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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Alfred Fate Keisling and Frankye Keisling married on April 26, 1997, in Ruidoso, N.M., and stayed married until Fate’s death on July 25, 2000. Alfred and Frankye had both been in prior long-term marriages. Before marrying Alfred, Frankye worked at Huff’s Furniture Galleries for 32 years, starting out as a secretary and eventually becoming a licensed interior designer. After marrying Alfred, Frankye quit working, because Alfred wanted her to travel with him. Frankye was earning a salary of approximately $70,000 a year when she stopped working. Prior to marrying, Alfred and Frankye entered into a prenuptial agreement. At the time of their marriage, Alfred had significantly more assets than Frankye; Alfred’s assets were in excess of $1.3 million while Frankye’s were approximately $300,000. Although Alfred and Frankye signed a prenuptial agreement, Alfred agreed to provide for the couple’s standard of living and to pay Frankye’s mortgage, property taxes and costs of repairs and maintenance for Frankye’s home in Wichita Falls. Alfred also granted Frankye a life estate in his Ruidoso cabin. During their three-year marriage, Alfred and Frankye enjoyed a high standard of living. They maintained homes in Wichita Falls and Lubbock, and also a cabin in Ruidoso. They had five vehicles, went on cruises to Alaska and Panama, and traveled throughout Texas and to Washington, D.C. Before he died, Alfred also planned a trip for them to Carmel, Calif. Alfred died on July 25, 2000, leaving a testamentary trust for the benefit of Frankye and his children from his earlier marriage. Except for personal effects and nontestamentary transfers, Alfred’s entire estate passed to the trust, including all of his interests in real property. Lynn Landrum was good friends with Alfred and his first wife, Jeanie Keisling, who died a year before Alfred married Frankye. Lynn served as the executor of Alfred’s estate and as the trustee of Alfred’s trust. After Alfred died, Lynn made no trust distributions to Frankye, reasoning that Frankye was not entitled to distributions until she exhausted all of her other financial resources, which included everything save one home and one vehicle. Having received no trust income or principal distributions, Frankye filed suit on May 31, 2002, under the Texas Declaratory Judgment Act and the Texas Trust Code for the court to declare the terms of the trust and the distributions to be made to her. Frankye also joined Alfred’s children as interested parties. After hearing evidence from both parties, the trial court determined that the trust language was ambiguous and that Alfred had not intended for Frankye to receive distributions from the trust until she had exhausted all of her other financial resources. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. If the language of a trust instrument, the court stated, is unambiguous and expresses the intention of the maker, it is unnecessary to construe the instrument, because it speaks for itself. In such a situation, the court stated, a trustee’s powers are conferred by the instrument, and neither the trustee nor the courts can add to or take away from such powers but must permit it to stand as written and give to it only such construction as the trustor intended. The court found Alfred’s trust unambiguous in its intent to maintain Frankye in the standard of living to which Frankye was accustomed at his death. Alfred, the court stated, designed the trust to provide Frankye with a comfortable lifestyle, which included multiple vehicles, at least one vacation each year and other reasonable luxuries. The court noted that Lynn, the trustee, had a responsibility to distribute the trust’s income and principal to Frankye to maintain her in the lifestyle to which she is accustomed but also recognized that Lynn has a competing responsibility to manage the trust prudently and responsibly to preserve it for her future support and maintenance. The court further noted that the trust instrument did not state that Lynn must give in to Frankye’s every support and maintenance whim but stated that income and principal from the trust shall be distributed to Frankye to support and maintain her if Frankye’s income does not suffice. Because the trust’s purpose is to provide for Frankye’s high standard of living both now and in the future, the court stated that Lynn is required to use his discretion in distributing funds so that the trust is not depleted rapidly and wastefully. Lynn, the court stated, must exercise his discretion to distribute trust income and corpus to Frankye after considering her lifestyle needs, age, health, income and size of the trust estate. In remanding the matter back to the trial court, the court also stated that Lynn must pay Frankye’s attorneys’ fees. OPINION:Livingston, J.; Livingston, Holman and Walker, J.J.

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