Estate of dead FLDS leader seeks control of trust

Estate of dead FLDS leader seeks control of trust

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Attorneys for the executor for the estate of deceased polygamous church leader Rulon Jeffs are asking a judge to remove a communal land trust from state control and return it to the church's governing body.

In court papers filed Monday in 3rd District Court, attorneys for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints contend the properties held by the United Effort Plan Trust belong to the Corporation of the President.

The Utah courts took control of the trust in 2005 after allegations of mismanagement by Warren Jeffs, the current FLDS president and son of Rulon Jeffs, who died in 2002.

The court revamped the trust in 2006, stripping out its religious purpose and expanding its beneficiaries to include former church members.

Valued at an estimated $114 million, the trust holds most of the land and homes in Hildale, Utah, Colorado City, Ariz., and Bountiful, British Columbia, where most church members live.

FLDS attorney Rod Parker said the trust has been mishandled by the courts. Parker, who drafted a version of the trust for Rulon Jeffs in 1998, said control of the trust should have reverted to the church corporation.

The FLDS consider communal living a religious principle and formed the trust in 1942 so their communal assets could benefit all who keep the tenets of the faith. FLDS members view state intervention in the trust as an attack on their religion.

Parker said rewriting the trust to remove its religious and communal purposes is not in keeping with the intentions of the original trust founders' plan and denied both the estate and the Corporation of the President due process. Neither the estate nor the corporation were given adequate notice of the court's intention to revamp the trust, he said.

Jeff Shields, an attorney who represents the court-appointed accountant currently managing the trust, said he had not read Parker's motions and could not comment Monday evening.

Parker filed two court motions Monday. The first asks the court to grant legal standing in the ongoing trust dispute to estate executor Leroy S. Jeffs and the corporation. The second asks the court to overturn the ruling that revised the trust.

Rulon Jeffs was president of the church between 1986 and 2002.

Revered as a prophet by followers, Warren Jeffs is in an Arizona jail awaiting trials on criminal charges related to the underage marriage of two FLDS girls. He also faces sexual assault and bigamy charges in Texas.

In 2007, Jeffs was convicted of two counts of rape as an accomplice for his role in the marriage of a 14-year-old follower to her 19-year-old cousin. He was sentenced to consecutive prison terms of five years to life.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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