An important benefit of visiting with a New York estate planning lawyer to help with your asset planning is that on top of carrying out your wishes, the professional can share avenues available to you of which you may not be aware. For example, many area residents are under the impression that their will is nothing more than a document that specifically divvies up assets. In reality wills can be crafted in virtually unlimited ways depending on specific family dynamics and the ethical values of the testator.
Perhaps no high-profile case better illustrates the complexity with which a will can be drafted than the story of Wellington R. Burt. At one point one of the richest men in America, Mr. Burt made his wealth in the robber baron age and was primarily involved in the lumber industry. Mr. Burt lived to age 87, passing away in his Michigan mansion in 1919 with an estimated net worth around $60 million.
The lumber giant gained notoriety following his death as the details of his will were revealed. Mr. Burt was particularly careful to ensure that his living relatives received only a small part of his fortune. To avenge an apparent family feud, Mr. Burt left his children relatively small annual payments from $1,000 to $5,000–except for one favored son who received $30,000 yearly. The rest of the man’s estate was held in trust until 21 years after the death of his last direct descendant alive at the time of his death.
ABC News reported recently that that final requirement was met in 2010–92 years after Mr. Burt’s passing. Mr. Burt’s last grandchild died in 1989, triggering the 21 year wait which finally expired in 2010. Last month the twelve descendants of the lumber tycoon reached an agreement to split up the estate now valued over $100 million. Based on seniority, the individuals received values ranging from $16 million to $2.5 million.
While a “spite clause” is perhaps not advisable for many area families, the case of Wellington Burt stands as an evidence of the immense flexibility that exists to all those considering what to do with their assets following death.
Creating a New York will target=”_blank”, trust, or other legal arrangement is an important way to ensure that you decide what to do with your estate instead of the court. The most efficient way to discuss unique terms to be included in an inheritance–such as required college attendance, stipulations on use of funds, or other desires–is to meet with an elder law estate planning attorney. Each state has different rules and regulations about wills and trusts, and nothing can replace professional advice in these matters.
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