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Will food magnate’s trust land in Florida probate court?

One food magnate’s estate has incited intense arguments between his beneficiaries and the estate’s trustees. The trustees claim that since most of the assets are in Florida, it makes sense to go through probate court here. The food magnate’s grown children claim that since they live in Minnesota, the trust should be resolved in courts there.

In addition, the grown children want to fire the current trustees and instead hire the trustees who managed their parents’ estate for 35 years. This issue seems to stem from the fact that the new trustees were named six weeks before the food magnate and his wife died (within four days of each other). His children claim that he was not in a right state of mind when he approved this change of trustees.

Determining where the trust will go through probate court is the primary issue at the moment. One key difference between Florida and Minnesota probate courts could influence whether or not the new trustees are fired. In Minnesota, if all adult beneficiaries agree to remove a trustee, the trustee can be removed. However, in Florida, all beneficiaries, including minors, must agree to remove a trustee. Minors’ parents get to speak for their children in this situation.

At least one parent of a minor beneficiary disagrees with removing the new trustees from the trust. So, if the trust goes through Florida courts, the children may not be able to fire the trustees. However, if the case goes to court in Minnesota, the old trustees could be rehired in place of the new trustees.

As the trusts contain approximately $100 million worth of assets, decisions relating to managing the trusts are quite important to the beneficiaries. This family’s situation demonstrates the importance of selecting trustees carefully.

Finding a strong probate attorney is also important, as his or her knowledge of probate laws and estate planning methods could influence the outcome for beneficiaries. As this family’s probate experience shows, probate can be very stressful, so having an attorney who will work hard is critical.

Source: Star Tribune, “Jeno Paulucci money in nasty court dispute,” Abby Simons, Oct. 20, 2012

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