Ash daughter agrees to pay $4.3 million in estate taxes, drops lawsuit

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 11:42 pm on Friday, May 25, 2012

Case history info box

Stanley Ash died on Feb. 29, 2004. His wife, Blanche, died on Aug. 24, 2011. The Greenville couple left a large portion of their $31 million estate to more than 50 local organizations last year.
Their only child, Jennifer Ash of Connecticut, contested the endowment, citing a tax payment issue.
Blanche Ash died with an estate worth more than $31 million — including $13.6 million in Stanley Ash’s qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust. Jennifer Ash will inherit the entire QTIP trust fund, which has not yet been distributed.
In Blanche Ash’s last will and testament, she left $2 million to Jennifer. She left the remainder of her estate to more than 50 local organizations, plus a few close friends.
Blanche Ash’s estate has an estimated tax liability of $4.3 million. Those taxes were due Thursday.
Attorney Robert Brower of Grand Rapids is representing I. William Arntz of Greenville and Theodore Hessler of Belding, both of whom are co-personal representatives of Blanche Ash’s estate, as well as beneficiaries. Attorney Alan Valade of Detroit is representing Jennifer Ash, along with Dale Kris, both of whom are co-trustees of Stanley Ash’s QTIP trust.
If the QTIP trust is not liable to pay the estate taxes, the charitable organizations will have to pay the tax. If the charitable organizations have to pay the tax, the funds are no longer charitable donations, meaning they lose their charitable tax status, meaning the tax owed will increase from $4.3 million to $6.7 million.

GREENVILLE — Local charity officials can breath a sign of relief — Jennifer Ash has decided to pay her mother’s estate taxes.

Jennifer Ash of Connecticut announced Thursday — the day the taxes were due — that she will release $4.3 million from her father Stanley Ash’s qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) fund to pay Blanche Ash’s estate taxes. Jennifer Ash also dissolved the lawsuit regarding who should pay the taxes.

Montcalm County Probate Judge Charles Simon III ruled on May 17 that Blanche Ash’s estate taxes must be paid from Stanley Ash’s QTIP fund, of which Jennifer Ash is a trustee, along with Dale Kris. Jennifer Ash’s attorney Alan Valade said he would immediately appeal the ruling, but apparently there was a change of heart.

“My goal, as a trustee, has always been to do the right thing on behalf of my father’s trust,” Jennifer Ash stated in a press release via her attorney. “Our objection to the payment of my mother’s federal estate taxes was about learning the answers to questions we have about the transactions that led to distributions from my mother’s estate, from her trust and from my father’s power of appointment trust, and to assure that my father’s QTIP trust was legally obligated to pay my mother’s federal estate taxes.”
Jennifer Ash inherited nearly $14 million from her father’s QTIP trust, as well as $2 million from her mother.

“Far from protecting my own personal wealth, our objections sought to assure that my mother’s and father’s estates and trusts are handled efficiently and with transparency, and we have reason to believe that was not so,” Jennifer Ash stated.

Attorney Robert Brower had argued that Stanley Ash’s QTIP trust should pay the estate taxes, based on a provision Stanley Ash made stating all estate taxes would be paid from his QTIP trust. Valade had argued the QTIP trust cannot pay the estate taxes due to a statement in Blanche Ash’s will, which waived her estate’s right to obtain reimbursement of any of her estate taxes from the QTIP trust.
“Both I and our clients were pleased to learn that Ms. Ash had chosen to comply with the court order and pay the estate taxes by their due date,” Brower said. “At this time I have no knowledge as to whether or not the Probate Court Order will be appealed to the Court of Appeals. We remain confident in our client’s position.”

When Simon made his May 17 ruling, he also ordered that any of Blanche Ash’s assets that have not yet been distributed remain frozen until the court matter is completely resolved.

“We want to assure that the Montcalm Community College and Greenville Area Community Foundation, as well as other deserving community non-profit organizations, receive the full value of my mother’s and father’s bequests to them,” Jennifer Ash stated. “We have expressed our concerns to the community college and to the foundation and have turned the matters over to the attorneys for those charitable organizations.”

Beneficiaries that have not been paid yet include: Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, American Lung Association, Belding’s Belrockton Museum, the Belding Fire Department, the Belding library, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Gratiot and Montcalm Counties, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, Carson City Fire Department, Cherry Street Health Services, EightCAP Inc., Flat River Community Players, Grattan Township Fire Department, Greenville Area Community Foundation, Greenville Area Community Center, Greenville’s Danish Festival, Greenville’s Department of Public Safety, Greenville Public Schools, the Education Foundation of Greenville, Hope Network Foundation, Lakeview District Fire Department, Montcalm Area Reading Council, Montcalm Community College and Foundation, Montcalm County 4-H Fair, Montcalm County Habitat for Humanity, Montcalm Township Fire Department, Oakfield Township Fire Department, Stanton Community Fire Department and United Way of Montcalm and Ionia Counties.

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