It’s getting ugly in Napa Valley, where Ed Keith’s $92 million estate is at the center of a dispute between two daughters. One of many questions: where’s the $38 million for a foundation to benefit disadvantaged kids?
A self-made businessman who owned 500 apartment units and several other valuable pieces of property, Ed Keith died in 2006. Ten years later, daughter Lisa Keith filed a lawsuit against her sister, Celeste K. White, to find out what happened to millions of dollars that were under her control as co-trustee of Ed Keith’s estate.
In “Wealthy Napa businessman's heirs seek answers about $92 million estate,” the Napa Valley Register reports that Lisa Keith questions the propriety of a variety of financial decisions made by Celeste White. This includes $15 million invested in a for-profit real estate company, the purchase of a $2.4 million condo in Santa Barbara, the acquisition of a Land Rover for a winery and the construction of a stable for their polo ponies.
Lisa Keith is one of Ed’s five children from two marriages. Her sister, Celeste, lives in Napa with her husband, Dr. Robert White, who was named the executor of Ed’s estate.
Lisa alleges that the Whites made questionable decisions regarding the money from their father’s estate and argues that an estimated $1.8 million in trustee fees paid to Celeste should be refunded to the trust.
A Napa County Superior Court judge recently ruled that Lisa had no standing to ask for an accounting of foundation funds, because she’s not a director or beneficiary of the foundation. However, since she’s a beneficiary of the trust, she continues to ask for an accounting of Ed’s trust funds.
Upon Ed Keith’s death, a number of early distributions dictated by his trust were made, including $1 million to each of his five children, $2 million to his 12 grandchildren, and $10 million to a winery. This reduced the estate to $76 million. According to the trust, half of that – $38 million – was to be placed in the Edward A. Keith Foundation, which was created to provide financial and other assistance to disadvantaged youth or children “otherwise in need.”
The other $38 million was to be divided equally among Keith’s five children. After all the bills were paid, there was $9.2 million left to be split among the five siblings.
Lisa looked into what happened to her father’s foundation and found several facts that led her to become concerned. Celeste reportedly paid herself and her husband more than $300,000 annually from the foundation and $15 million from the foundation was invested in a for-profit real estate investment company managed by Celeste. Of that $15 million, $2.4 million was used to buy a condo in Santa Barbara.
Lisa says the foundation was “shortchanged to support Celeste and her husband’s lifestyle,” according to court documents.
Lisa claims that after her father’s death, Celeste had Lisa and her other siblings removed as directors of the foundation, leaving just Celeste and her husband in charge. She also claims the foundation then dropped any requirement that it benefit disadvantaged youth or children in need. However, Celeste’s attorneys said Ed removed Lisa as a director of the Foundation before he died.
According to court documents, the Edward Keith Foundation distributed $38 million to charities. Lisa believes that if her father was alive, he wouldn’t have chosen to support some of those charities.
One of the five siblings, Richard Keith, commented that he was certain his father would never put one person alone in charge of the trust or the foundation. He added, “…he didn’t want anyone to get paid” for working on the foundation board.
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