Monday, March 31, 2014
On November 10, 2011, Derek Morris fatally shot himself and his six-year-old daughter at their North Carolina home. Sarah Morris, who was first to discover her family, sued her husband Derek’s estate on behalf of their daughter for wrongful death.
At the center of this probate dispute was a trust created by Derek nearly a decade prior to marrying Sarah. The trust served to manage Derek’s settlement funds after he and his family had been injured in a car accident. As the sole surviving trustee, Derek’s mother, Martha, claimed that the money should go to Derek’s siblings rather than Sarah. The Georgia Court of Appeals held that the trust fund had passed to Martha as trustee and was not part of Derek’s estate for probate purposes. The court declined Sarah’s attempt to apply North Carolina law, holding “Georgia’s relationship to the trust is more significant than that of North Carolina.”
See Jeff D. Gorman, Trust Access Unavailable to Woman After Tragedy, Courthouse News Service, March 27, 2014.