of Appellate Courts Court of Appeals
A. Sortland, Sortland Law Office, PLLC, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, for respondent/cross-appellant.
J. Ferguson, Stephen M. Warner, Arthur, Chapman, Kettering,
Smetak & Pikala, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for
personal representative of a decedent's estate does not
have standing to pursue a cause of action for legal
malpractice against the decedent's estate-planning
attorneys if no cause of action accrued to the decedent
before the decedent's death.
entity, in its capacity as trustee of a decedent's trust,
does not have standing to pursue a cause of action for legal
malpractice against the decedent's estate-planning
attorneys if the entity was not a direct and intended
beneficiary of the estate-planning services.
case arises out of a district court order granting a motion
for judgment on the pleadings. Respondent/cross-appellant
Security Bank & Trust Company ("Security Bank")
sued appellant/cross-respondent Larkin, Hoffman, Daly &
Lindgren, Ltd. ("Larkin"), alleging legal
malpractice related to estate-planning services for deceased
client Gordon P. Savoie. Security Bank, as trustee and
personal representative of Savoie's estate, alleged that
Larkin failed to advise Savoie that his estate would be
subject to a substantial generation-skipping transfer tax
upon a distribution to a beneficiary who was more than 37.5
years younger than him. The district court granted
Larkin's motion for judgment on the pleadings because it
determined that Security Bank lacked standing both in its
capacity as personal representative of Savoie's estate
and in its capacity as trustee of the Gordon P. Savoie
Revocable Trust. The court of appeals reversed and remanded,
concluding that Security Bank had standing as personal
representative of the estate because a cause of action for
legal malpractice accrued to Savoie during his lifetime, and
thus survived to Security Bank. Because we agree with the
district court, we reverse the court of appeals.
drafted a will and revocable trust agreement for Gordon P.
Savoie in 2009. Following a number of specific bequests,
Article 7 of the trust agreement directed that 45 percent of
the remaining trust assets be distributed to a beneficiary
who was more than 37.5 years younger than Savoie. As a
result, the distribution was subject to a generation-skipping
transfer tax totaling about $1.654 million. See 26
U.S.C. §§ 2601-03, 2611, 2651(d) (2012).
Savoie's death, Security Bank was appointed trustee and
personal representative of Savoie's estate. In these
capacities, Security Bank sued Larkin for legal malpractice.
Security Bank alleged that Larkin never advised Savoie of the
generation-skipping transfer tax, nor discussed with him
options for reducing the tax burden to the estate.
moved for judgment on the pleadings under Minn. R. Civ. P.
12.03. Larkin argued that Security Bank lacked standing as
personal representative of Savoie's estate to bring an
action for legal malpractice because no cause of action
accrued during Savoie's lifetime. Larkin also argued that
Security Bank lacked standing as trustee of the Gordon P.
Savoie Revocable Trust because Larkin had no attorney-client
relationship with Security Bank in that capacity.
district court granted Larkin's motion. The court applied
the "some damage" rule of accrual discussed in
Antone v. Mirviss, 720 N.W.2d 331 (Minn. 2006). The
court determined that "some damage" did not occur
until after Savoie's death, at the point when the estate
became liable for the generation-skipping tax. Thus, as no
cause of action accrued during Savoie's lifetime, no
cause of action survived to Security Bank as personal
representative. Further, the court held that Security Bank
did not have standing as trustee because it did not have an
attorney-client relationship with Larkin, and was not a
direct and intended beneficiary of Larkin's relationship
published decision, the court of appeals reversed.
Security Bank & Trust Co. v. Larkin, Hoffman, Daly
& Lindgren, Ltd., 897 N.W.2d 821, 828 (Minn.App.
2017). The court agreed with the district court that, for a
claim of legal malpractice to survive to a client's
personal representative after death, the cause of action must
accrue during the client's life. Id. at 824-25
(citing Minn. Stat. § 524.3-703(c) (2016)). The court
interpreted Antone's requirement of "some
damage" to include "reliance" on an
attorney's allegedly negligent advice. Id. at
825-27. Accordingly, the court concluded that "some
damage" occurred when Savoie executed the will and trust
because he relied on the allegedly negligent advice of the
attorneys "to the detriment of [his] legal rights."
Id. at 826-27. Therefore, the court held, the cause
of action accrued to Savoie before his death, and Security
Bank had standing to pursue the claim on behalf of the estate
as personal representative. Id. at 827. Because the
court determined that Security Bank had standing as personal
representative, the court did not address whether Security
Bank had standing as trustee. Id. at 828.
granted Larkin's petition for further review on the issue
of whether the cause of action accrued before Savoie's
death. We also granted Security Bank's request for
cross-review. Security Bank argues that the court of appeals
incorrectly concluded that, if no cause of action for legal
malpractice accrues during a client's lifetime, "no
cause of action exists to which a personal representative may
succeed after the client's death[.]" Id. at
825. Security Bank also renews its argument that it has
standing as trustee of the Gordon P. Savoie Revocable Trust
to sue Larkin for negligent preparation of the
review a district court's grant of a motion for judgment
on the pleadings "to determine whether 'the
complaint sets forth a legally sufficient claim for
relief.'" Burt v. Rackner, Inc.,
902 N.W.2d 448, 451 (Minn. 2017) (quoting Zutz v.
Nelson, 788 N.W.2d 58, 61 (Minn. 2010)). In considering
whether the district court properly granted the motion,
"we 'consider only the facts alleged in the
complaint, accepting those facts as true and drawing all
reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving
party.'" Id. Whether a complaint sets forth
a legally sufficient claim for relief is a question of law
that we review de novo. Walsh v. U.S. Bank, N.A.,
851 N.W.2d 598, 606 (Minn. 2014).
Security Bank to bring a cause of action for legal
malpractice, Security Bank must have standing to bring the
action in the first instance. See In re Petition for
Improvement of Cty. Ditch No. 86, 625 N.W.2d 813, 817
(Minn. 2001) ("Standing is a prerequisite to a
court's exercise of jurisdiction."). Standing is the
"requirement that a party have a sufficient stake in a
justiciable controversy." McCaughtry v. City of Red
Wing, 808 N.W.2d 331, 338 (Minn. 2011) (citation
omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). A party may
acquire standing either as the beneficiary of a statutory
grant of standing or by suffering an
"injury-in-fact." Webb Golden Valley, LLC v.
State, 865 N.W.2d 689, 693 (Minn. 2015). Further, in the
legal-malpractice context, a non-client third party must