One provision of a living trust says that, if both trust settlors are alive, either may withdraw property from the trust. Another provision says that, after one settlor dies, the other is to act as trustee alone. Thus, there is an ambiguity in the trust, i.e., whether, after her husband and co-trustee died, the surviving trustee could withdraw property from the trust.
Appellant argues that the trust’s ambiguity is a patent one, and our courts traditionally submitted only latent ambiguities to the jury. However, in recent years, our Supreme Court has seemingly discarded the distinction between patent and latent ambiguities in determining whether the interpretation of a document is for the court or the jury. We follow the Supreme Court’s recent trend and its analyses in Williams v. Government Employees Insurance Co., 409 S.C. 586, 762 S.E.2d 705 (2014), and S.C. Dep’t of Natural Res. v. Town of McClellanville, 345 S.C. 617, 550 S.E.2d 299 (2001), and find the patent ambiguity in the trust presented a question of fact for the jury.
We affirm judgment for defendants.
Harbin v. Williams (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-096-19, 7 pp.) (Paula Thomas, J.) Appealed from the Circuit Court in Greenwood County (Donald Hocker, J.) Charles Watson for appellant; Donna Jackson for respondent. S.C. App.