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Hasselbring v. Bernard

Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton

July 10, 2019

SCOTT HASSELBRING, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
BONNIE BERNARD, Defendant-Appellee.

          Civil Appeal From: Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, TRIAL No. A-1703837

          McCaslin, Imbus and McCaslin and William M. Cussen, for Plaintiff-Appellant,

          Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, LLP, and Elizabeth E.W. Weinewuth, for Defendant-Appellee.

          OPINION

          Zayas, Presiding Judge.

         {¶1} Plaintiff-appellant Scott Hasselbring, appeals the May 31, 2018 judgment entry of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, which granted summary judgment to his sister and defendant-appellee, Bonnie Bernard, the sole trustee of the "June Hasselbring Living Trust." For the following reasons, we affirm.

         {¶2} Hasselbring and Bernard are beneficiaries of the revocable trust of their mother, June Hasselbring. Under the terms of the trust, they will each receive an equal distribution of the trust's assets upon their mother's death. Concerned about mismanagement, Hasselbring sued Bernard for a full report of the trust's assets. Hasselbring complained that he, as a beneficiary, was entitled to information pertaining to the trust property, liabilities, receipts, and disbursements. Bernard prevailed on summary judgment by arguing that as a trustee of a revocable trust she only owes a duty to report information regarding the trust to the settlor, her mother. In a single assignment of error, Hasselbring argues that trial court erred in finding that he was not entitled to the requested information.

         {¶3} Appellate review of a trial court's decision granting summary judgment is de novo. Duell v. City of Cincinnati, 2018-Ohio-4400, 122 N.E.3d 640, ¶ 3 (1st Dist.). Under Civ.R. 56(C), summary judgment is appropriate when (1) there are no genuine issues of material fact; (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law; and (3) when all evidence is construed in favor of the nonmoving party, reasonable minds can come to only one conclusion, and that conclusion is adverse to the nonmoving party. Zivich v. Mentor Soccer Club, Inc., 82 Ohio St.3d 367, 369-370, 696 N.E.2d 201 (1998).

         {¶4} The facts of this case are not in dispute. The only dispute before us is a matter of law: whether a beneficiary of a revocable trust is entitled to information concerning the trust while the settlor of the trust is still living.

         {¶5} Trusts are governed by the Ohio Trust Code, R.C. Chapters 5801 to 5811. R.C. 5808.13, which is entitled "Keeping beneficiaries informed - requests -required reports," generally requires trustees to keep beneficiaries of a trust informed, fulfill requests for information concerning a trust, and make required reports of the trust property.

         {¶6} R.C. 5808.13 provides, in relevant part:

(A) A trustee shall keep the current beneficiaries of the trust reasonably informed about the administration of the trust and of the material facts necessary for them to protect their interests. Unless unreasonable under the circumstances, a trustee shall promptly respond to a beneficiary's request for information related to the administration of the trust.
(C) A trustee of a trust that has a fiscal year ending on or after January 1, 2007, shall send to the current beneficiaries, and to other beneficiaries who request it, at least annually and at the termination of the trust, a report of the trust property, liabilities, receipts, and disbursements, including the source and amount of the trustee's compensation, a listing of the trust assets, and, if feasible, the trust assets' respective market values.

         {¶7} In addition, R.C. 5808.13(G) provides:

During the lifetime of the settlor of a revocable trust, whether or not the settlor has capacity to revoke the trust, the trustee's duties under this section ...

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