An ongoing battle in the Georgia courts surrounding the estate of O. Wayne Rollins, the late co-founder of Rollins Inc., a large pest control corporation, illustrates that having a Family Trust in place at the time of your death will not guarantee an easy transition of wealth to the heirs of the estate.
According to GA Supreme Court case No. S13G1162, Rollins v Rollins, O. Wayne Rollins established 10 irrevocable trusts, the Rollins Children’s Trust and nine Subchapter S-trusts to benefit his grandchildren. The trust appointed his sons Gary and Randall, as well as personal friend Henry Tippie, as trustees. Four of the nine grandchildren who were to benefit from the trusts sued their father and uncle over their shares of the family’s money.
An article from The Daily Report, a publication for lawyers in metro Atlanta and the state of Georgia, stated that on March 3, the state Supreme Court unanimously overturned an earlier ruling by the Appeals Court, stating that the lower court was wrong to evaluate Gary and Randall’s management of the entities within the trusts under the fiduciary duty standard that applies to trustees.
According to the report, High Court Sides with Rollins CEO, Brother over Kids in Trust Fight, the plaintiffs say the defendants have shifted power to themselves and away from the plaintiffs and established unfair distribution systems, all at odds with the terms of the trusts and their grandfather’s intent. The plaintiffs also claim that their father and uncle breached their fiduciary duties as trustees.
In their lawsuit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court in 2010, the plaintiffs contended that their Gary and Randall made various changes to the structure, leadership, holdings, and distribution methods used within the various family entities held within the trusts, which the plaintiffs considered to be breaches of trust and breaches of fiduciary duty.
The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Appeals Court, and directed it to re-evaluate the case, “to apply a corporate fiduciary standard when considering the trustees’ conduct with regard to their management of the corporate family entities held within the trusts.”
For more details about the complex issue involved in this case, read the Daily Reporter article, High Court Sides with Rollins CEO, Brother over Kids in Trust Fight.
Read the Georgia Supreme Court ruling: Case No. S13G1162, Rollins v Rollins, March 3, 2014, for details about the court’s rulings. (PDF opens in new window)