Many people are confused by the announcement made by the family of Jodi Arias on 18th Oct 2013 and are waiting for clarity and guidance from them. I have given my views in previous posts concerning the Jodi Arias trial and the way it has been conducted. So it was quite a shock to read the announcement asking for donations from members of the public to a trust fund which has been established solely for the purpose of paying for “imminent appellate proceedings” .
The announcement was made:
- on a Facebook page ‘Susan. D. Halterman’ who I am reliably informed is Jodi’s Aunt although there is no information about her on the page. Nor is there a way to post comments that I can see; only likes or shares.
- on the website called Jodi’s Page where there is no facility for comment or contact and
- on the #1 Jodi Arias Support Site – Jodi Arias is Innocent.com
Here is a transcript of the announcement on JAii :
‘Support Jodi Arias with a donation to the JAA Appellate Fund. Oct 18 by SJ – Team Jodi
OK folks. Here are the details we’ve all be waiting for.
The official Jodi Ann Arias (JAA) Appellate Fund is now launched.
Donations are now being accepted for imminent appellate proceedings.
Donations can be sent to:
JAA APPELLATE FUND
An irrevocable trust
To: US Bank
827 S. Central Ave
Medford, OR 97501
541- 857 -1252
Please Note: this trust is for payment of the initial beneficiary’s legal expenses related to appeals of her pending criminal case, including without limitation for attorney’s fees, investigator fees, expert witness fees, transcript and filing fees. Any donations made are not tax deductible.’
I wanted to find out more because I find it curious that the announcement came unaccompanied by an explanation of how the Trust is structured. Nor have any reasons been given for making a call for appeal donations in the middle of penalty phase pre-trial hearings (4th to 18th Oct.) to be followed by a settlement conference on 24th Oct, in which a settlement could be reached, which may negate the possibility of an appeal. The trial will then continue to the sentencing phase following the first-degree murder verdict already handed down. So it is difficult to see how an appeal can be imminent. There may be very good reasons of which I am not aware. So it would be interesting to know.
So I immediately posted this comment, to the only place out of the 3 announcers where I could make contact, on the same day (18 Oct.), hoping to find out more. – #1 Jodi Arias Support Site – Jodi Arias is Innocent.com
“Don’t you think it would help us all to explain what this means? I’m not sure supporters will buy into an appeal fund when a settlement conference is scheduled for 24 Oct. and there may be no appeal.”
Followed closely by: “……….And can you obtain a copy of the ‘Trust Deed’ for all your followers…………….”
After a bit of ‘to and fro’ I was subsequently told by JAii that:
“…..for obvious reasons it is in the best interest of the trustee that the Trust Deed is not published. Please contact the authorised bank for more information.”
The reasons regarding the trustee’s best interest may well be obvious to the 3 ‘Announcers’ but they certainly aren’t obvious to me because I have no idea who the singular “trustee” is. And whilst the bank may well confirm the existence of a trustee bank account, this is of little relevance because the bank has no control over the account; it is merely a repository for funds deposited and withdrawn. The public, who are being requested to donate, will want to know who owns the bank account where they are being asked to send their money to (i.e. who the trustees are), who has authority over that account and details of the trust they administer. I can’t imagine for one minute that the bank would divulge these details or, indeed, send a copy of the Trust instrument to a complete stranger unless they have been given authority to do so. So I am not sure why I was directed there.
This is the only answer I have been able to get so it looks like my first question has been ignored. By now it has become pretty obvious that the shop is closed, so to speak, and that I am not going to get an explanation from this source at least. Let’s hope the Arias family are more forthcoming.
Here are some relevant posts from ‘Susan. D. Halterman’ on Facebook which are rather interesting and in need of clarification. Unfortunately I do not have a way of contacting Susan so I must hope she sees this and responds like Monique Arias has done previously:
- 7 JULY 2013 – Please be advised that the purpose of this page is so that authorized people, including, but not limited to, family members of Jodi Arias, can release information to the group that is court related or otherwise related to Ms. Arias and her status. Information gleaned elsewhere may or may not be valid. This is the only place where information is to be considered totally legitimate and truthful. Thank you.
JAMOROKI says: Does this mean the 2 websites above are not recognised by the family?
- 7 JULY 2013 – CURRENTLY THERE ARE NO APPEAL FUNDS< OR APPEAL ATTORNEYS that are hired. THIS trial needs to finish first. ANY ATTEMPT TO COLLECT FUNDS ON JODI’s behalf are fraudulent, unless they are posted here.
JAMOROKI says: This is a powerful statement unless I am reading it wrongly or she has changed her mind completely. I agree 100% that the trial needs to finish first. So why was the Jodi Arias APPELLATE FUND launched before it has finished?
