Even though wills and the manner an estate is distributed are supposed to be final wishes upon a person’s death, heirs often do not agree with that determination, causing court battles over estates that can last years. In the continuation to a decade’s long family feud, DJ Steve Aoki, 42, and his model/actress sister Devon Aoki, 36, heirs to the Benihana fortune, are suing to remove their stepmom as trustee of their estimated $50 million trust fund. Benihana, a highly successful Japanese steakhouse chain, is the brainchild of Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki. Because Rocky had some insider trader charges against him, he was advised to put his Benihana assets into a trust. When he married Keiko Aoki, the children wanted him to have her sign a post nuptial agreement but she would not. The children wanted Rocky to make them sole beneficiaries to his trust, but he rewrote his will giving Keiko control over how to disburse 75% of his estate after his death. The children have now filed an action in New York Surrogate’s Court to remove Keiko as trustee under the accusation that she is wasting away millions of dollars of their inheritance on frivolous litigation.
In order for her to be removed the family will need to prove breaches of trust that justify her removal. “A trustee has fiduciary duties of loyalty and care that are owed to the beneficiaries.”
Removing a trustee.
In New York, the process typically begins by filing paperwork with the appropriate Surrogate’s Court to commence removal proceedings. Only certain people may initiate these proceedings, typically including co-trustee, creditors, interested parties, a party representing an infant and surety on the bond of a trustee. A competent legal professional can assist with this action. Provisions may already be part of the trustee agreement by which beneficiaries can remove a trustee in certain circumstances, such as if a majority of them believe doing so is in the best interests of the estate. Providing for an alternate preferred trustee in the case of such removal can help your beneficiaries expedite the process.
Seek legal counsel.
The process of naming responsible trustees and beneficiaries without causing negative consequence may seem burdensome, but a solid estate plan can be accomplished with the assistance of seasoned legal counsel who understand the state and federal laws that will impact the way your will is administered, and the negative consequences to families when distrust seeps in. Contact Attorney Ron Meyers with questions regarding the removal of trustees to an estate in New York.
Ron L. Meyers & Associates, PLLC
Address: 475 Park Avenue South, Suite 2100
Manhattan, NY 10016