We recently discussed the complex relationship between art and money but, as complicated as that is, it is nothing compared with the relationship between love and money.

As many of us know from personal or professional experience, intra-family money battles give off volatile, highly combustible, and, sometimes, even seemingly intoxicating fumes, that addle, torture, and obsess normally (more or less) rational minds.

We recently stumbled across the professional malpractice lawsuit brought by Mr. Allen Schreier against a law firm and an accounting firm over their roles in the administration of Mr. Schreier’s parents’ trusts. The lawsuit was recently removed from state court (Nobles County) and it is now pending in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota (Schiltz, J., presiding). This complaint might be useful for Minnesota Litigator readers to share with their colleagues who do trust and estate work as a cautionary tale.

The 26-page complaint seems primarily focused on a few contentions: (1) Mr. Schreier believes that his brother got a sweetheart deal on farmland rental from the family trust, to Mr. A. Shreier’s disadvantage (as a beneficiary of the family trusts) (See Compl. Paras. 46-50); (2) the professionals (a law firm and an accounting firm) allegedly screwed up on a tax issue (a “Q deduction”) to the detriment of the family trusts (See, e.g. Compl. Para. 11, 74-79); and (3) the professionals (a law firm and an accounting firm) allegedly shut out Mr. Shreier from communications although, since he was a co-trustee, they had an obligation to communicate with him  (See, e.g. Compl. Para. 96-98). There is certainly more to the complaint but these points stand out (and highlight the challenges of trust administration with warring factions).

Francisco Goya: Saturn Devouring His Son (or, maybe, Love & Money (?))

We will be following this case as it proceeds but, for all involved, we hope that the lawsuit will not go for long.

There is cause, however, for pessimism on that score. The case has the signs of deep roots in long-standing familial issues, the kind of case that “has a life of its own,” consuming the lives of others.

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