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Sporting-goods in-laws fighting over spending from trust

Many families collapse into disarray after the death of a loved one. While much of this is due to family members trying to come to grips on the loss of a husband, brother or father, for example, after some time it often comes down to financial matters. It can be a source of conflict, for example, if a trustee is having a personal conflict with a trust beneficiary.

This is the situation playing out for a family with a famous name in our city: Modell. Modell's is a sporting-goods institution in the city, and now the company CEO is battling with his sister-in-law over the trust set up by his late brother.

Michael Modell died in 2001 of cancer, and he set up a trust to provide for his wife Abby and their three children. He made his brother Mitchell, now the CEO of Modell's, the trustee of his estate -- an act Mitchell says was an attempt to curb Abby's spending.

Abby, however, is suing Mitchell, saying that he is using company money to pay for unnecessary luxuries for himself, such as a $100,000 steak dinner. Mitchell, however, says that Abby has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges on company credit cards -- even though she hasn't ever been a company employee.

While this dispute is over large amounts of money, even estates involving much smaller assets can be the subject of family squabbles. It may be important to have an experienced attorney on board, maybe to act as a trustee himself or herself, to help ward off some of these issues.

Source: New York Post, "Modell's president hits back at sister-in-law over spending," Julia Marsh, May 3, 2014

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