Heiress Kawananakoa's medical issues spark battle over $200M fortune

Heiress Kawananakoa's medical issues spark battle over $200 million fortune
Published: Aug. 9, 2017 at 11:14 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 10, 2017 at 9:16 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian royalty descendant and Campbell Estate heiress Abigail Kawananakoa's recent medical problems are triggering a legal battle over her $200 million trust, and some say that's placing her charitable and social causes for Native Hawaiians in jeopardy.

Attorneys for her trust said in court papers that the 92-year-old recently suffered a stroke, leaving her unable to care for herself. Based on her health problems, state Probate Judge Mark Browning recently removed her from her trust and replaced her with her longtime attorney James Wright.

Sources said Kawananakoa was in the neuro-intensive care at Queens Medical Center for about a week and that her doctor found her unable to manage her own financial affairs.

"(Kawananakoa) is impaired as a result of an acute stroke … unable to meet essential requirements of physical health, safety, self-care or financial matters," lawyer Frank Kanemitsu wrote in court papers.

But Kawananakoa's partner of more than two decades, Veronica Gail Worth, is seeking to contest the order. Her attorney Michael Rudy said a medical exam by a panel of experts they hired found that she did not suffer a stroke.

"Miss Kawananakoa is in excellent mental and physical condition," said Rudy.

"She did not have a stroke."

Rudy said he will ask Wright to voluntarily remove himself from the trust. If that doesn't happen, he will seek to reverse Browning's order.

We're told that the 63-year-old Worth is a beneficiary of the Kawananakoa estate and receives about $700,000 a year from the heiress. Sources said she is seeking tens of millions from the trust. But her attorneys denied that.

Some worry that any large payouts could undue Kawananakoa's support of social and charitable causes for Native Hawaiians.

She's a big backer of Iolani Palace and a number of other Hawaiian movements such as the protests of the Thirty Meter Telescope at Mauna Kea.

"She firmly believes as a royal that one of her duties is to take care of Native Hawaiian people," said former state Sen. Clayton Hee.

Although Kawananakoa traces her ancestry to Queen Emma and King David Kalakaua, the source of her wealth is the Campbell Estate.

She is the great-granddaughter of James Campbell and in 2007 when the trust dissolved, she inherited about one-eighth of the $2 billion trust, or about $250 million.

Today, her net worth is estimated at around $200 million but most of it is not in cash but is tried up in stock of the estate's successor James Campbell Co.

Despite these assets, her trust's lawyers said she still faces financial problems.

Kanemitsu said she owes $4.6 million on her 2016 and 2017 federal taxes. She also has to pay back a $6.5 million loan in October. Right now, her trust seeking to sell some of her James Campbell stock.

"An emergency exists to the extent that (Kawananakoa's) cash flow is insufficient to meet her financial obligations," Kanemitsu wrote.

Worth's attorney denied that Kawananakoa is in financial trouble.

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