Woodruff v. Trust Co. of Georgia Case Brief
Summary of Woodruff v. Trust Co. of Georgia, 233 Ga. 135, 210 S.E.2d 321 (1974)
Facts: The trust was created in 1960 by Mrs. Woodruff naming the Trust Co of Ga as trustee. That trust gave her the right to alter, amend, or revoke at any time. She then amended and provided that the trust was irrevocable except w/ written consent and approval of trustee. She provided that she would be the sole beneficiary and allowed for her encroachment at any time in amts that trustee deemed necessary for her support. 7 yrs later she was determined to be incompetent, then 6 yr after her guardian, Trust Co, was discharged and her competency was restored. Trust Co employed an atty challenging the restoration of competency and seeks damages for those costs out of the trust funds.
Issue: Whether the settlor may revoke a trust instrument where she is the sole-beneficiary when it provides that the trustee’s written consent and approval are needed?
Holding: A settlor can terminate the trust if he is not under an incapacity, b/c he is both the settlor and the sole beneficiary of the trust.
Procedure: Both parties filed motions for summary, tr judge denied both and held trust revocable only w/ written consent, trust co. had discretionary power to grant encroachment, and if acted in good faith could pay atty fees out of trust. Sup. Ct. Ga. reversed in part, (Tr ct erred in failing to grant Ms. W’s summary), and affirmed in part.
Rule: Settlor-sole beneficiary of an inter vivos trust can terminate that trust even though the trust was by its terms irrevocable, by an inherent right.
Rationale: The trustee has not vested right to insist on the continuance of the trust once the settlor sole beneficiary terminates the trust, b/c the incidental benefits the trustee may derive is not of such a character that it gives a vested right to the continuance of the trust.
Ms Woodruff was bound by the terms. She could not revoke, consent to do so was not given, but she had the right as the settlor-sole beneficiary to terminate the trust created for her sole benefit.