Princess Abigail Kawananakoa, known to her friends as Kekau, is true Hawaiian royalty. Now, a bitter court battle rages over the questions of whether she is mentally capable of managing her vast fortune and whether she is the victim of physical abuse and financial exploitation.
Princess Kawananakoa, age 92, is a direct descendant to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii. When the United States annexed Hawaii in 1898, it ended the reign of Queen Lili’uokalani, Kawananakoa's great-grand aunt. As the closest living relative, Kawananakoa is considered to be the heir apparent who would have assumed the throne if the monarchy had been restored.
Kawananakoa was also the beneficiary of a large fortune, thanks to her great-grandfather, James Campbell. Campbell, a 19th-century sugar cane industrialist who made his fortune in Hawaii, died in 1900 with an estate worth $3 million at the time. The Campbell Estate has grown since then, topping out over $2 billion in 2007 when the Estate was converted into corporate holdings. Kawananakoa inherited $250 million, mostly in the form of stock in the James Campbell Corporation. Today, her trust is estimated to be worth $200 million.
This trust fund is at the heart of the dispute, which pits her once-trusted attorney against her long-time domestic partner. The attorney, James Wright, petitioned the probate court to remove Kawananakoa from controlling her trust. His petition was initially granted by the probate court judge, but now is challenged in court. Wright alleged that Kawananakoa suffered an acute stroke leaving her unable to manage her health, self-care, or financial matters. Wright based his filing on the determination of two physicians.