This month, we are going to take a break from the not always upbeat financial headlines of the day to examine one of the more fascinating case studies in the history of estate planning. This is a case study which is guaranteed to leave you thinking things could be a lot worse!
Once upon a time, there was an estate - and no ordinary estate either. Some of the best legal minds in the world had helped plan the estate, and it was estimated by some that it would distribute $200 Million to charities over an extended period of time. As planned, there would still be plenty left in the estate after all this charitable giving to leave perhaps $90 Million or more to family heirs! And all this was to be accomplished with money and other assets that would be substantially free of tax and completely free from claims of creditors of the heirs.
What happened next was an American tragedy:
• "Eager anticipation in charity circles has given way to surprise and dismay" as it became clear that little would go to charity.
• Much of the estate was taxed twice - at 55% each time - within the space of just a few years.
• Heirs lost millions to a lawsuit that siphoned wealth from the family's future generations.
• According to press reports, the surviving principal heir was "faced with huge tax implications".
• Real estate with an iconic place in the American psyche was sold off piecemeal to pay taxes.
• Historic memorabilia worth millions was sold off an item at a time, with the government getting half.
• From all appearances, one of the principal heirs actually lost money on the estate, after accounting for taxes and lawsuits.
• The will was written by a well known figure on the world stage known for her desire to have privacy. The will providing for just that is now routinely downloaded from various locations all over the internet.
• The executor of the estate currently seeks a seat in the United States Senate.
At our next meeting, we will connect the dots and review this most unique of American case studies. Please join John Donaldson and me for a discussion of A LEGACY DENIED: JACKIE O's WILL.
Along the way, we will learn a few things which will be sure to help our clients see a little Camelot in their own planning. I hope you'll join us Friday January 30th, 2009, 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. at the GROSSE POINTE YACHT CLUB.