Hoag Unitrust v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (8/18/2015)

August 26, 2015

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that foreign trustee is not subject to personal jurisdiction merely by accepting trusteeship of trust that was previously administered in Arizona.

A plaintiff contended that an Arizona court could exercise personal jurisdiction over a foreign trustee when that trustee took over administration of a trust that was previously administered in Arizona.  The superior court denied the trustee’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. 

On special action review, the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the court could not exercise jurisdiction. 

A.R.S. § 14-10202(A) governs personal jurisdiction over trustees.  Under that statute, a trustee is subject to personal jurisdiction in Arizona by serving as the trustee of a trust with its principal place of administration in Arizona, by moving the place of administration to Arizona, or by voluntarily declaring its acceptance of jurisdiction in Arizona.

Because that statute states the requirements in present tense, the Court of Appeals rejected the argument that the previous place of administration could be used to assert jurisdiction over a trustee once administration of the trust had moved away from Arizona. 

The Court of Appeals also rejected the assertion of jurisdiction under ordinary principles of specific jurisdiction.  The trustee’s primary contacts with Arizona involved sending payments and documents to an individual in Arizona.  Applying the familiar “minimum contacts” test, the Court held that those contacts are not sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction in an action not related to those contacts.

Judge Gould authored the opinion; Judges Orozco and Swann joined.