Nov 1, 2012

Two states involved in food tycoon's estate battle

A new estate battle is capturing public attention. As often is the case, it involves questions about  undue influence. What's not so usual is that the conflict is unfolding in two states: Minnesota and Florida.
You may not know the late Jeno Paulucci by name, but you probably know the products his company has produced: Jeno's Pizza Rolls and Chun King foods, to name just a few. The Minnesota native and his wife died last year, leaving trusts with a combined value of over $100 million.
According to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, just weeks before their deaths, the Pauluccis removed the Minnesota attorneys who had been their longtime trustees. They were replaced by Floridians Larry Nelson, longtime president of Paulucci International, and David Simmons, the Florida State Senate majority whip. 
The couple's children want the former trustees reinstated, claiming that their parents were manipulated to remove them. Nelson and Simmons argue that they were appointed because the Pauluccis believed that they would be better stewards of the money, and point out the the majority of the assets are located in Florida, not Minnesota.
But before any of this gets resolved, the case first must slog through the issue of what state gets to handle the dispute. That's critically important to all sides because probate laws differ in the two states. Minnesota law permits trustees to be removed if the adult beneficiaries consent. In contrast, Florida requires the consent of both the adult beneficiaries and the minor beneficiaries (with the minors' parents representing them). The Star Tribune reports that one parent of one of the minor beneficiaries, a Florida resident, objects to the removal of the current trustees. As yet, the venue has not been set.
This conflict demonstrates that first, the creation and execution of your estate planning documents must be orchestrated with every "t" crossed and "i" dotted. That makes it more difficult for anyone to contend that you were manipulated. Second, the case is a real-life answer to the question I am often asked, "Should my estate plan from another state be changed, now that I live in Florida?"   The answer is, there are many difference in laws among states, so it behooves you to have your existing estate plan reviewed by an experienced Florida estate planning attorney.

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