Children claim step mother took $1.8 million in suit against Merrill Lynch

Kelly Holleran Apr. 7, 2009, 10:51am

The seven beneficiaries of a trust are suing Merrill Lynch and one of its employees whom they blame for letting an unauthorized person take more than $1.8 million out of a trust.

Bradley Schmitz, Bettie A. Schmitz, Andrea M. Conte, Adrienne A. LaCroix, Jeremy G. Schmitz, Valerie L. Eisenhardt and Erica L. Schmitz filed suit April 2 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Merrill Lynch and James Maher.

They say Marvin F. Huth established the Marvin Huth Trust on Nov. 21, 1997, with the purpose of distributing its net income to him during his life and to his spouse and descendants after his death.

The trust was composed of more than $2,364,000, the suit says.

If either Marvin Huth or his wife, Shirley Huth, died, Bettie A. Schmitz, Bradley Schmitz and Andrea Huth were to become co-trustees, according to the complaint. As part of the trust, Marvin Huth was required to provide written notice to the trustees of any amendments he made.

On Jan. 10, 1999, Shirley Huth died. After her death, Marvin Huth married Patricia Bartsokas-Huth.

On Feb. 7, 2003, and on Aug. 11, 2003, an amendment to the Marvin Huth Trust was executed. However, neither document was effective because they reference a trust with a different name and one that was executed on a different date than the Marvin Huth Trust. In addition, the amendments should not have been allowed because under the provisions of the Trust, all trustees were to be notified, according to court records.

Soon after the amendments, on April 3, 2004, Marvin Huth died.

After his death, his surviving wife, Bartsokas-Huth, began taking money from the Marvin Huth Trust.

"Accordingly since the date of Marvin Huth's death, Patricia Bartsokas-Huth has withdrawn and/or distributed up to and possibly exceeding $1,850,000 from the Marvin Huth Trust," the suit states.

The plaintiffs did not discover the missing money until they saw account statements in February 2009, according to the complaint.

They say that since the trust was never effectively amended, Bartsokas-Huth should never have been allowed to withdraw any funds.

"Upon information and belief, upon the death of Marvin Huth, Defendants intentionally turned over control of the Merrill Accounts to the unauthorized Patricia Bartsokas-Huth rather than the Plaintiffs because Defendants did not want the beneficiaries to move the assets in the Merrill Accounts from Defendants, but instead to leave the corpus of the Marvin Huth Trust with the Defendants, where Defendants could continue to earn substantial management and investment fees," the suit states.

In the three-count suit, the plaintiffs are seeking a judgment in excess of $1.85 millions, plus unspecified punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems appropriate.

Joseph R. Dulle and Jeremy A. Alvatori of Stone, Leyton and Gershman in St. Louis will be representing them.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-167.

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