Dr. Atkins Trust Litigation

Joel A. Schoenmeyer of The Death & Taxes Blog writes here of the litigation surrounding the trust of Dr. Robert Atkins and he does so in his usual insightful and playful style. Well done Joel.

An excerpt:

Bread-hating diet guru Dr. Robert Atkins died in 2003, but his trust lives on, and is now the subject of some juicy (greasy?) litigation. [Yesterday’s] Wall Street Journal has the scoop here (registration is required).

After Dr. Atkins’ death, his widow (Veronica) became very depressed. She also had a huge amount of money to deal with, and no bank or trust company acting as adviser. Instead, Ms. Atkins turned to three individuals she referred to as “The Three Musketeers” — a “self-described entrepreneur” (yikes!), an accountant, and a lawyer. Mrs. Atkins had the three appointed as trustees of the marital trust created for her benefit, and officers of her husband’s foundation. She also…

  • agreed to pay each of the men $1.2 million per year, including some money out of her own pocket (since their salaries “exceeded statutory limits on trustee commissions”);
  • signed them to 10-year contracts with built-in extensions which the three now claim “made them employees for the rest of her life”; and
  • allowed each of them to purchase a $5 million life insurance policy on her life, with themselves as beneficiaries.
  • Is it just me, or does something smell here? Is that a hamburger fried in bacon grease, hold the bun, or something else? Something rotten smelling?

    I have some messy trust litigation right now but this is almost too much.

    Anyway, the relationship has now gone downhill, possibly because of the presence of Ms. Atkins’ new husband, Alexis Mersentes, “a Palm Beach socialite who opposing lawyers call an ‘opportunist skilled in the art of seduction'”. The Musketeers say that their positions were terminated improperly. Ms. Atkins says that the three took part in self-dealing and waste with respect to trust assets (a press release, here, details the citation proceeding — that’s a first).

    Meanwhile, my sourdough starter survived the Atkins Diet craze, and is resting comfortably in my fridge, subject to my removal of a cup or two every week or so to make some bread.

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