Opinion:Stratton v. Stephens, 2021 OK CIV APP 49
Subject matter:Estate Planning; Trusts
Date Decided:October 29, 2021; Mandate Issued: December 1, 2021
Trial Court:District Court of Leflore County; Judge Sullivan
Route to this Court:Appeal of a verdict of the trial court rendered on the stipulated facts of the parties. 
Facts:JC Hillard Williams and Helen Marie Williams created a joint trust. The couple had nine children. JC preceded Helen in death and following JC’s death Helen amended the trust, resulting in one of the children, the Appellant Hilda Stratton, being written out of the trust. After Helen passed away, the Appellant filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that the amendments to the trust were ineffective and invalid. The trial court held that the amendments were effective because there was no express language in the trust making it irrevocable upon the death of the first to die of JC and Helen. Hilda Stratton appealed. 
Standard of Review:The subject of trusts is one of equitable cognizance and in matters of equity the trial court is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. However, interpretation of the language of a trust instrument presents a question of law for the court to review de novo
Analysis:Title 60 O.S. §175.41 states that all trusts are revocable unless they are expressly made irrevocable by the terms of the trust. The trust in this matter does not contain a provision that expressly makes it irrevocable after one of the two settlors/trustors passes away. The trust was irrevocable until both settlors/trustors passed away, at which time the trust then became irrevocable. “Since an alteration, amendment, revision, or modification of a provision of an instrument creating a trust, in effect, revokes a portion of the trust, we hold that any trust which may be revoked entirely in the manner provided in 60 O.S. §175.41 may be altered, amended, revised, modified, revoked, or terminated, in part, in the same manner. The trust amendments are valid in this case. 
Vote:Prince, J. (author), Goree, P.J., Mitchell, J., concur. 
Other: Cert was not sought.