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Sherwood Dixon, Anne Dixon Best, Drake Dixon, Ridgeway v. Barbara Weitekamp-Diller

November 5, 2012

SHERWOOD DIXON, ANNE DIXON BEST, DRAKE DIXON, RIDGEWAY RYAN, ROSALIE RYAN, WALKER RYAN, AND DILLER RYAN, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
BARBARA WEITEKAMP-DILLER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS TRUSTEE OF THE WILLIAM HUGHES DILLER, JR., REVOCABLE TRUST DATED JULY 28, 2010; JUDITH ANN NEAL; BRENDA BRUCE; SUSAN WEITEKAMP; AND MARGARET WEITEKAMP, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS, AND UNITED COMMUNITY BANK, AS SUCCESSOR TRUSTEE OF THE TRUST CREATED UNDER ITEM SECOND OF THE WILL OF WILLIAM HUGHES DILLER, SR.; JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A., FORMERLY SPRINGFIELD MARINE BANK, AS TRUSTEE OF THE 1927 IDA PAYNE TRUST AND AS TRUSTEE OF THE 1949 WILLIAM HUGHES DILLER, SR., TRUST; AND HEARTLAND AG GROUP OF SPRINGFIELD, INC.,
DEFENDANTS.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 10CH1014 Honorable Leo J. Zappa, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Turner and Justice Pope concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 This case involves three trusts, each of which includes a life estate in the proceeds from farmland for William Hughes Diller, Jr. (Hughes), with the res of each trust to be distributed, at least in part, to Hughes' children at his death. The trusts further provide, however, that if Hughes were to die without any children, the res of each trust would be distributed to his sisters' children per stirpes.

¶ 2 After having spent the first 87 years of his life unmarried, Hughes married his former assistant, Barbara Weitekamp, and moved with her to Florida. In August 2010, concerned about Barbara's role in Hughes' financial affairs and that she was keeping Hughes away from them, members of Hughes' family filed a complaint to appoint a successor trustee and for declaratory relief. Shortly thereafter, Barbara arranged for then 94-year-old Hughes to adopt three of her adult daughters from a previous marriage. Hughes did so and died several months later.

¶ 3 Following an exchange of motions, the trial court ordered the trustees to administer and distribute the trusts as if Hughes did not have any children, finding, in pertinent part, that the adoptions of Barbara's daughters were subterfuge and done "solely to make Barbara's daughters heirs *** under the three trusts."

¶ 4 Barbara and her daughters appeal, arguing that the trial court erred by granting plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment because (1) Illinois law presumes that an adopted child is the descendant of the adoptive parent and (2) the court improperly determined that 63 acres Hughes purchased as trustee of one of the family trusts-which he later transferred to Barbara-should remain part of the trust. We disagree and affirm.

¶ 5 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 6 A. The Diller Family and the Family Trusts

¶ 7 Hughes was born the only boy to his mother and father. His sisters, Corrine Diller Ryan and Jane Diller Dixon, predeceased him, leaving plaintiffs, Sherwood Dixon, Anne Dixon Best, Drake Dixon, Ridgeway Ryan, Rosalie Ryan, Walker Ryan, and Diller Ryan as blood- relative descendants.

¶ 8 In 1901, Hughes' grandfather, Isaac R. Diller, sold the family business and invested in central Illinois farmland. Hughes later inherited a lifelong interest in much of that farmland but also became an income beneficiary in the following Diller family farm trusts: (1) the Franklin Farm Trust, which Hughes' father, William H. Diller, Sr. (hereinafter Diller Sr.), created under his will (Diller Sr. died in 1977); (2) the William H. Diller, Sr., Trust, a separate trust created by Diller Sr. in 1949; and (3) the Ida Payne Trust, which Hughes' maternal grandmother created in 1927.

¶ 9 1. The Franklin Farm Trust

¶ 10 The Franklin Farm Trust originally consisted of 1,453 aces of farmland in Morgan County, Illinois. Diller Sr. named Hughes as trustee and provided that all of the income from the trust would be paid to Hughes during Hughes' lifetime. The terms of the trust disposed of the trust assets upon Hughes' death, as follows:

"Upon the death of my son, William Hughes Diller, Jr., if he shall leave him surviving a wife or any child or children or descendants thereof, this trust shall continue so long as said wife shall live and until the youngest of his children attains majority. *** Net income shall be distributed one half to the wife of my son and one half to his descendants per stirpes and upon death of such wife or if his wife shall predecease him all income to his descendants per stirpes, or if there be no descendants of my son or such descendants shall die before termination of this trust one half of all net income shall go to my son's wife and the remaining one half of the net income to my daughters, Connie Diller Ryan and Jane Diller Dixon, or their respective descendants per stirpes then living. *** Upon the death of the wife of my son and attainment of majority of my son's then youngest living child, this trust shall terminate and the trust property shall vest in the children of my son and the descendant of any deceased child then living, such descendants taking the share per stirpes their parent would have received if living. *** If my son shall die without any wife or child or children or descendants of a deceased child or children surviving him, or if none of my son's descendants shall live to attain their majority, this trust shall terminate and the trust property shall vest in my daughters, Corinne Diller Ryan and Jane Diller Dixon, or if either be not then living in their respective descendants per stirpes then living, or if either has no descendants then living shall vest in the descendants of the other."

Hughes later retained Gene Meurer of Marine Bank's farm management department in Springfield, Illinois, and later co-defendant, Heartland Ag Group of Springfield, to manage the Franklin Farm.

¶ 11 2. The William H. Diller, Sr., Trust

¶ 12 The William H. Diller, Sr., Trust, a trust created by Diller Sr. in 1949, consisted of 712 acres of farmland in central Illinois. Diller Sr. named Marine Bank, now co-defendant, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., as trustee. This 1949 trust stated, in pertinent part, as follows:

"All income not required for maintenance, repairs, taxes, farm expenses, interest, cost and fees incident to the management of this trust shall be distributed not less than annually to my children, William Hughes Diller, Jr., Corinne Diller Ryan and Jane Diller Dixon, in equal shares, and in the event of death of any of my children such share of income shall be payable to his or her descendants per stirpes, or if there be no such descendants then surviving or upon their subsequent death, such shares of income shall be given to my surviving children equally, or to their respective descendants per stirpes. This trust shall terminate upon the death of the last survivor of my three children. *** Upon termination, the principal of this trust shall be distributed to the beneficiaries in the proportions in which they are then receiving trust income."

¶ 13 3. The Ida Payne Trust

¶ 14 The Ida Payne Trust, a trust created in 1927, consisted of 167 acres of farmland in Christian County, Illinois. Payne named Springfield Marine Bank, now JPMorgan Chase Bank, as trustee. Payne had three children, one of whom was Hughes' mother. Payne provided that after she and her husband died, the trust income would be paid to her six grandchildren. The Ida Payne Trust was set to terminate upon the death of her last surviving grandchild, thereafter distributed to each of their descendants, as follows:

"To pay one of said one-third parts to William Hughes Diller, Corinne Payne Diller and Jane Louise Diller, grandchildren of the Grantor and being the children now living of Corinne Payne Diller, deceased daughter of the Grantor, said payments to be made to ...


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