Two months ago, a lawyer for a descendant of former President John Adams demanded that a Quincy
trust established by Adams nearly 200 years ago be returned to the family’s control.
A trust created by President John Adams is still operating and there might be a dispute over control of it,
if the dispute ever goes to court.
In 1822 John Adams created a trust to benefit the schoolchildren of Quincy, Massachusetts, his
hometown. In the 1950s, by court decision the sole beneficiary of the trust became a private school in
Quincy, The Woodward School for Girls.
For many years the city of Quincy managed the trust as trustee. However, in 2011, a probate court
removed the city for mismanagement.
So far, the city has paid $1 million in damages to the trust and the school.
A trial is set to determine how much more the city owes.
Recently, a lawyer representing a descendent of Adams sent a letter to the current trustee demanding
that control of the trust be returned to the Adams family.
Because Adams did not intend that the trust be used for the benefit of a school such as Woodward that
accepts students from outside of the city of Quincy.
However, as of now, no court action has been taken on the demand.
The Patriot Ledger reported on the story in an article titled "No action from John Adams family over
When creating a charitable trust, it is almost impossible to know what the circumstances will be nearly
two centuries later.
Nevertheless, it is important to think about what might happen and to plan how rigid or flexible you
want the trust to be when adapting to changing circumstances.
Before he became a revolutionary and President, Adams was a well-known trial attorney so he might
not have minded litigation over his trust 200 years later. On the other hand, most people would
probably prefer that their trusts stay out of the courts.
When creating your charitable legacy, be sure to work with an experienced estate planning attorney
who can help you think through these issues.
Reference: Patriot Ledger (May 13, 2015) "No action from John Adams family over embattled trust."