In re Freihofer
172 Misc. 2d 260, 658 N.Y.S.2d 811 (1997)

  • Freihofer died. His will gave everything to his wife.
  • Two months later, Mrs. Freihofer filed a renunciation and moved some of the estate into a testamentary trust for their sons.
    • The trust was placed in the care of Steiner, as sole trustee.
    • A testamentary trust (aka a will trust) is trust which arises upon the death of the testator, usually under his will. Testamentary trusts are distinguished from inter vivos trusts, which are created during the settlor’s lifetime.
  • Apparently Steiner wasn’t very communicative about what he was doing with the trust. 15 years later, the sons filed a petition to compel Steiner to account for the trust’s assets.
    • Steiner was acting as the son’s personal attorney, corporate attorney for Freihofer’s company (which was held in the trust), trustee and executor of several trusts and wills by various Freihofer family members, and sat on the board of directors for Freihofer’s company.
      • Sounds like a conflict of interest.
    • Steiner made a motion to dismiss the petition.
  • The Trial Court found for the son and ordered Freihofer to disclose how he was handling the assets in the trust.
    • The Trial Court found that an attorney-fiduciary has a duty to provide full disclosure of his stewardship to the beneficiary.