IN THE MATTER OF THE FUND FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF SELF RELIANCE, AN IRREVOCABLE TRUST.
THU-LE DOAN, Respondent. DOAN L. PHUNG, Appellant,
from a district court order denying judicial review,
rejecting objections to a probate commissioner's report,
and granting a motion to decant trust assets. Eighth Judicial
District Court, Clark County; Gloria Sturman, Judge.
Mushkin Cica Coppedge and Michael R. Mushkin and L. Joe
Coppedge, Las Vegas, for Appellant.
Goldsmith & Guymon, P.C., and Dara J. Goldsmith and Peter
Co, Las Vegas, for Respondent.
THE COURT EN BANC
issue presented by this appeal is whether the district court
erred in ordering, under NRS 163.556, half of a wholly
charitable trust's property "decanted" (i.e.,
appointed) into a newly created wholly charitable trust with
the same purpose as the original charitable trust, to be
administered solely by one trustee of the original trust,
against the objection of co-trustees. Because the terms of
the trust instrument require the unanimous consent of all
trustees to make a distribution of half of the trust's
assets, the district court erred by ordering the wholly
charitable trust decanted under NRS 163.556.
relevant part under NRS 163.556(1), "a trustee" who
has "discretion or authority to distribute" trust
property (income or principal) "to or for"
beneficiaries "may" appoint or distribute trust
property to a newly created second trust, "unless the
terms of. . . [the] irrevocable trust provide
otherwise." Respondent Thu-Le Doan argued, and the
district court agreed, that this statute authorized the
district court to order half of the property of the
charitable trust, The Fund for the Encouragement of Self
Reliance, decanted into a newly created charitable trust with
the same purpose as the original. Appellant Doan L. Phung
argues that this was reversible error because "[n]owhere
in the Charter is 'a trustee' allowed to invade the
assets without the permission of the Board." (Emphasis
added.) We agree with Phung.
the language of a statute is plain and unambiguous," we
"give that language its ordinary meaning and [do] not go
beyond it." Coast Hotels & Casinos, Inc. v. Nev.
State Labor Comm'n, 117 Nev. 835, 840, 34 P.3d 546,
550 (2001). However, this court "construe[s] statutes to
give meaning to all of their parts and language, and this
court will read each sentence, phrase, and word to render it
meaningful within the context of the purpose of the
legislation." Harris Assocs. v. Clark Cty, Sch.
Dist., 119 Nev, 638, 642, 81 P.3d 532, 534 (2003)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
the statute's plain language provides that "a
trustee" may decant if he or she has discretionary
distribution powers, NRS 163.556(1), "trustee" is a
statutorily defined term for trusts generally and charitable
trusts specifically. For charitable trusts, like the one at
issue here, "trustee" is not limited to a singular
person, but rather includes "a trustee,
trustees, person or persons possessing a
power or powers referred to in [the Charitable Trust
Act]." NRS 163.500 (emphasis added); see also
NRS 132.355 (generally, "trustee" "includes an
original, additional or successor trustee, whether
or not appointed or confirmed by a court") (emphasis
added). Thus, because the statute's phrase "a
trustee" contemplates action by multiple trustees, and
because the right under NRS 163.556(1) is subject to the
terms of the trust instrument, we must address whether the
terms of the trust instrument permit a trustee to make a
construe trusts in a manner effecting the apparent intent of
the settlor." In re Connell Living Tr., 134
Nev., Adv. Op. 73, 426 P.3d 599, 602 (2018). Here, the
relevant section of the trust instrument provides:
"Trustees . . . may, in their
discretion," (emphasis added) manage trust property and
income. By its plain language, the trust instrument therefore
gives the "trustees" power to manage trust funds
only in "their" unanimous discretion; it does
not give a trustee power to manage trust
funds in his or her unilateral discretion.
the absence of statute or contrary direction in the trust
instrument!, ] [t]he trustees are regarded as a unit."
George Gleason Bogert, Law of Trusts and Trustees
§ 554 (2d rev. ed. 1980). "They hold their powers
as a group so that their authority can be exercised only by
the action of all the trustees." Id. Because
the trust instrument does not provide that a trustee may
unilaterally distribute trust property, unanimous action by
the trustees would be required to exercise the decanting
right under the statute. See NRS 163.556(1) ("a
trustee with discretion or authority to
distribute" may exercise the statutory decanting
right) (emphasis added).
district court erred in ordering a course of action that the
trust instrument did not permit and the settlors did not
intend. We therefore reverse the district
court's order granting Doan's motion to decant the
trust and remand the matter for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
concur: Gibbons, C.J., Hardesty, J., Parraguirre, J.,