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Jinkins v. Jinkins

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

May 11, 2017

JOHN RANDOLPH JINKINS, M.D., Appellant
v.
JEFFREY FULLER JINKINS, MARY CELESTE JINKINS, AND WILEY JUNIOR JINKINS, III, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS TRUSTEE, Appellees

         On Appeal from the Probate Court of Galveston County Galveston County, Texas Trial Court Case No. PR-64172-A

          Panel consists of Justices Keyes, Bland, and Huddle.

          OPINION

          Rebeca Huddle, Justice

         This appeal involves a dispute among the four children of Wiley Junior Jinkins, Jr. ("Father") regarding ownership of mineral interests in 17 properties. One of those children, John Randolph Jinkins, M.D. ("Randy"), appeals a summary judgment declaring that the four children each own a 1/4 interest in the properties. Randy had contended that he and Wiley Junior Jinkins, III ("Wiley"), the biological children of Father's first wife, each owned a 1/2 interest in the properties, to the exclusion of their half-siblings, Jeffrey Jinkins and Mary Jinkins.

         The case turns on whether Father's interest in the properties passed into a trust that benefitted Randy and Wiley exclusively, or whether the interests either did not pass into that trust or were later removed from the trust, in which case they would pass to all four children in equal shares. Randy argues that the trial court erroneously construed the terms of the relevant wills and trust, and, for this reason, erroneously concluded that Jeffrey and Mary own an interest in the properties. Randy also contends that the trial court erred by granting summary judgment dismissing his declaratory-judgment claim and adjudicating the case solely as a trespass-to-try-title action.

         Because the trial court properly concluded that Randy's claims must be brought via a trespass-to-try-title action, we affirm the trial court's summary judgment dismissing Randy's declaratory-judgment claim. But we reverse the trial court's summary judgment regarding ownership of the 17 properties in dispute and render judgment that they, having been distributed under the terms of the parents' trust, are owned in equal 1/2 shares by Randy and Wiley alone.

          Background

         The parties agree about the series of events that led to this dispute, but they disagree about the effect of the various implicated wills and trusts. Randy argues that his parents' joint will, which was probated in 1952 after his mother's death, transferred the disputed property interests into a trust of which he and Wiley were the sole beneficiaries. The other siblings argue that the properties were not held in trust for Randy and Wiley after their mother's death but, instead, remained Father's separate property for five more decades and ultimately passed to all four children under the terms of Father's 1993 will.

         The grandparents' joint will & trust

         The siblings' paternal grandparents, Wiley Junior Jinkins ("Grandfather") and Celeste Jinkins ("Grandmother"), originally owned the property interests in dispute. In 1942, the grandparents executed a joint will which provided that if either of them died, all of their separate and community property, other than jewelry, household goods and personal effects, would pass into a trust in which the surviving spouse would have a life estate in the revenue. Upon the surviving spouse's death, the trust corpus would pass to their only child, Father. The Grandparents' will said:

It is our joint will and we so direct that all the rest and residue of the property, separate and community, real, personal and mixed, of whatsoever kind and wheresoever situated, which we-that is, each and both of us-may own or be entitled to receive on the day when the first of us shall die, shall pass to the Trustees hereinafter named and appointed, in trust, however, for the following purposes and under the following terms and conditions:
. . . .
(b) The entire net revenue from said property and estate, after deduction of expenses incident to administration of the trust, shall be paid over periodically, at least quarterly, by our Trustee to the survivor of us during his or her lifetime, except as hereinafter provided. . . .
(c) Upon the death of the survivor of us, then our Trustee is directed to turn over and deliver to our said beloved son all of the trust property and estate and this trust shall terminate.

         After Grandfather died in 1947 and the grandparents' joint will was probated, the their property, which included the mineral interests in dispute and a Galveston residence, passed into the grandparents' testamentary trust, with Grandmother having a life estate and Father having a remainder interest.

