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Legal instruments such as trusts and wills specify the distribution of someone’s personal property to the estate’s beneficiaries. Trust administration is typically an orderly process when it is handled properly. The following story shows how trust administration can be greatly complicated by an administrator’s alleged illegal acts.

On Jan. 30, a 45-year-old Florida attorney admitted to helping his former client hide more than $1 million in jewels from the government. The plea agreement stated that the attorney, his former client and one of the former client’s friends hid the jewelry collection, which included a 12-carat diamond ring.

Federal prosecutors said that the group planned to sell the jewelry through a local jeweler, who would have placed the proceeds into a trust administered by the attorney. His former client and her friend have been charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, and they have pleaded not guilty to those charges.

The trio also allegedly planned to persuade the former client’s husband into lying about the whereabouts of the ring. Her husband is serving a 50-year prison sentence as a result of his Ponzi scheme, which was worth $1.4 billion before its collapse, according to prosecutors.

Persons with a substantial estate should be aware of the many functions that a trust administrator can perform in addition to distributing the estate’s assets. These include properly taking an inventory of the estate’s assets, appraising those assets and paying the estate’s debts.

Source: Sun Sentinel, “Kim Rothstein’s ex-attorney pleads guilty in plot to hide jewels,” Jon Burstein, Jan. 30, 2013