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Aubrey v. United Heritage Credit Union

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

April 12, 2017

Steven B. Aubrey, Individually, and as Beneficiary of, on behalf of, and for the benefit of the Aubrey Family Trust, Appellant
v.
United Heritage Credit Union and Wilford P. Schroeder, Jr., Appellees

         FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF TRAVIS COUNTY, 201ST JUDICIAL DISTRICT NO. D-1-GN-16-000984, HONORABLE STEPHEN YELENOSKY, JUDGE PRESIDING

          Before Justices Puryear, Pemberton, and Goodwin

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Melissa Goodwin, Justice

         Steven B. Aubrey, acting pro se, appeals from the trial court's order granting the plea to the jurisdiction of appellees United Heritage Credit Union and Wilford P. Schroeder Jr. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Pursuant to the will of Richard Buck Aubrey Sr., who died in 2004, a Family Trust was created. Under the terms of the will, Steven B. Aubrey's mother, Betsy Aubrey (Ms. Aubrey), is the sole beneficiary and trustee of the Family Trust; she is entitled to distributions of income and principal from the Family Trust, including distributions from principal for her "health, support, and maintenance"; and the Family Trust terminates on her death, at which point any remaining assets are to be distributed to Aubrey Sr.'s "then living descendants, per stirpes."

         In 2012, United Heritage leased real property from the Family Trust. The lease contained an option to purchase, and United Heritage exercised the option in April 2013. Before title to the property was conveyed to United Heritage, it was conveyed from the Family Trust to Ms. Aubrey and then to one of Aubrey's brothers. Alleging harm to the trust from the sale of the property, Aubrey sued United Heritage, its president Schroeder, Ms. Aubrey, and his brothers. Aubrey claimed that the property "was illegally stripped from the Trust" and that the proceeds of the sale should have been conveyed to the Family Trust. According to Aubrey, the Trust did not receive any of the proceeds from the sale, and United Heritage and Schroeder conspired with Ms. Aubrey, as trustee, and one of his brothers to deprive the Family Trust of the sale proceeds. Aubrey's pleaded causes of action included trespass to try title, fraudulent transfer, fraudulent lien or claim, fraud, tortious interference with inheritance rights, conversion, money had and received, unjust enrichment/quantum meruit, civil conspiracy, negligence, gross negligence, breach of trust, and breach of fiduciary duty.

         United Heritage and Schroeder answered and filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that Aubrey lacked standing to bring claims against them under a contract to which he was not a party or for alleged damage to a trust of which he was not a beneficiary. Attached to their plea was a copy of Aubrey Sr.'s will. In addition to appointing Ms. Aubrey the trustee, Aubrey Sr. granted her, as the trustee, broad powers, including "all powers granted to trustees by the common law or applicable statutes" and the power,

To sell, exchange, give options upon, partition, convey, or otherwise dispose of, with or without covenants (including covenants of warranty of title), any property which may from time to time be or become a part of the Trust estate, at public or private sale or otherwise, for cash or other consideration, or on credit, and upon such terms and conditions as the Trustee shall think advisable, and to transfer and convey the same free of all Trusts.

         Aubrey filed a response to the plea to the jurisdiction with evidence, including the affidavit of Schroeder from a separate case. In the affidavit, Schroeder described the real estate transaction in relevant part as follows:

3. In 2012, [United Heritage] leased real property in Travis County, Texas from the Aubrey Family Trust. See Lease Agreement attached hereto as Exhibit A. The lease contained an option to purchase the leased property.
4. [United Heritage] exercised the option in April, 2013. Shortly thereafter, [United Heritage] received a title commitment for the property. See Ex. B. The commitment disclosed that the property was titled in [Aubrey Sr.]'s name. [Aubrey Sr.] is apparently the deceased settlor of the Aubrey Family Trust.
5. The Aubrey Family Trust advised the title defect would be addressed with corrective deeds prior to the closing and that it would convey title to the property to [United Heritage] at closing. [United Heritage] accepted the Trust's representation in good faith and closed on the purchase of the property for $300, 000.00 pursuant to the lease.
6. [United Heritage] did not "unlawfully purchase" the property. [United Heritage] was not aware the Aubrey Family Trust received "no consideration." [United Heritage] did not conspire with [Aubrey's brother]. [United Heritage] did not inquire or participate in the corrective transfers from the Aubrey Family Trust to Ms. Betsy Aubrey to ...

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