Skelton v. SkeltonAnnotate this Case
These consolidated appeals involved the Frederick Tildon Skelton, Jr., Family Trust ("the trust") and its primary asset, shares of stock in South Haven Corporation ("South Haven"). In appeal no. 1190700, Frederick Tildon Skelton IV and Brian Rutledge Skelton challenged the May 4, 2020 probate court judgment terminating the trust. In appeal no. 1190917, those same parties challenged the July 17, 2020 circuit court judgment dismissing their claims relating to the administration of the trust and their derivative claims asserted on behalf of South Haven. After Mrs. Skelton died, Brian Lee, who was serving as South Haven's president at the time, became the successor trustee of the trust. However, Brian Lee died in July 2016, before fully discharging his duties as trustee by dividing the trust property and making a final distribution of the trust corpus to the remainder beneficiaries of the trust. Brian Lee's widow, Evangela Taylor Skelton ("Angel"), was appointed as the personal representative of Brian Lee's estate. After Brian Lee's death, there was no acting trustee, but it was undisputed that the remainder beneficiaries of the trust were: Brian Lee's estate, Joshua, the nephews, and Loree (referred to collectively as "the beneficiaries"). In September 2016, Loree, individually and on behalf of South Haven, commenced an action in the circuit court against Angel, individually and in her capacity as the personal representative of Brian Lee's estate ("the circuit-court action"). In that action, Loree alleged that Brian Lee, while an officer, director, and shareholder of South Haven, and Angel had misappropriated South Haven's assets for their personal benefit to the detriment of the other shareholders or putative shareholders of the corporation. The nephews filed a motion to intervene in the circuit-court action to assert claims on behalf of South Haven against Loree and Angel; the nephews asserted that both Brian and Loree misappropriated South Haven's assets for their personal benefit to the detriment of the other shareholders or putative shareholders of the corporation. Following mediation, Loree, Joshua, and Angel, individually and as personal representative of Brian Lee's estate, reached a proposed settlement. The nephews opposed that settlement, however; thus, it was never finalized. In November 2017, the nephews, as beneficiaries of the trust, filed a petition in the probate-court action, asserting various claims and counterclaims and seeking affirmative relief relating to the administration of the trust. The Alabama Supreme Court found the probate court was justified in terminating the trust and the circuit court was the appropriate venue to litigate all remaining claims, including the nephews' trust claims.