Judge rejects Kawananakoa’s request to regain control over her multi-million dollar trust
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A state judge Monday rejected Hawaiian royalty descendant Abigail Kawananakoa's request to regain control of her $215 million fortune.
In a landmark ruling, state Probate Judge Mark Browning denied Kawananakoa's and her wife Veronica Gail Worth's request to appoint Worth and two other supporters to manage her trust, saying Kawananakoa still does not have the capacity to manage her financial affairs.
He also removed the heiress's trustee, longtime former attorney James Wright, and replaced him with First Hawaiian Bank.
"It is clear and convincing that Miss Kawananakoa lacks financial capacity and cannot understand or appreciate the consequences of appointing a successor trustee," Browning said.
Kawananakoa's attorney disagreed.
"She knows what she's doing. In my mind she's very competent," said Michael Lilly, Kawananakoa's attorney.
After suffering a stroke-like attack last year, the 92-year-old heiress was removed as head of her own trust and was replaced by her longtime attorney James Wright.
Kawananakoa and her wife then sued to remove Wright, saying he mismanaged the trust. But he has alleged in court papers that Worth was exerting undue influence on Kawananakoa and would deplete her trust if given control.
In removing Wright, Browning said:
"It's abundant from the record that Miss Kawananakoa has a deep-rooted dislike and distrust for Mr. Wright," he said.
"That is not a judgment or statement to reflect on Mr. Wright's character."
Attorneys for Worth and Kawananakoa said they're looking at their legal options but wouldn't say yet if they'd appeal.
"She (Worth) is disappointed. I think she thought the court would respect Miss Kawananakoa's wishes. Mr. Lilly and I thought the court would respect Miss Kawananakoa's wishes," said Michael Rudy, Worth's attorney.
The ruling does not leave Kawananakoa impoverished. She still receives more than $400,000 a month from the income on her investments in her trust.
The Abigail Kawananakoa Foundation -- which will receive much of the heiress's money after she dies -- said Browning made the right call.
"I think the most important thing is that the judge realizes that Abigail Kawananakoa needs to be protected. That he's got her best interest at heart," said foundation director Lilikala Kameeleihiwa, a University of Hawaii Hawaiian Studies professor.
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