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Day Pitney Successfully Defends the Janet Reno Revocable Trust on Appeal

Publisher: Day Pitney Press Release
February 19, 2020

On February 18, the Florida Supreme Court issued an order denying a petition for review in a case involving the estate of Janet Reno. The order puts to an end the high-profile case that resulted in an opinion last summer from the Florida Third District Court of Appeals in favor of Day Pitney client James Alan Hurchalla, in his role as successor trustee of the Janet Reno Revocable Trust.

In her trust, Reno – the former U.S. Attorney General and State Attorney for Miami-Dade County – created a charitable gift for her historically significant homestead property to the University of Miami, on the condition that the property is preserved in perpetuity. After Reno’s passing, the University of Miami declined the gift. The successor trustee, Hurchalla, secured an alternative institution, Miami Dade College, which agreed to accept the property under the same terms and conditions.

To preserve Reno’s charitable intent, Hurchalla filed a petition to modify the trust, pursuant to the cy-près doctrine, which allows for the modification of a trust or will when the original objective of the testator has become impossible, impracticable, or illegal to perform.

In November 2018, Day Pitney obtained a summary judgment approving the transfer from a Miami-Dade Circuit Judge, which was appealed. The Third District Court opinion affirmed the final judgment authorizing the successor trustee to consummate the charitable disposition to Miami Dade College. In doing so, the Court concluded that "…(a) Article VI of the Trust governed the disposition of the Reno Homestead following her death, as the property was still owned by the Trust, and (b) the Successor Trustee's proposed alternative charitable disposition is 'consistent with the settlor’s charitable purposes,' after the originally-proposed charitable gift became impracticable or impossible to achieve."

The Day Pitney team included Alan G. Greer and Charles H. Johnson.


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