Probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation
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Biden Loses Bid To Reduce Benefits to “Crippled Children” and the Elderly in duPont Trust Case

By:  Jeffrey Skatoff, Esq.

Joseph R. Biden, III v. John S. Lord et al. (1st DCA 2014) Case No. 1D13-5053. 

Joseph Biden, III, as Attorney General of Delaware, lost his attempt to attack a 2004 Florida final judgment regarding the duPont Trust. The opinion found that Biden’s intervention would injure the original litigants – handicapped children and the elderly – and fail the interests of justice.

The duPont Trust established the Nemours Foundation.  The stated purpose of the Nemours Foundation is for the care and treatment of “crippled children, but not incurables, or the care of old men or old women, and particularly old couples, first consideration, in each instance, being given to beneficiaries who are residents of Delaware.”

In 2004 the duPont Trust was modified by court judgment.  The definition of “crippled children” was changed from “persons under 21 years of age” to “persons under 18 years of age,” and the Trust’s purpose was expanded to include preventative care for beneficiaries. As a result of the 2004 judgment, more than $111 million in preventative care services has been provided to the Delaware beneficiaries.

In 2013, Biden sought to intervene in the case to set aside the 2004 judgment expanding the duPont Trust to include preventative care.  On July 16, 2014, in a 2-1 opinion, the Florida appellate court denied Biden’s requested relief, upholding the Florida trial court’s decision.  The Florida appellate court held that allowing Biden’s intervention would injure the original litigants —the preventative programs would vanish, the care provided as a result of the preventative programs would cease to exist, and the over $111 million in benefits distributed to Delaware residents would be invalidated.  Biden’s bid to intervene also would not serve the interests of justice.  Biden made no showing that intervening to attack the 2004 judgment was necessary to protect the interests of the Delaware beneficiaries of the duPont Trust.  Indeed, the 2004 judgment served to expand, not limit, benefits.

In a strongly worded dissent, Judge Swanson sided with Biden, urging that refusal to allow Biden to intervene amounted to a fundamental denial of due process.  Alfred duPont provided in the Trust that the Delaware Attorney General was the representative of the Delaware beneficiaries.  The Delaware Attorney General was never made a party to the action resulting in the 2004 judgment, but due process required that the Attorney General should have been made a party.

Jeffrey Skatoff is a Florida probate attorney.  To have Mr. Skatoff review your case free of charge, please go to his website.

Probate attorney Jeffrey Skatoff handles probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation.

Jeffrey H. Skatoff, Esq.

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