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'High School Musical's' Chris Warren Sues Parents, Wins $330K

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By Betty Wang, JD on July 08, 2013 11:10 AM

Former "High School Musical" star Chris Warren's lawsuit has panned out well for him. In fact, according to TMZ, a judge has awarded him more than $330,000. Who was he suing, though? His parents.

Ah, child stars.

This lawsuit, however, was apparently warranted.

Trust Issues

Warren, 23, first sued his mom, actress Brook Kerr, and his dad, Christopher Warren Sr., earlier this year, alleging that his parents had set up a trust for him to save his earnings while he was a minor.

So what went wrong?

Well, instead of helping Chris Warren save his earnings, the "High School Musical" actor's lawsuit claims his parents were secretly tapping into the funds for their own personal use. So, really, it should be: ah, child stars' parents.

It is fairly common for parents -- and not just celebrity parents -- to set up a trust account with their child as the beneficiary. Usually, the purpose is to store savings for the child, which he will be able to use when he reaches a certain age -- usually 18 or 21.

Trustees' Duties

A trust is defined as a a fiduciary relationship wherein a grantor transfers legal ownership of property to a trustee, who then manages that property for the benefit of the beneficiary.

In other words, it's an arrangement where property, held in the form of a trust, is managed by one person, to later benefit another person. It's legal safe keeping, basically.

In this case, Chris Warren's parents were both the grantors and the trustees, which is common, and Chris himself was the beneficiary.

While the trustee holds legal title in the interim to the property -- in this case, Chris' earnings -- this doesn't mean that they have a right to access it for their own personal benefit, because the money is not rightfully theirs.

As trustees, they ultimately owed a fiduciary responsibility to protect the money until Chris could rightfully gain access to it. This fiduciary responsibility isn't just a suggestion, it's a legal duty. Because they didn't appear to protect his trust money and manage it prudently, they violated that duty. Upon violation of that duty, the beneficiary then can invoke his right to sue.

It should be noted that Warren's parents also went through a divorce last year. However, reports do not indicate what they did with the money in Chris' trust.

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