         The parents' joint will & trust

         In 1950, while Grandmother was still living, the parents of Randy and Wiley, Mother and Father, executed a joint will. Mother died two years later, at the age of 31, and Mother and Father's joint will was probated. Their joint will had terms similar to the grandparents' will-it provided that if either of them died, all of their separate and community property, other than jewelry, household goods, and personal effects, and expressly including any interest Father had in property in the grandparents' trust, would pass into a trust in which the surviving spouse would have a life estate in the revenue. The will said:

We give, devise and bequeath all the rest and residue of the property, separate and community, real, personal and mixed, of whatsoever kind and wheresoever situated, which we, or either of us, may own or be entitled to receive on the day when the first of us shall die, and also all property subject to disposition by [Father] under the joint will of [Grandfather] and [Grandmother], shall pass to the trustee, hereinafter named and appointed, in trust, for the following purposes and under the following terms and conditions.
. . . .
(b) The entire net revenue from said property and estate after deduction of expenses incident to administration of the trust, shall be paid over periodically, at least quarterly, by our trustee to the survivor of us during his or her lifetime, except as hereinafter provided. . . .

         Mother and Father's joint will expressly addressed the impact of the surviving spouse's remarriage on distributions from the trust. It provided that if the surviving spouse remarried, the trust corpus should be split in two, with the revenue from one half going to the surviving spouse during their lifetime. Specifically, it provided:

(c)If the survivor of us should marry again during the lifetime of our child or children, then our Trustee shall, at the time of such marriage, divide the trust estate hereby created, into two equal parts, paying and delivering all of the entire net revenue from one of such parts to said survivor.

         The revenue from the other half of the trust was to be used for the benefit of the parents' children under age 30 until the surviving spouse died, and after the surviving spouse died, the entire trust corpus was to be divided equally between the parents' children who lived to the age of 30:

(d) Upon the marriage of said survivor, then the revenue from the other one of such parts provided in the pre-ceding sub-paragraph (c), and upon the death of the survivor, then all of the net revenue shall be used by said trustee for the maintenance, education, or benefit of such of our children as shall be under the age of thirty (30) years. As each of our children becomes thirty (30) years of age, that child shall be entitled to his or her proportionate share of the corpus of the estate, it being our intention that the corpus of such trust shall be divided equally among our said children living to the age of thirty (30) years, share and share alike.

         The parents' joint will also provided that it was to be probated upon the death of the first of the parents and was irrevocable unless revoked by both parents in writing:

This joint will shall be probated on the death of the first of us, and it is our special intention to make this will and contract irrevocable by either of us, save and except during the lifetime of both of us by mutual consent in writing first obtained.

         Following Mother's death, Father married Priscilla Jinkins, with whom he had two children, appellees Jeffrey and Mary. In 1963, Grandmother, who had held a life estate in the revenue from the grandparents' trust, died.

         Father executes quitclaim deeds related to some of the disputed property interests

         Two years before Grandmother died, she and Father, in his individual capacity and as co-trustee for the grandparents' trust, executed an oil and gas lease pertaining to some of the disputed property interests.

         Ten years after Grandmother's death, Father transferred the Galveston residence out of the parents' trust. To do so, he executed two quitclaim deeds. He executed one deed as co-trustee of the portion of the parents' trust that was for his benefit as the life tenant:

That we, [Father], and United States National Bank of Galveston, Co-Trustees of a Testamentary Trust established under the Last Will and Testament of [Mother], Deceased, for the benefit of her surviving spouse, [Father], (hereinafter referred to as "Grantors"), of the County of Galveston, and the State of Texas, for an in consideration of the sum of Ten Dollars ($10.00), to me in hand paid by [Father], (hereinafter referred to as "Grantee") . . . do by these presents, bargain, sell release and forever quitclaim unto said Grantee, his heirs and assigns, all my right title and interest in and to [the Galveston residence.]

         Father executed the second deed as co-trustee of the portion of the parents' trust that was for the benefit of Randy and Wiley:

That we, [Father], and United States National Bank of Galveston, Co-Trustees of a Testamentary Trust established under the Last Will and Testament of [Mother], Deceased, for the benefit of her children, Wiley . . . and [Randy], (hereinafter referred to as "Grantors"), of the County of Galveston, and the State of Texas, for an in consideration of the sum of Ten Dollars ($10.00), to me in hand paid by [Father], (hereinafter referred to as "Grantee") . . . do by these presents, bargain, sell release and forever quitclaim ...

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