Loeb & Loeb LLP secured a significant trial victory on behalf of Priscilla Hunt, wife and conservator of the person and estate of Southern California real estate entrepreneur Donald G. Hunt. Mrs. Hunt filed a substituted judgment petition with the Los Angeles Superior Court seeking to amend Mr. Hunt’s trust to carry out his testamentary intent. Mr. Hunt’s existing trust provided that upon his death, Mrs. Hunt would receive income distributions, and that upon her death, the remainder would pass to a charitable trust. The substituted judgment petition sought to carry out Mr. Hunt’s intent that everything pass to Mrs. Hunt upon his death, and proposed $100 million in charitable pledges to fund substantial projects in Southern California. The California Attorney General opposed the petition. After extensive discovery and a lengthy trial, the Los Angeles Superior Court granted Mrs. Hunt’s petition as prayed.
Loeb & Loeb was able to present substantial evidence of Mr. Hunt’s stated and consistent intent to leave his entire estate to his wife, and his confidence in her to manage his real estate investment business, Hunt Enterprises, as an ongoing entity following his death. The Loeb team persuaded the court that Mr. Hunt had testamentary capacity at the time he expressed his desire to leave everything to his wife, and established that, unless the petition was granted, Hunt Enterprises would very likely be broken apart and sold, which is the opposite of what Mr. Hunt intended. Presently, Hunt Enterprises manages real estate with an approximate value of $500 million.
The petition was granted and the trial court entered judgment authorizing and directing the modification of Mr. Hunt’s trust to provide that all of his assets, including Hunt Enterprises, will pass to Mrs. Hunt upon his death. Mrs. Hunt was also authorized and directed to negotiate and enter into the proposed charitable pledges, which will fund deserving projects in Mr. Hunt’s community and cement his legacy.
The California Attorney General filed a motion for reconsideration, which the trial court denied. Loeb & Loeb filed a petition pursuant to Probate Code Section 1310(b), which permits the trial court in extraordinary situations to direct the acts of a fiduciary notwithstanding an appeal, and provides that such acts are valid irrespective of any appeal. The court granted Loeb’s 1310(b) petition, directing the Conservator and Co-Trustees to take all acts set forth in the court’s judgment as if no appeal were pending. The California Attorney General then filed a petition for a writ in the Court of Appeal, seeking to stay the trial court’s 1310(b) order. The Court of Appeal denied the writ petition on January 10, 2017.
The Loeb & Loeb team acting on behalf of petitioner Priscilla Hunt in this matter was led by partners Ronald C. Pearson, Amy L. Koch and Laura A. Wytsma and assisted by associate Alexandra Letzel and paralegal Virginia Briseno.