HONOLULU – A Hawaii judge on Monday made First Hawaiian Bank the new trustee of the estate of Hawaiian princess and sugar cane heiress Abigail Kawananakoa, after finding the 92-year old lacks the mental capacity to oversee the $220 million trust.
Oahu First Circuit Court Judge Robert Mark Browning replaced current trustee, Kawananakoa’s former attorney Jim Wright, ending a dispute between the pair that began after Wright took over the trust when Kawananakoa suffered a stroke last year.
Wright claimed Kawananakoa’s 64-year old wife, Veronica Gail Worth, physically abused Kawananakoa and skimmed from the trust. Kawananakoa then fired Wright and sought to make Worth, her partner of 20 years whom she married in 2017, and three others trustees.
The judge, however, ruled that the princess lacks the ability to make financial decisions involving changes to the trust and appointed the bank.
Browning rejected a report by special master James Kawachika, who found that Kawananakoa is mentally capable of amending her trust and sided with Los Angeles psychiatrist David Trader, who found Kawananakoa cannot make complex financial decisions.
At the end of his bench ruling, Browning warned all parties to focus on the welfare of Kawananakoa, who sat in the courtroom next to Worth with a little dog in her lap, straining to follow the proceedings.
“It is easy for us to focus on our differences,” Browning said, “but I urge you all to now focus on what you all share in common, which is compassion and care for the welfare of Ms. Kawananakoa.”
After the proceedings, Wright said that he thinks the judge is preparing for a settlement but is satisfied that Kawananakoa’s legacy is protected.
A philanthropist for native Hawaiians, Kawananakoa set up a foundation in 2001 with $100 million earmarked for Native Hawaiian causes.
Born Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawananakoa, she is the great-grandniece of Queen Liliuokalani. A cabal of business interests deposed Liliuokalani after she proposed to restore the monarchy in 1891. Kawananakoa is the heir apparent to the throne.
Her great-grandfather was James Campbell, a sugar cane processer and real estate developer.
A decision whether to appeal has not been made.