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United States

Hawaiian princess Abigail Kawananakoa leaves US$40 million and Chihuahua to wife amid court battle over trust

  • A messy legal battle is playing out in Hawaii over who should manage the US$215 million trust of a descendant of the family that once ruled the islands
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 11:18am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 8:00pm

A 92-year-old Native Hawaiian princess has changed her trust to ensure her wife receives US$40 million and all her personal property, including her Chihuahua “Girlie Girl”, according to court records.

Abigail Kawananakoa inherited her wealth by being the great-granddaughter of James Campbell, an Irish businessman who made his fortune as a sugar plantation owner and one of Hawaii’s largest landowners.

Native Hawaiians, who consider her a princess because she is a descendant of the family that ruled the islands before the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893, have been closely watching the ongoing legal wrangling over her trust because they are concerned about the fate of the foundation she set up to benefit Hawaiian causes.

Kawananakoa’s lawyers said in court papers filed this week she amended her trust. They want a judge’s approval for the changes amid a court battle after she suffered a stroke.

In September, Judge Robert Browning ruled Kawananakoa lacks the mental capacity to manage her US$215 million trust and appointed First Hawaiian Bank to serve as trustee and removed Jim Wright, her long-time lawyer who stepped in as trustee after last year’s stroke.

Kawananakoa said she is fine, fired Wright and then married Veronica Gail Worth, her girlfriend of 20 years. She attempted to amend her trust to remove Wright and replace him with three others, including Worth.

Removing a trustee is less complex than replacing one, Browning said in not allowing her to select new trustees.

She now wants to create a new foundation that will benefit Hawaiians and exclude board members appointed by Wright.

“I will not contribute any further assets to that foundation because I do not want those individuals having anything to do with my trust, my estate, and any charitable gifts I make during my lifetime or at my passing,” she said in the amended trust.

The current foundation is asking a judge to appoint a guardian for Kawananakoa.

The foundation is also concerned about artefacts, including a key to King Kalakaua’s crypt, the amended trust says will be given to Worth, said Rosie Goo, a lawyer representing the foundation.

“It is our understanding that these are museum-quality artefacts that she had intended to be in a museum,” Goo said.

“This is not what she chose for herself when she was fully in control of her decision-making.”

Michael Lilly, a lawyer for Kawananakoa, said he couldn’t comment on the foundation’s court filing.

Meanwhile, the bank is still deciding whether to accept the trusteeship, he said.

Kawananakoa “is in fine health”, he said.