Trustee's Attempt to Evade Service Rejected

Trustee's Attempt to Evad…

In a case of first impression, Illinois’ Third District Appellate Court recently affirmed the judgment of a Grundy County trial court in favor of the trustee of one trust against the trustee of another trust, rejecting the defendant trustee’s attempt to evade service of process.

The case of McArdle v. Christensen involved a real estate transaction wherein Phillip McCardle, as trustee of the Barbara M. McArdle Trust (McCardle Trust), entered into a contract to sell 31.53 acres of real estate to Tad Christensen, as trustee of the Raymond H. Christensen Trust and the Beverly J. Christensen Trust (collectively, Christensen Trusts).

Even though there was a space for Christensen to list his address on the real estate sale contract, Christensen left that line blank when he signed the contract. He did, however, provide two checks for his earnest money deposit (one from each of the Christensen trusts) which listed an address in Orland Park as the trusts’ address. McArdle filed a lawsuit against Christensen, in his capacity as trustee, for breach of contract and to quiet title on the property.

Two separate summonses were issued for Christensen, as trustee of each trust, listing the Orland Park addresses on each. The Cook County Sheriff served the summonses at the Orland Park address on a 65-year-old white female (Christensen’s mother, who was alleged to be the settlor of one of the Christensen trusts and the beneficiary of the other), and executed an affidavit that complied with Illinois’ requirement for substitute service.

After Christensen failed to appear in the lawsuit, a default judgment was entered against him. He then moved to quash service, arguing that substitute service at the Orland Park address was improper because he did not live there. In order to serve a summons on an individual, Illinois law requires the summons to be left “at the defendant’s usual place of abode” with a person at least 13 years old who also resides there.

McArdle responded that service was proper because Christensen was not being sued in his individual capacity, but rather as trustee. Therefore, the service requirements set out for corporations or other voluntary unincorporated associations should apply, he argued.

The appellate court agreed that the Orland Park address was an appropriate place for the trust to be served: “we believe that service of summons on the trustee as an individual at the address of the entity being sued (the trust) is an appropriate method of giving notice to the trust that it is being sued, especially where, as here, the address of the trust is the only one that has been provided by the trustee.” The judgment against Christensen was affirmed.

Categories: Contested Estates