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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Mother of twin heiresses reportedly dodging questions over trust

When Minnesota residents set up a trust, they appoint a trustee to be in charge of the principal assets to provide for the beneficiaries. The trustee has a fiduciary duty to the trust, to ensure that it is financially solvent, so that it can provide for the beneficiaries where they need it.

The mother of the teenage twin heiresses to the fortune of tobacco heiress Doris Duke has been engaged in an extended court dispute with the trustees who were appointed to look after the girls' inheritance. The terms of the trusts reportedly allow her to withdraw funds on an emergency basis, but the trustees accuse her of abusing that right. The trustees accuse the mother of taking more than $1 million out of the girls' trusts for her own benefit. The trusts reportedly hold $14 million for each of the girls. They won't be able to have their full inheritance until they turn 21, when they could be worth a combined $500 million.

Reports have also surfaced that the mother tried to use the girls' money to buy herself a $29 million ranch and other property. She has been ordered to appear in court to answer their accusations, but according to recent reports she didn't show up for a scheduled hearing in late June and has been dodging process servers ever since in an effort to avoid testifying.

There can be a lot of competing interests at work when Minnesota families get into trust disputes. The trustee has a duty to maintain the trust for the beneficiaries as determined by the person who settled the trust; the beneficiaries may have disputes with each other or with the trustee; there may be multiple generations of beneficiaries. The fights can get very complicated. Minnesota residents who have been treated unfairly in a dispute over a trust should seek out help understanding their legal rights and options.

Source: NJ.com, "Report: Doris Duke heirs' mom, accused of draining daughters' trust fund, trying to avoid court," Meghan D. Hodgin, July 10, 2013

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