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Disney twins meet in court to settle trust dispute

The Disney name is synonymous with fun and good times with family. But the Disney family itself is going through a tough time, as two of its members meet in court today to begin the legal process of settling a dispute over a $400 million trust.

The two are twin brother and sister, and they reportedly haven't met or spoken in four years. They'll be reunited today, though on opposite sides of a California courtroom, to hash out a dispute over a trust established by their mother. Their mom was a daughter of Walt Disney, the man who started the entertainment empire.

The twins' father is a real estate developer who helped Walt Disney secure the Florida land that would be transformed into Disney World.

The twins' dad and mom divorced many years ago; she died in 1993, but not before establishing a trust to take care of her two kids.

They were to receive annual payments from the trust, as well as lump sums every five years.

The trust fund is today estimated to be worth $400 million.

But the twins have squared off and will each argue in court that the other is mentally incompetent to receive their share. The son will reportedly argue that his sister suffered permanent brain damage from her 2009 aneurysm. She will reportedly argue that he suffers from "chronic cognitive disability."

The trustees are on the daughter's side in the dispute, and have been withholding millions from the son because, according to the terms of the trust, they say, they have "...full discretion to withhold distributions if (the beneficiary) doesn’t demonstrate the maturity and financial ability to manage the funds wisely."

The son is trying to break the trustees' hold on the fund. His father is apparently in his corner in this legal battle.

While very few people can establish trust funds of this size, they can exercise caution and with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, create a trust or other legal instrument that will allow beneficiaries to enjoy the assets rather than fight over them.

Source: NBC News, "The Disneys: Not the happiest family on Earth," by Mike Taibbi and Andrew Blankstein, Nov. 23, 2013

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