In the real-life story of a Hawaiian princess, a judge is pushing back against her wish to change a trust to benefit her wife. There are issues over capacity and validity of the trust, and the proposed future inheritance of $40 million.
Native Hawaiian princess Abigail Kawananakoa is battling with Attorney General Russell Suzuki, who claims that the 92-year-old wants to make changes to her trust that are too complicated and invalid because of a prior court rule. The story was reported in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and updated in an article from The Clay Center Dispatch, “Attorney general opposes Hawaiian princess' trust amendment.”
Judge Robert Browning ruled last fall that Kawananakoa doesn’t have the mental capacity to manage her $215 million trust, after she suffered a stroke in 2017. The judge appointed First Hawaiian Bank to serve as trustee and removed Jim Wright, her longtime attorney who stepped in as trustee following her stroke.
Kawananakoa has indicated that she is feeling okay. She fired attorney Wright and then married Veronica Gail Worth—her girlfriend of 20 years.
Kawananakoa is considered a princess, because she is a descendant of the family that ruled the islands before the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893.
The princess inherited her wealth as the great-granddaughter of James Campbell, an Irish businessman who made his fortune as a sugar plantation owner and one of the state’s largest landowners.
The Hawaiian princess says she also wants to create a foundation to benefit Hawaiians and exclude board members appointed by Wright. She previously created a foundation to benefit Native Hawaiian causes.
"I will not contribute any further assets to that foundation because I do not want those individuals having anything to do with my trust, my estate and any charitable gifts I make during my lifetime or at my passing," she said in the amended trust.
Her current foundation has requested a judge to appoint a guardian for Kawananakoa.
In his filing, Attorney General Suzuki wrote that the proposed changes will substantially alter the estate plan Kawananakoa executed, before her mental capacity came into question.
In this case, the state represents the public interest in the protection of the trust's charitable assets, Suzuki said.
Next month there will be a court hearing on the trust amendment.
Changes to trusts made late in life are often subject to scrutiny, especially when significant assets are involved. It is important that someone who wants to make a change, do so with an experienced estate planning attorney and be prepared for challenges.
Reference: The Clay Center Dispatch (January 3, 2019) “Attorney general opposes Hawaiian princess' trust amendment”