By Harry S. Margolis
In the case of Harry De Prins v. Michael J. Michaeles (SJC-12865, Oct. 20, 2020), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules that a perpetrator cannot shield his assets in a self-settled asset protection trust from the reach of a wrongful death suit.
The Unfortunate Facts of the Case
The facts of this case are terrible. Donald Belanger and his wife moved from Massachusetts to Arizona in 2000 and ended up in a dispute with their neighbors, Armond and Simonne De Prins, over water rights. In 2007, the De Prinses prevailed in litigation over these rights. The Belangers then moved to California where Mrs. Belanger committed suicide.
In 2008, Belanger returned to Arizona with his daughter and created an irrevocable trust in Massachusetts for his benefit during his life and his daughter's benefit after his death. He named Michael J. Michaeles as trustee and transferred the bulk of his assets into the trust.