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Trust administration dispute over oldest U.S. charitable trust

Nevada readers of this blog may be interested in a dispute involving the nation's oldest charitable trust. The trust, created 351 years ago before the founding of the country, set aside 35 acres of seafront property for the benefit of public school children. However, those in charge of the trust administration wish to effectively nullify the will that created the charitable trust.

Today, the land in question is used for 167 cottages, but the rent money for those cottages goes toward funding public schools in the area. Over the past 25 years, that has generated $2.4 million, which is no small sum. However, in 2006, tenants on the land filed a lawsuit over rent increases. That led to a settlement in which the trustees would convert the property into condominiums, and then sell those to the tenants.

Originally, the trust was meant to help the town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, to comply with a colonial law that required them to set up a grammar school. Today, though, the rent from tenants on the land continues to help the town fund their public schools. If the cottages are converted to condominiums, then that would mean that ownership of the land would transfer and thereby destroy the trust. That has led to a bitter dispute in which one side claims that the trust is simply no longer able to carry out its purpose, and the other side is accusing the trustees of mismanagement.

Trust administration disputes are hardly simple matters, and the length of this particular trust seems to be complicating matters further. Yet whatever the ultimate outcome of the dispute, the issue may well bear watching here in Nevada. Furthermore, it demonstrates that a properly formed trust can last long after one dies.

Source: New Jersey Herald, "351-year-old will sparks bitter dispute in Mass.," Rodrique Ngowi, Feb. 24, 2012

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