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Estate trustee sues Shriners Hospital

Lawsuit says money intended for S.L. children

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The man who is handling the estate of a childless couple who wanted their money to pay for medical care for children in this area has filed suit against the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children.

Mark Allen, the trustee for money left by Virginia and John Harkness after they died, said in a lawsuit filed in 3rd District Court that the couple intended their money to help children in the Salt Lake area.

But the lawsuit said Shriners Hospital, which is a national organization that operates 22 hospitals, sends all funds to its national headquarters in Tampa, Fla. and money is disbursed from there.

However, a local attorney representing the Shriners said the organization is "ready, willing and able" to abide by the trusts.

J. Jay Bullock, the attorney who filed the suit against the Shriners, said the two trusts established by Virginia and John Harkness divide approximately $4 million to $5 million in two ways. Half goes to a California organization called Boys Republic and the other half is intended for the "Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children, Intermountain Unit, Salt Lake City, Utah."

"The trustee bears no ill will toward the Shriners. They're a wonderful organization. The problem he has is that he has to decide where the money goes," Bullock said. "He is asking the court for guidance.

John Harkness died in 1993 and his wife died in 1998.

"The case deals with (the question), 'If you give the money to the national organization in Florida, will that fulfill Mr. and Mrs. Harkness ' objective of having their money used for treatment of children at the Salt Lake City hospital facilities?' " Bullock said.

Cynthia J. Crass, one of the Salt Lake attorneys representing the Shriners, said the organization has filed an objection to the petition.

"Our position is that the Shriners Hospital is ready, willing and able to comply with the terms of the Harkness trusts and that has been communicated to the trustee and his counsel," Crass said.

The Shriners also want more information, including appraisals of land in Heugh's Canyon that is included along with money in the trusts.

"Essentially what we've asked for is some more detailed accounting from the trustee and his counsel. We're also asking for some appraisals of some property in the trusts so we can find out the fair value," Crass said.

"We've also asked that all the property be turned over to the Shriners and Boys Republic as beneficiaries of the trusts, in equal share, subject to payment to the trustee and counsel of their legitimate fees and expenses," she said.

E-MAIL: lindat@desnews.com