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Trustees and residents dispute over 350-year-old will

History buffs in Kent may be interested to hear about a recent conflict over a roughly 350-year-old will and the trust it created. William Paine, an English settler and merchant who built his wealth during English colonization in what is now the United States, left a will upon his death in 1660. In the will, Paine left a patch of coastal land for the benefit of local residents. The will stipulated that the rent from the land should be used to benefit public schools and that the land should not be sold.

In noting the desire to keep the land for the benefit of locals, Paine created a trust that has continued for the better part of four centuries. The kind of trust he chose typically does not take effect until the will's owner passes away.

Over the centuries, trustees of Paine's estate have successfully maintained the trust. That is, until recently, when the trustees decided to sell the property for $29.1 million, essentially ending the longstanding land trust. A group of local citizens in Massachusetts, where Paine lived, have mounted an ongoing challenge to the sale. However, those citizens suffered a recent setback when an appeals judge refused to block the sale.

It may be a surprise to many Washington residents that a trust created so long ago remains in effect to this day. Of course, if a person's intention is for a trust to operate for an indeterminate amount of time, a good estate plan can help ensure those wishes are properly executed. In Washington, these types of trusts are used most often to control the distribution of assets at death, as well as to limit what assets are subject to probate. When the will's owner passes away, a trustee will be appointed to ensure the goals of the trust are respected as it is administered.

Creating a trust through the drafting of a will is only one of many options available to Washington residents considering their estate plans. Many types of trusts exist, each with their own benefits and requirements. In addition, there are a number of other issues -- such as taxes -- to take into account when deciding what sort of trust may be right for a particular situation.

Source: Ipswich Chronicle, "Update: Judge upholds Little Neck sale," Jennie Oemig, March 14, 2012

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