Justice Watch: Grandchildren Going To Court Over Real Estate Trust Money

, Daily Business Review

Bruce Katzen
Bruce Katzen

Jacob C. Cohen was a prominent real estate developer, investor and hotelier. He owned numerous apartment buildings in New York City and prominent Miami Beach hotels including the Deauville, Crown and Saxony.

When Cohen died in 1974, his estate was split among his six children, including Ada Turkish Trask.

Two of Cohen's grandchildren are preparing for trial today in Miami-Dade Circuit Court in a fight over what their mother left behind when she died in 2010 at 97.

The plaintiff, Carole Brody, 75, lives with her daughter in a two-bedroom apartment in Aventura and buys what she needs on her monthly Social Security stipend. The brother, defendant Arthur S. Turkish, lives in a luxury home in Broken Sound Club, one of the most prestigious country clubs in Boca Raton.

Brody's complaint claims her brother, as trustee of a trust established by his mother for his and his sister's benefit, violated his fiduciary duty by doling out gifts to himself and draining it to about $300,000.

"We allege that absent the improper conduct, there would be in excess of $1.5 million left," said attorney Bruce Katzen, a partner at Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine in Miami that is representing Brody along with attorney Josh Rubens, an associate at the firm.

Katzen said it is believed Trask inherited from her father more than $20 million.

The complaint states that the trust was depleted $3.3 million between 2005 and 2007, but Miami-Dade Judge Maria Korvick has limited the trial to only the last 2½ years of Trask's life, not allowing Brody to contest a quarter century of stewardship.

She also ordered on Dec. 6 the brother to return half of $1 million he withdrew from a trust in July 2008 to pay his mother's gift tax liability.

In the time frame in dispute during trial, Katzen said the brother received distributions of $406,000 and $52,500 in fees.