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Andrade v. Anton

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

November 1, 2019

KRISTIN ANDRADE, as Trustee for The Paul H. Stavig Family Revocable 1976 Trust, f/k/a The Paul and Lorraine Stavig Revocable Living Trust, dated February 11, 1976; and KRISTIN ANDRADE, as Trustee of The California Special Fund Oral Trust, dated June 27, 2012, Plaintiffs,
v.
BARRY ANTON, an individual; BARRY ANTON, as Personal Representative for the Estate of Maren Stavig; BARRY ANTON, as Trustee of the Anton and Stavig Living Trust; The Estate of Maren Stavig; The Anton and Stavig Living Trust, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          Ronald B. Leighton United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Barry Anton's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Kristin Andrade's First Amended Complaint (FAC) under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Dkt # 30. This is a factually complicated family (and family trust) dispute over the ownership of $250, 000.

         Paul and Lorraine Stavig established the Stavig Family Trust in 1976. They were co-trustees and their children were the beneficiaries. Paul and Lorraine had three daughters: Rondi, Kristin, and Maren.[1] Rondi Stavig was disabled and suffered from mental health issues. Rondi also has a daughter named Rosheen Ward-Nulph. Plaintiff Kristin's last name is now Andrade. Maren was married to Defendant Barry Anton. Maren and Anton established the Anton and Stavig Living Trust (“Anton Living Trust”) as co-trustees in 2008.

         Anton claims that Lorraine and Paul established a separate trust to provide for Rondi and her disabilities (the Rondi Lynn Stavig Special Needs Trust, or “Rondi's Trust”) in 2008. The Stavig Family Trust was then amended to make Rondi's Trust a beneficiary, rather than Rondi herself. Rondi's Trust provided that “upon the death of Rondi, all undistributed principal of Rondi's Trust was to be given to Rondi's daughter, Rosheen Ward-Nulp, in a separate discretionary trust.” Dkt # 31 ¶ 38.

         In 2012, Lorraine (as trustee of the Stavig Family Trust) gave Maren a $250, 000 check drawn on the Stavig Family Trust's checking account. The purpose of that transaction is the central dispute in the case. Andrade claims that the $250, 000 was given to Maren in trust (the California Special Fund Oral Trust, or “Special Fund”) for the benefit of Rondi and her daughter. Anton claims the money was given to Maren as a gift.

         Lorraine became the sole trustee of the Stavig Family Trust when Paul died, and in 2014 Lorraine appointed Maren and Andrade as her co-trustees. FAC Dkt # 22 ¶ 18. In 2016, the Stavig Family Trust was amended to reduce Rondi's share (actually, Rondi's Trust's share) by $415, 000. Andrade claims that Lorraine reduced Rondi's share because she had already given Maren $250, 000 to hold in trust “for the benefit of Rondi and her daughter Rosheen Ward-Nulph, ” and because Lorraine had previously given Rondi an additional $165, 000 in gifts. Dkt # 22 ¶ 22. Thus, Andrade claims, the Stavig Family Trust amendment reflected these other assets. Andrade claims that if the $250, 000 was not given and held in trust for Rondi (or Rondi's trust), the Family Trust will have to be revised again to “give her back” that amount.

         Lorraine, Maren, and Rondi died in the fall of 2017, and Andrade became the sole trustee of the Stavig Family Trust in November 2017. After her mother died, Rosheen became the sole surviving beneficiary of Rondi's Trust (and of the Special Fund, to the extent it exists).

         Anton claims that the same event-Maren's death- made him the proper recipient of the $250, 000.[2] Anton now claims he is entitled to the money as her surviving husband, because the money was given to Maren as a gift.

         Andrade claims Anton is not entitled to the money because Maren held the money in trust for the benefit of Rondi (and, after Rondi passed, for the benefit of her daughter, Rosheen). Andrade claims that she repeatedly discussed the Special Fund with Maren, and that, before she died, Maren made Andrade the Special Fund's successor trustee. In 2018, Andrade demanded that Anton return the $250, 000 to the Special Fund. Anton refused, claiming the money was a gift, and that there was no evidence supporting the existence of any “Special Fund.” Andrade sued Anton in California in her capacity as the trustee of the Stavig Family Trust (but not as the trustee of the Special Fund), claiming that the $250, 000 belonged to the Special Fund, and that Anton's retention of it was wrongful. Anton moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue and asked the Court to at least transfer the case to Washington. He did not argue that Andrade did not have standing.

         The California Court denied those motions, and instead sua sponte dismissed the case without prejudice. It ruled that, as the trustee for the Stavig Family Trust (the only capacity in which she sued), Andrade did not have standing to sue to recover the $250, 000 on behalf of the Special Fund (which was not a party, but which had suffered an injury):

Taking the facts alleged in the FAC as true, Kristin Andrade, in her role as trustee of the Stavig Trust, lacks standing to bring this suit . . . . There has been no injury to the Stavig Trust vis-à-vis Defendant's alleged actions; the injury in fact is to the Special Fund, and its beneficiaries . . . . Assuming the Special Fund is a valid Special Fund, Plaintiff Kristin Andrade is neither the trustee of the Special Fund (the injured trust) nor a beneficiary of the Special Fund. Moreover, a trustee of a first trust does not somehow acquire standing to pursue, for its benefit, claims of harm to a second trust simply because that first trust was the source of the res for the second trust . . . . For the reasons set forth above, this suit is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

Dkt # 31, ex. 7, p. 5-6 (emphasis added).

         Andrade sued here, as the trustee of the Special Fund and of the Stavig Family Trust, again seeking to recover the $250, 000 from Anton for the Special fund. Anton again seeks dismissal, now arguing that the California Court made “factual findings” and conclusively determined that Andrade has no standing to pursue ...


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