In Search of an Education Program, Part 6
Part 6 - Benjamin the Munificent
"The duty of a citizen is to keep his mouth open" - Gunter Grass
Thanks for your note to the Kibitzer which arrived while I was visiting France. You asked for the latest developments on the Ben Adams Will. Other question have also been posed. I will address some of them here. By the way, the reference below to the "ACNC" is to the 3rd annual "Assyrian Community Networking Conference" (May 25, 1997).
Claudia asks: Before he paid funds to the six organizations, did the trustee require some written proposal or plan from each of them, to satisfy him that they would spend the money as required by Mr. Adams and his Will?
The Kibitzer answers: I don’t know. I have never been in touch with the Trustee, either by mail or by telephone, even though I have addressed questions to him several times. But I have communicated with him through his attorney, and by now he is aware that this is a newsmaking event which interests the Assyrian community, and he is also aware of the discussion that we have had on the subject.
ACNC Participant: If any of the six organizations has misapplied any of these funds, is it possible they did it out of ignorance? Why don’t you notify each of them of these specific conditions?
The Kibitzer: The Trustee is obligated by law to notify each of these six organizations about the specific conditions. I must assume that he did so. Beyond this, the trustee cannot be expected to be in constant surveillance. For example, if an organization avers to the Trustee that it intends to use the funds for a project which falls within the authorization, the Trustee is entitled to accept that assurance at face value. Of course, if the Trustee finds out that a partial distribution has not been applied according to assurances, then he will be more cautious with any further distribution to that group.
As for the Kibitzer notifying these groups, we did exactly that. Some of the six groups confirmed our notice, others ignored us or replied it is none of our business.
Question in E-mail: How much of the funds has already been distributed to the six organizations? How can we find this out?
The Kibitzer: I have heard second hand that the ASSYRIAN WELFARE COUNCIL OF CHICAGO received $30,000 in late 1996. If so, we need to know how these funds were spent in the area of education or of refugees. This group has refused to even acknowledge receiving my questions. Rumors that the ASSYRIAN AID SOCIETY (San Francisco) may have received a partial distribution have never been confirmed. As previously mentioned, the Assyrian Aid Society has answered us by stonewalling our questions. Two different approaches, but the same result.
Another Inquiring E-mailer: If I want to find out some answers, is it better to contact the Attorney, or the Trustee?
The Kibitzer: Technically, it is the Trustee who is responsible for the administration of the trusts left by remainder. However, the Trustee has been kept under wraps; in any case, he acts pursuant to legal advice. Although you can contact either party for this purpose, I only have the attorney’s address: "Ron Allen, Esq, 6245 East Broadway, Suite 510, Tucson AZ 85711", TEL (520) 790-4061; Fax (520) 571-8148.
Questioner: Who does the Trustee represent? Who does the Estate Attorney represent?
The Kibitzer: The Trustee represents Mr. Adams (literally, he represents the Will of Mr. Adams) in connection with distribution of the remainder. The Attorney for the estate also represents Mr. Adams, but for purposes of the entire administration of the estate (ranging from proper distribution, to payment of taxes, etc.).
Although it is not so clear from their failure to answer our questions, neither the Estate Attorney, nor the Trustee, represent any of the six Assyrian organizations. These are beneficiaries. If any one of them wants to be represented by counsel, they have to select their own counsel. The Attorney for the Estate may risk a conflict of interest if he attempts to represent any of the six organizations. One possible conflict would be if they permitted a departure from the Will of Mr. Adams, something which they are paid and entrusted to defend, not evade. Another possible conflict is that if any of the six organizations should stray from the path, the remaining organizations (or relatives of Adams) are eligible to receive the forfeited share. Therefore, both the Estate Attorney and the Estate Trustee have only one client, Mr. Adams (and his Will).
Another Question Posed at ACNC: Would it be legal if two or more of these organizations pooled their resources to accomplish one of the purposes envisioned by Mr. Adams?
The Kibitzer: I believe this would be consistent with the Will, provided it clearly fell within one of the two areas specified by Mr. Adams. In fact, it might be eminently sensible. For example, if 2 or 3 of the groups in question wanted to pool their bequests and establish an Assyrian children’s school, this would fall within one of the authorized purposes. By having more than one of the organizations involved, it would not only create a greater pool of funds, but it would also benefit from the input and experience of two separate Boards. To function more easily, the participating organizations could appoint representatives to a joint committee for implementation of such a project.
A Question Which Has Been Asked Several Times: Is it lawful for any of the Adams funds to be routed to overseas projects?
The Kibitizer: This is best answered by the Estate’s attorney. I have done no legal research on this. My guess is that it would be OK.
Another Question at ACNC: What do we do?-- What will you do?-- if these organizations continue to ignore your questions? And if, God forbid, they spend the money on something besides what Adams said?
The Kibitzer: I will continue to write articles about it. But if you are seriously concerned, and if you know others who are equally interested, then keep asking the question until you get an answer. If at all possible, you should try to find an attorney willing to advise you from time to time on a volunteer basis. By the way, I am not available for that purpose, as I intend to limit myself strictly to reporting the story.
Please send your comments to: Francis Sarguis, firstname.lastname@example.org
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