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92-Year Old, $100 Million Legacy Shows Creativity in Trusts

The interesting case of a wealthy Michigan lumber baron who died in 1919 highlights how creative someone can be when using a trust in estate planning.  Burt Wellington

Wellington R. Burt did not want his children, or even his grandchildren, to inherit his wealth, which is now worth around $100 million. So he created an unusual trust, which is described in this article from ABCNews.com:

The descendants of Wellington R. Burt, who became fabulously wealthy in the age of the robber barons, will finally inherit his fortune — 92 years after his death.

Burt, who died in 1919 at age 87 in Saginaw, Mich., made his wealth in the lumber and iron industries. For reasons not described in his will, he stipulated that the majority of his fortune would be distributed 21 years after his last surviving grandchild’s death.

That granddaughter died in 1989. Now 12 descendants will split the fortune, estimated at $100 million to $110 million.

“I don’t think we’ll ever know exactly what it was that ticked him off that said, hey, after my last grandchild dies, 21 years after that, then you can get your money,” Thomas Mudd, local historic preservationist, told ABC affiliate WJRT in Michigan.

Danielle Mayoras, attorney and co-author of the book, Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, said she has never heard of a will or trust with a similar distribution.

People have been known to leave creative conditions in their will to motivate their heirs to have a work ethic or encourage them to attend college. But this is something else.

“I think this is beyond creativity,” Mayoras said. “It’s more of an insult.”

he said she suspects the reason Burt chose 21 as the year stipulation was because the common law’s Rule of Perpetuities. That rule forbids leaving money to anyone 21 years after the death of the last identifiable individual living at the time the will or trust was created.

Christina Alexander Cameron, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Burt, is one of the 12 heirs who agreed among themselves how to split the funds.

She and her sister, Cory, will each inherit about $2.6 to $2.9 million.

You can read the entire article here.

This is a great example of how people can use revocable living trusts to be extremely creative with their estate planning. While most people don’t want to keep their children and grandchildren from inheriting — like Wellington Burt did — it is quite common for people to work with experienced estate planning attorneys to limit when, how, and under what circumstances their heirs can inherit.

It is quite common to withhold distributions until family members are old enough, or even requiring other conditions, such as being free of drugs and alcohol, completing their education, or even having a good job.

There is no reason that people have to leave all of their money to their children right away; money can often create more harm than good. That’s why working with knowledgeable professionals can help you protect your family so they can get the most out of their inheritance.

y Andy and Danielle Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, husband-and-wife legacy expert attorneys, and hosts of an upcoming national PBS special.  The charismatic duo has appeared on the Rachael Ray Show, Forbes, ABC's Live Well Network, WGN-TV and has lent their expertise and analysis to hundreds of media sources.  As dynamic keynote speakers, Danielle and Andy delight audiences nationwide with highly entertaining and informative presentations, dishing the dirt on celebrity estate battles while dispensing important legal information.

For legal help in Michigan, visit Andy and Danielle's law firm's websites, The Center for Elder Law and The Center for Probate LitigationFor the latest celebrity and high-profile cases, with tips to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your clients, subscribe to The Legacy Update at www.TrialandHeirs.com.

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