Fight over Benihana Steakhouse Chain Highlights need for Comprehensive Estate Planning

A probate court ruling has granted control of a family trust to the third wife of late Benihana founder Rocky Aoki, which could ultimately determine the fate of the Japanese steakhouse company, the New York Post reported.

New York City probate attorneys and estate planning lawyers are frequently called to assist in planning or administering estates that include a family business. The advantages of proper estate planning are many and may include trusts that bypass the probate process, as well as proper planning for the payment of taxes without forcing the liquidation or sale of a family business. The presence of multiple former spouses, and/or children, may also complicate the administration of an estate. But proper planning can go a long way toward ensuring that your wishes are followed after your death and that an estate’s administration is not subjected to long delays or excessive costs involving litigation.

The two-year court fight has resulted in Rocky’s third wife and widow being granted power over the trust that controls 38 percent of the steakhouse chain. The trust had been in the hands of his children, who were using the shares in an attempt to gain board seats and shakeup management, the Post reported. A lawyer for his widow, Keiko Aoki, said he expects her to become sole trustee by the end of the week.

The power shift came last week when a New York probate judge admitted Rocky’s Last Will and Testament for probate, rejecting an attempt by his children to block it. The Will calls for Keiko to be sole trustee of the entity controlling his shares until his children turn 45. Shares of Benihana were trading on the NASDAQ this week at $6.45 and are up 70 percent on the year.

New York City Probate Attorney Jules Martin Haas handles all types of probate cases, including Wills, estate planning, estate settlement, advanced directives and guardianship matters. Please call me at (212) 355-2575 for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

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