- 18 OCT 2013 – YES! The Jodi Arias APPELLATE FUND is finally ready! Check it out at Jodispage.com
You can donate your gift for Jodi’s appeal at any US Bank in person, by mail or by bill pay, or wait until I get the Pay Pal account set up. Thank to all that have already donated and it’s only been up since last night! Sue H.
I wish to make it very clear that I am not questioning the bona fides of any of the entities mentioned herein. I am merely endeavouring to understand what message the family are trying to convey here, their rationale plus the reasons for non-disclosure which may be perfectly valid. I accept that they are not obliged to divulge any more information. That is their prerogative. However, if the Arias family are looking to obtain substantial public donations they will need to lift the veil of secrecy and open up to the public by explaining:
- their reasons for launching a Trust Fund for an appeal that may not happen
- what they mean when they say “imminent appellate proceedings”. Imminent means any time now or immediate and
- how that is possible while the trial is still on-going.
- how people who would like to donate can get information and details of the Trust instrument.
There seems to be a lot of support out there for Jodi Arias but it may dwindle if the Family don’t make a statement to clarify the situation soon. There may also be substantial potential donors who will not feel comfortable to donate without clarity and may change their minds.
Turning now to the question of trusts I thought it might be helpful to set out the basics in simple fashion to help show why it is so important for donors (settlors) and all parties to fully understand the legally binding document which is the trust deed. Please understand that, while I have trust administration experience in Britain, it is 20 years since, I am not a lawyer and I am not familiar with USA trust laws. However, the basics should apply equally.
A trust is a legal entity in the same way a corporation is, can be structured in many ways and can be as rigid or flexible as required within a legal framework adhering to basic principles. These are the main components that make up the trust:
- Settlor/s: A trust has to have at least one settlor who is effectively the creator of the trust and donor of property. In Britain, where more then one person donates assets to a settlement, each person is treated as having made a separate trust. Once the creator settlor/s is/are satisfied that the trust is structured in accordance with his/their wishes they will then settle property (i.e. cash or other tangible assets) on the trustees. Depending on how the JAA Trust is structured I would imagine every additional donor will be considered as a settlor so there could be a lot. These additional donors would normally scrutinise the trust deed and if they are thinking of making a substantial donation would be advised to take legal advice first.
- Beneficiaries: There must be at least one beneficiary who will receive benefit from the Trust at some time, regularly or irregularly.
- Trustees: It is unusual to have only one trustee and would not normally be advisable. Anyone can be a trustee but needs to understand fully the powers vested in them by the trust deed. It can be an onerous task depending on the nature and size of the trust. For example, company pension funds are established under trusts so can become very large and complex to manage. Trustees have a fiduciary duty to carry out their duties impeccably and are bound by the terms of the trust. They may listen to the beneficiaries’ or settlor’s wishes but they are not bound by them and have total control over the trust assets and the management thereof.
- Administrators: Can be one person who is often chosen from the trustees or an outside party who is used to secretarial or bookkeeping work. The administrator is responsible solely to the trustees and must keep accurate records of everything within the trust. (Bank, accounts, receipts, payments, minutes etc.) The administrator is normally responsible for preparing the trust accounts for audit, other statutory requirements and revenue returns.
- Trust instrument/ Deed /Rules: The Deed governs the trust and the trustees are bound by the rules written therein. They cannot under any circumstances operate outside the rules. If the trust is a ‘Discretionary’ trust they may have very wide powers. For example, they could advance capital or interest to the beneficiary as they see fit. That is why it is unusual to only have one trustee as no trustee can act unilaterally. It is of great importance, particularly where a trust is set up for a specific purpose to be very clear that the rules direct the trustees, regarding property distribution, in the event that the beneficiary/s dies before the trust has served its purpose. In other words, where does the property revert to when the trust is extinguished? In English law certainty must be established in an express trust to ensure it is valid. It must be a free and deliberate act by the parties involved. “Certainty of intention” means that it must be clear that the settlor/s wish to create a trust. Therefore the settlor/s are instrumental in the creation of the governing trust deed.
- Irrevocable vs Revocable: An Irrevocable trust is one that, under normal circumstances, cannot be modified or terminated until it has served its pupose. The main purpose for making a trust irrevocable is for the settlor/s to avoid estate taxes because once they have settled property on the trust it cannot be returned and therefore cannot form part of their estate any more. So this arrangement is often made in estate planning. On the other hand making a trust revocable allows for more flexibility and control by the settlor/s regarding distribution of income or should circumstances change during the lifetime of the trust.
- Property: All property once it is settled on the trust becomes the property of the trustees and they are solely responsible for the management of all trust property.
- Bank: The trustees are responsible for establishing the trust’s bank accounts and appointing the signatories. There should always be more than one. The trust deed will have to be presented to the bank to establish the trustees account.