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$100 million estate sparks fight over Florida trustees

Estate planning is important regardless of whether your assets total $10,000 or $100 million. Either way, it's critical to have good legal advice and to understand the laws that can affect your assets. While having $100 million in assets is rare, that's the figure at the center of a debate over the estate of food entrepreneur Jeno Paulucci.

As a recent report in the Minnesota/St. Paul Business Journal noted, the Paulucci estate administration has been the source of arguments in court for eight months, and that fight is only to establish whether the court in Florida should hear the case, or the court in Minnesota.

Paulucci, who founded Minnesota-based Chun King, died last Thanksgiving at 93; his wife of 64 years, had died just four days earlier. In addition to starting Chun King, he also was the first chairman of R.J. Reynolds Food Co.

Two Minneapolis attorneys had handled the couple's estate and trusts for 35 years, the Business Journal reported. However, only six weeks before the Pauluccis died, they named two new trustees. One is president of Paulucci International. The other is David Simmons, the Florida state Senate majority whip.

Two of the couple's children want the new trustees removed, claiming their parents were manipulated into naming them while critically ill for their own gain. However, the two appointees contend the Pauluccis simply trusted them more with handling the estate. According to the new trustees, most of the assets are currently located in Florida.

Why is the jurisdiction such a bone of contention; because of differences in state probate law. In Minnesota, consent to remove trustees is needed from only adult beneficiaries. In Florida, all beneficiaries must consent, even minors, who may be represented by their parents. And reportedly the parent of at least one Paulucci great-grandchild wants the Florida trustees retained.

Source: Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, "A court battle over Jeno Paulucci's $100 million estate," Ed Stych, Oct. 20, 2012

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