I because he had an
interest in the Farm used to fund the Trust. More
specifically, Husband maintains that Wife was equitably
estopped from amending the Trust by removing the provisions
benefiting Husband in that Husband relied on the oral promise
of those benefits as an inducement to sign the Deed conveying
the Farm to the Trust. In Point Three, Husband claims that
his interest in the Farm used to fund the Trust made him a
co-settlor of the Trust, and therefore, under Section
456.6-602.2, Wife could not amend the Trust without his
consent. Lastly, Husband argues in Point Four that the trial
court erred in granting summary judgment to Parents on Count
V because the record contained genuine issues of material
fact regarding capacity, duress, and undue influence when
Wife executed the Trust Amendment.
Court has a duty to inquire sua sponte into the propriety of
certifying a judgment as final under Rule 74.01(b).
Gibson v. Brewer, 952 S.W.2d 239, 244 (Mo. banc
1997); ARC Indus., Inc. v. Siegel-Robert, Inc., 157
S.W.3d 344, 346 (Mo. App. E.D. 2005). On its own motion, this
Court requested the parties brief the issue. Both parties
submit that the trial court properly certified the 2018
Judgment granting partial summary judgment to Parents' on
Counts I, IV, and V as final. The trial court found that
there was no just reason to delay and that it was necessary
to determine the parties' legal interests in the Trust
before proceeding with the remaining issues.
assessing whether Rule 74.01(b) certification is proper, we
consider the following four factors: (1) whether the action
remains pending in the trial court as to all parties; (2)
whether similar relief can be awarded in each separate count;
(3) whether determination of the claims pending in the trial
court would moot the claim being appealed; and (4) whether
the factual underpinnings of all the claims are intertwined.
ARC Indus., Inc., 157 S.W.3d at 346 (internal
citations omitted). If certification under Rule 74.01(b) is
improper under these factors, then there is no final judgment
and we must dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. Id.
we agree that certification is proper under the first factor
because the validity of the Trust Amendment removing Husband
as successor trustee and income beneficiary determines
Husband's standing for his remaining claims. The 2018
Judgment effectively leaves no claims pending for Husband
because, as neither a trustee nor beneficiary, Husband lacks
standing to pursue his claims for an accounting (Count II)
and breach of trust (Count III). See In re Stephen M.
Gunther Revocable Living Tr., 350 S.W.3d 44, 45 (Mo.
App. E.D. 2011) (internal citation omitted) (denying a motion
to dismiss an appeal for lack of a final judgment where
"[b]y concluding that the trustee had no fiduciary
relationship with the beneficiaries before the settlor's
death, the judgment thus effectively disposed of all issues
and all parties in the case, leaving nothing for future
determination"); John R. Boyce Family Tr. v.
Snyder, 128 S.W.3d 630, 639- 40 (Mo. App. E.D. 2004)
(internal citations omitted) (discussing standing for
successor trustees and beneficiaries to bring equitable and
money-damages claims for an accounting and breach of trust).
The trial court further found Husband's motion for
partial summary judgment on Counts I and II mooted by the
2018 Judgment, and Husband's Count III for breach of
trust may likewise be considered mooted under the doctrine of
implicit finality. See First Cmty. Credit Union, 395
S.W.3d 571, 577 (Mo. App. E.D. 2013) (internal quotation
omitted) ("If a judgment, by implication, necessarily
carries with it a finding upon other counts, the judgment
will be sustained as final even though the count is not
specifically mentioned."). The 2018 Judgment also leaves
Husband with no legal interest in the Farm with respect to
Parents' counterclaim for partition. See In re
Stephen, 350 S.W.3d at 45; Podlesak v. Wesley,
849 S.W.2d 728, 730 (Mo. App. S.D. 1993) (allowing appeal
from summary judgment despite a pending counterclaim where
determining the defendant's interest in the disputed
property would resolve the counterclaim, and the trial court
observed in a docket entry that the counterclaim was rendered
moot by the summary judgment).
second factor also favors finality, as similar relief cannot
otherwise be granted. See ARC Indus., Inc., 157
S.W.3d at 346. The 2018 Judgment adjudicated all of
Husband's legal theories on his relationship to the Trust
and the Farm in a single "judicial unit" distinct
from the other claims which are "not [merely] differing
legal theories or issues presented for recovery on the same
claim." First Cmty. Credit Union, 395 S.W.3d at
576-77 (citing Gibson, 952 S.W.2d at 244). The third
factor also supports finality because the remaining claims
would not moot the claim being appealed, in that the claims
for breach of trust, an accounting, and partition would not
resolve Husband's legal interests in the Trust. See
ARC Indus., Inc., 157 S.W.3d at 346. Fourth and finally,
the factual underpinnings of the claims on appeal are
sufficiently distinct from the remaining claims. See
id. The facts relevant to the 2018 Judgment concern the
funding of the Trust and the Trust Amendment. Facts regarding
Parents' conduct serving as trustees for breach of trust
are distinct from whether Husband is the rightful successor
trustee. Likewise, facts concerning the division of land
owned by the Trust as a tenant in common for the partition
claim are separate from facts about the underlying validity
of the Trust Amendment.
the four-factored test favors certification under 74.01(b).
See id. Because we find the trial court properly
certified the finality of the 2018 Judgment, we have
jurisdiction to hear the appeal. See id.
review a trial court's grant of summary judgment de novo.
In re Stephen, 350 S.W.3d at 45 (citing ITT
Commercial Fin. Corp. v. Mid-Am. Marine Supply Corp.,
854 S.W.2d 371, 376 (Mo. banc 1993)). To be entitled to
summary judgment, the moving party must demonstrate a right
to judgment as a matter of law based on facts about which
there is no genuine dispute. Id. at 377;
Channawood Holdings, LLC v. 1209 Washington, LLC,
333 S.W.3d 480, 485 (Mo. App. E.D. 2010). "When
considering an appeal from summary judgment, we review the
record in the light most favorable to the party against whom
judgment was entered." ITT Commercial Fin.
Corp., 854 S.W.2d at 376. We review the uncontroverted
facts without weighing credibility, and "[f]acts set