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Judge rules Abigail Kawananakoa unfit to change her $215 million trust

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Abigail Kawananakoa, right, and her wife Veronica Gail Worth, appeared in state court today. A judge has ruled that a 92-year-old Native Hawaiian heiress doesn’t have sufficient mental capacity to manage her $215 million trust and is appointing First Hawaiian Bank to serve as her trustee.

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Campbell Estate heiress Abigail Kawananakoa today was blocked in her bid to regain control of her $215 million trust.

First Circuit Court Judge R. Mark Browning ruled that Kawananakoa is not mentally capable of changing or revoking her trust and also of firing and replacing its trustee.

He did, however, remove the current trustee, James Wright, and appointed First Hawaiian Bank, pending its approval, as Wright’s successor. The bank was already spelled out as Wright’s successor in the trust’s document. Wright offered to resign as trustee more than a year ago in favor of First Hawaiian.

Browning said he removed Wright because he was persuaded that Kawananakoa doesn’t like her former attorney of nearly 20 years. In any case, he said, the removal of Wright would be in the best interest of Kawananakoa.

Browning said that while Kawananakoa has been proven to have testamentary capacity — or the same level of mental acuity required to make a will — her estate requires a greater level of oversight — that of financial capacity.

In making his ruling, Browning disagreed with the conclusion of the special master he appointed to evaluate the circumstances surrounding the dispute and to determine whether Kawananakoa is competent to manage her trust.

Honolulu Attorney James Kawachika had recommended to Browning that Kawananakoa be declared mentally capable of changing or revoking her trust and also of removing and replacing the trustee.

In a report to the judge, Kawachika urged Browning to explore the possibility of reaching a settlement that would include the voluntary resignation of Wright as successor trustee and the appointment of a trio of co-trustees: Honolulu accountant Warren Duryea, Kawananakoa’s long-time bookkeeper Betty Lou Stroup and Kawananakoa’s wife, Veronica Gail Worth.

But Browning rejected that proposal while agreeing with a Los Angeles psychiatrist who evaluated Kawananakoa. In his independent medical examination, David Trader concluded that Kawananakoa does not have financial capacity and wouldn’t be able to make complex decisions.

After the hearing, attorneys for Kawananakoa and Worth said they would be evaluating whether to appeal the decision.

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