Hawaii’s ‘last princess’ has lost control of her $215 million (£165 million) trust after a judge in Honolulu ruled she does not have sufficient mental capacity to manage the fund.
Abigail Kawānanakoa, 92, has been involved in a contentious legal battle for almost a year after some of her staff claimed she was being coerced by her girlfriend of more than two decades.
Ms Kawānanakoa, the descendant of the royal family that ruled the island until 1893, is regarded by many native Hawaiians as a princess and known for her philanthropic activity on the archipelago.
She has led a mostly private life breeding horses and donating to causes such as Honolulu’s Iolani Palace museum, the former royal residence.
She has also promoted the Native Hawaiian language and culture through a $100m charitable fund.
The great-granddaughter of sugar plantation owner James Campbell, one of Hawaii’s largest landowners, Ms Kawānanakoa controls a huge real estate portfolio.
But the 92-year-old became embroiled in a legal battle over the control of her wealth last year after she suffered a stroke.
Her longtime lawyer, Jim Wright, stated she was no longer able to serve as a trustee and stepped in.
Ms Kawānanakoa maintained she was well enough to continue in the position but then made a series of moves which appeared unusual in a short space of time – firing Mr Wright and marrying her longterm partner Veronica Gail Worth.
According to her new lawyer, Michael Lilly, the heiress wanted to remove Mr Wright and appoint her wife Ms Worth as a trustee instead, along with others.
In a ruling on Monday, the judge presiding over the case agreed to remove Mr Wright but appointed First Hawaiian Bank in his place, the Guardian reported.
Mr Lilly told the newspaper that the judge believed Ms Kawānanakoa was able to decide that she wanted a trustee replaced, but appointing a new trustee was more complicated and he did not find her capable of managing her financial assets.
In court filings, the heiress’ former lawyer Mr Wright has claimed she has suffered physical abuse from Ms Worth.
The allegation has been backed up by some of Ms Kawānakoa’s domestic staff, who claim they witnessed Ms Worth pressuring her wife to add her name to her bank account.
Ms Worth has denied the allegations, stating the heiress suffered bruises from accidental stumbles into furniture.
Mr Lilly said Ms Kawānanakoa is still deciding whether to challenge Monday’s ruling but is happy that her former lawyer has been replaced. “We’re pleased that Mr Wright is out [as trustee],” he told the Guardian.
“Abigail Kawānanakoa has a loving marriage and she has been in the news against her wishes. She needs and is entitled to be left alone.”