Trustees have certain responsibilities when they are in charge of funds that are designated for a family and their heirs. While the money is not theirs, they have the responsibility to see it is used and dispersed as is set up and defined in the trust. One trust that was being overseen by three trustees is accused of allowing the father of two siblings to completely drain it of funds for his own personal vendetta.
The family trust was apparently set up in 1935. The father, who is now deceased, was a publisher for the Tribune-Review newspapers. The siblings, a brother and sister, claim that the newspaper was just an outlet for their father to carry on a vendetta against the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He believed the publisher of the Gazette had obstructed his efforts to purchase the Pittsburgh Press.
The Tribune-Review was being allegedly being subsidized by the family trust fund. The three trustees of the fund are being sued for approving disbursements of approximately $450 million dollars to the newspaper, totally depleting the family trust fund. Now the battle is to get the owners of the newspaper company, Trib Total Media, to release their financial records. In the latest action, an Allegheny County judge denied the motion. The litigation is not over yet, though.
The brother and sister would have inherited any remaining money from the trust. When a trust is set up, and trustees selected to oversee it, those trustees have a responsibility to see that the funds are used correctly and only as designated as written by the author of the trust. We do not have that information to share, but if these funds were indeed used for other purposes, the heirs are within their right to hold the trustees accountable.
It is extremely important when planning your estate to listen to the advice of your estate attorney when setting up trusts and trustees. Specific wording can ensure that there is no misunderstanding on what funds can be utilized for, and how they are to be dispersed. Trustees are supposed to be held accountable for how the funds are used by providing records to avoid such legal disputes.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Newspapers’ owner must furnish records to Scaife heirs," Rich Lord, Jan. 15, 2016