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AMP Services Ltd. v. Walanpatrias Foundation

Florida Court of Appeal, Fourth District

November 2, 2011

AMP SERVICES LIMITED, Trustee for the Walter and Anna Bronner Trust, and Thomas Myers, as Personal Representative of the Estates of Walter Bronner Patrias and Anna Bronner, Appellants,
v.
WALANPATRIAS FOUNDATION, Gislhaine Whyte, Mario Simmen, Paul-Marie Jacques and Elizabeth Schwartz, Appellees.

Page 347

Robert M. Brochin of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, L.L.P., Miami, for appellant AMP Services Limited, Trustee for The Walter and Anna Bronner Trust.

William H. Newton, III of William H. Newton, III, P.A., Miami, for appellant Thomas Myers, as Personal Representative of the Estates of Walter Bronner Patrias and Anna Bronner.

Charles C. Kline, Nicole H. Sulsky and Jason R. Domark of White & Case, L.L.P., Miami, for appellees Walanpatrias Foundation, Gislhaine Whyte, Paul-Marie Jacques and Mario Simmen.

HAZOURI, J.

Plaintiffs/appellants, AMP Services Limited, Trustee for The Walter and Anna Bronner Trust, and Thomas Myers, as Personal Representative of the Estates of Walter Bronner Patrias and Anna Bronner (collectively the " plaintiffs" ), appeal the trial court's dismissal with prejudice of counts IV and VI of their Fourth Amended Complaint filed against defendants/appellees, Walanpatrias Foundation (the " Foundation" ), Gislhaine Whyte, Mario Simmen, Paul-Marie Jacques and Elizabeth Schwartz (collectively the " defendants," not including Schwartz).[1] Count IV is a claim by the plaintiffs against the Foundation and its trustees pursuant to sections 733.607(2) and 733.707(3), Florida Statutes (2003), for payment to Anna Bronner's estate due to insufficient funds in the estate to pay the expenses of administration and the obligations of the estate. Count VI is an action by plaintiffs against the Foundation and the trustees for unjust enrichment for retaining and not contributing the amounts necessary to pay the expenses of administration and the obligations of the estate. The plaintiffs raise at least four issues on appeal. We affirm the trial court's dismissal with prejudice of counts IV and VI. We find all issues raised to be without merit and write to address only the first.

Walter Bronner Patrias (" Walter" ) was a Colombian national who died on February 10, 1996, at age 89, and had no children. He was survived by his wife, Anna Gravert Bronner (" Anna" ). Anna was a German national who died on January 15, 1999, at age 94, and had no children.

The Bronners met and married in Colombia, where Walter had a successful business. Several years before he died, Walter created a Panamanian corporation, Monavest Corporation, to hold their assets. They also had property in Broward County, Florida, including a condominium, personal property (automobile, jewelry, furniture, and artwork), and a small bank account. In the early 1980s, the Bronners moved to Monte Carlo, Monaco, from Colombia,

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where they resided until their deaths.

On August 17, 1995, Walter and Anna Bronner executed handwritten wills in Monaco. Walter's will designated Anna and, alternatively, the Weizmann Institute of Science, as the residuary beneficiary of his estate. His will designated Harry Joseph as executor with authority to appoint a personal representative. Anna's will designated Walter as the residuary beneficiary of her estate and, alternatively, the P.E.F. Israel Endowment Fund, Inc. Anna also designated Joseph as executor. Joseph was a longtime friend of the Bronners and a resident of Miami Beach, Florida. In September 1995, the Bronners instructed Joseph to create a trust which was to be " The Walter and Anna Bronner Trust." It was to be funded by the assets held in the Monavest Corporation and was for the benefit of various charitable institutions in Israel.

After Walter died, an order of the Tribunal of First Instance of the Principality of Monaco was entered vesting possession of Walter's estate in Anna as his universal legatee. On August 26, 1996, Anna executed a will in Monaco, revoking all prior wills and stating that it was her wish that 70% of the annual net income from her estate be distributed to certain charities. The will also stated that it was her intent to create a trust or foundation for this purpose and if she did not have time to create the trust or foundation, she named Whyte, who was her assistant, Jacques, a Monaco banker and Henry Rey, the " notaire" with whom she deposited her will, to do it for her.

In February 1997, Anna met with Simmen in Zurich, Switzerland and executed documents relating to the creation of the Liechtenstein " stiftung" called the Walanpatrias Foundation. Anna named four directors to the foundation, defendants, Simmen, Whyte, and Jacques, and herself. The bylaws of the Foundation recite that the first purpose of the Foundation is to take care of Anna's needs during her lifetime and, upon her death, the second purpose is to support philanthropic institutions through donations. In July 1998, the Bronners' assets and those of the Monavest Corporation were transferred to the Foundation, which took place outside of Florida. The assets transferred did not include any of the Florida property.

Anna died on January 15, 1999, and her August 29 will was processed in Monaco. In January 2000, the Monaco Tribunal of First Instance entered an order vesting the Walanpatrias Foundation with Anna's estate. The Foundation then sent an accountant to Florida to sell the condominium.

More than two years after Anna's death, ancillary estates for both Anna and Walter were filed in Florida. An action against the two ancillary estates was filed by AMP, a St. Lucia, West Indies company with its principal place of business in Hong Kong, as assignee of Walter's relatives, claiming that but for the actions of the individual defendants, Walter's relatives would have received $193,000,000 from Anna's estate. Thomas Myers, as personal representative and on behalf of the ancillary estates, admitted the allegations and consented to the entry of judgment. On May 27, 2003, a final ...


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