Because Trust Wasn’t Injured by Alleged Failure to Clarify Easement Right of Real Property that the Trust did not own, the Master Recommends that the Trust’s Claims Related to that Easement be Dismissed

William V. Erhlich, Jr., Trustee of the William V. Ehrlich Trust U/W/D May 5, 1977, as Amended v. Jeffrey Ehrlich and Vinn, LLC C.A. No. 11364-MA (July 25, 2016)

The trustee of a Trust distributed real property to a beneficiary. Before the property was distributed, the trustee asked the beneficiary to execute a confirmatory easement in order to clarify an easement held by a neighboring property and to provide notice to subsequent buyers. No confirmatory easement was ever executed despite numerous attempts by the parties’ attorneys to address the issue. According to the Petition, the Trustee, in his capacity as trustee, made the final distribution of the Trust on December 5, 2013, conveying the property at issue to the beneficiary free and clear of trust with the belief and understanding that the beneficiary would address the easement issue after the property was distributed to him. However, the beneficiary refused to engage in any further discussions.

Among other things, the Trustee sought: (1) a declaration that beneficiary’s parcel remains subject to the easement; and (2) the return of the real property to the Trust so that the trustee could distribute a corrected deed for the parcel reflecting the easement. The beneficiary moved to dismiss.

The Master concluded that the Trust lacked standing to bring the claims. The Master concluded that the owner of the neighboring property has the legally protected interest at issue and, thus, the claims are its to bring, if it so chooses. In making an allowance for the owner of the neighboring parcel to file the claims, the Master explained that “Court of Chancery Rule 17 provides that no action shall be dismissed on the ground that it is not prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest until a reasonable time has been allowed for the substitution of such party.” The Master recommended an allowance of 90 days for that to happen in this case.


William M. Kelleher, Director
Gordon, Fournaris & Mammarella, P.A.