The Princess and the Trust

 Q: Can a trustee be removed due to lack of mental capacity?

Historically, princesses have been portrayed as being surrounded by riches and being accustomed to having their own way. But estate planning attorneys can tell you, they are subject to the same rules as everyone else when it comes to their trusts and estates.

Recently, a wealthy 92-year-old Hawaiian woman, believed to be the last descendant of Hawaiian royalty that ruled the island before 1893 found herself in court with a judge stripping her of control of a living trust worth $215 million.

Apparently, after the princess had a stroke, her longtime attorney reportedly became concerned about her mental capacity to continue to serve as the trustee of the trust and advised her that he wanted to take over those trustee duties. He claims she disagreed and engaged in “uncharacteristic” decision-making which included firing him, hiring a new attorney, and marrying her much younger partner whom she wanted to name as the successor trustee.

Reportedly, the former attorney and domestic staff members testified regarding alleged suspected and/or observed physical and financial elder abuse by the princess’s now-wife. The judge found the elderly woman “was able to decide that she wanted a trustee replaced, but that it was more complicated to appoint someone new and he didn’t find her capable of managing her financial assets”. So, the former attorney was out, but the judge appointed First Hawaiian Bank as trustee in his place, not the wife.

People may use living trusts during their lifetime for a number of different situations. Some of the popular reasons people use a revocable living trust include planning for incapacity and avoiding probate and its associated costs and delays. In a nutshell, the trust takes title to your property while still allowing you to continue to manage your affairs as long as you are still living and able to do so. There are also irrevocable trusts that are used in other situations like long-term care planning, special needs planning, and protecting assets from creditors.

If you are interested in establishing an estate plan, or modifying existing one, Biddle Law can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

From our offices in San Mateo and Belmont, we represent clients throughout California in all aspects of estate planning and administration.