Kelsey Alexander v. UMB Bank, N.A. As Trustee


In the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District KELSEY ALEXANDER, ) Appellant, ) WD83907 v. ) ) UMB BANK, N.A. As Trustee, et al., ) FILED: July 20, 2021 Respondents. ) APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JACKSON COUNTY THE HONORABLE MARK A. STYLES, JR., JUDGE BEFORE DIVISION FOUR, CYNTHIA L. MARTIN, CHIEF JUDGE, PRESIDING, LISA WHITE HARDWICK AND THOMAS N. CHAPMAN, JUDGES Kelsey Alexander appeals the probate court’s judgment awarding her attorney’s fees and expenses from a trust of which she is one of several beneficiaries in four beneficiary lines. She contends the court abused its discretion by not awarding her the full amount of attorney’s fees she requested and by denying her request for an award of her travel expenses. For reasons explained herein, we affirm. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY1 In March 1947, Darthea Stodder Harrison (“Darthea”) executed a trust agreement to create an irrevocable trust (“DSH Trust”). UMB Bank, N.A., (“UMB”) is the trustee. Pursuant to the DSH Trust, Darthea received the trust’s net income monthly during her lifetime. Upon her death, the DSH Trust was to provide the income monthly to her only son, William Stodder Harrison, Jr., (“William”), during his lifetime. Upon the death of both Darthea and William, the trust was to terminate and the proceeds were to be distributed to William’s bodily issue, if any, and, if none, to Darthea’s brothers, R.H. Stodder (“R.H.”) and F.G. Stodder (“F.G.”). In the event Darthea’s brothers were deceased, the trust was to be distributed to R.H.’s and F.G.’s children. Darthea died in 1964. William died in 2013, without bodily issue. R.H. died in 1950 and had two children, both of whom predeceased William. F.G. died in 1948 and had three children, all of whom also predeceased William. However, R.H. and F.G. had grandchildren who survived William. Alexander is one of F.G.’s grandchildren. Because the DSH Trust did not expressly state Darthea’s intent if all of her brothers’ children predeceased the trust’s termination, UMB petitioned the probate court for instructions on how to distribute the trust’s assets. UMB did not take a position with respect to the proper recipients of the trust assets but did name 1 Portions of the facts are taken from this court’s opinion in Alexander v. UMB Bank, NA, 497 S.W.3d 323, 324-26 (Mo. App. 2016), without further citation. 2 F.G.’s and R.H.’s known grandchildren in the petition. The probate court refused to consider UMB’s petition after finding that it did not present a justiciable controversy. The probate court concluded that the trust provided only for R.H.’s and F.G.’s children and not their “more remote descendants”; therefore, the probate court believed that the trust failed because there were no designated beneficiaries. After the probate court refused to consider its petition, UMB filed a petition to reopen Darthea’s probate estate in Johnson County, Kansas, to distribute the assets from the DSH Trust through Darthea’s estate. The Kansas probate court scheduled a hearing on UMB’s petition and authorized delivery of notice to interested persons, which …

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