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Strange v. Towns

Court of Appeals of Georgia

March 4, 2015

STRANGE
v.
TOWNS et al

Trust. Clarke Superior Court. Before Judge Haggard.

Judgment reversed.

Fortson, Bentley & Griffin, Kevin E. Epps, for appellant.

David F. Ellison, for appellees.

MILLER, Judge. Doyle, P. J., and Dillard, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 605

Miller, Judge.

Tony Lenoy Strange brought a declaratory judgment action against Bertha Mae Towns and Raymond Towns, seeking a determination that Tony was the only trustee of the Pauline Strange Inter Vivos Trust (the " Trust" ) based on documents executed by Pauline before she died. Following a hearing, the trial court denied Tony's petition. Tony appeals, contending that the trial court erred in concluding that the subject documents did not constitute a valid revision of the Trust. For the following reasons, we reverse.

" A trial court's findings of fact after a declaratory judgment hearing are analogous to a jury verdict and will not be interfered with if there is any evidence to support them. However, we review the trial court's conclusions of law de novo." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Bank of the Ozarks v. DKK Dev. Co., 315 Ga.App. 539, 540 (726 S.E.2d 608) (2012).

So viewed, the evidence shows that in March 2001, Pauline Strange created the Trust, naming herself as the trustee. On May 2, 2011, Pauline executed her last will and testament devising the entire residue of her estate to the Trust. That same day, Pauline amended the Trust, naming her son, Tony; her nephew, Raymond Town; and her sister, Bertha Town, to serve as successor co-trustees.

On July 9, 2012, Pauline executed a " General Durable Financial Power of Attorney," stating that she wished for Tony to be the [330 Ga.App. 877] executor of her estate and the Trust. The document further provided that " [t]his agreement is for the sole benefit of Mr. Tony

Page 606

Lenoy Strange[ ] in the management of ([the Trust]) in which he has full [ownership] pursuant to [the] final wishes of Mrs. Pauline Strange." The document was signed by Pauline and Tony.

Thereafter, in August 2012, Pauline wrote a letter to Scott Lowry, a lawyer at the law firm that revised the Trust in 2011, explaining that the law firm misunderstood her true intent. Pauline advised that the law firm needed to revise the Trust to name Tony as the trustee of the Trust and executor of her estate and name the Towns as alternate trustees and executors, respectively. Pauline further stated that she had already executed a document to reflect ...


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