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Land sale may mark the end of nation's oldest trust

Twin Cities readers may recall a story from earlier this year involving the administration of a colonial-era trust and the surrounding controversy that divided a historical seaside town. The recent sale of the trust's assets may be the final act that permanently dissolves the nation's oldest functioning trust, but local opponents of the move say that they will not let the sale put an end to the ongoing trust dispute.

The 351-year-old trust began to crumble in 2006 with a dispute between trustees and tenants of the trust property. Since the controversy over rental proceeds began, the trust has not fulfilled its original purpose of generating funding for local public schools.

The trustees petitioned the court to let them dissolve the trust in order to settle the ongoing legal battle with the tenants, but some community members blame poor management for the trust's downward spiral. Opponents of dissolution have urged the court to give the trust another chance under professional oversight.

Under the terms of a court order, the sale of the trust property should mark the end of the original trust and proceeds of the sale should go to fund a new trust. The new trust would deliver almost $2.5 million to local public schools in its first three years, but a local citizens' group says the property sold for far less than its actual value. They insist that the sale of the land violates the intent of the grantor, William Payne, when he executed the trust in 1660.

As it stands, the school district may have to wait some time before it sees any funds from the trust. Trustees say they will not spend any funds until the trust litigation is settled once and for all. The citizens' group says it will petition the state's Supreme Court to review the lower court's decision.

Source: The Salem News, "Ipswich's Little Neck sold for $31.4M," Paul Leighton, August 16, 2012

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