Those in possession of a large amount of wealth are eager to leave their fortune to their family members when they die – however, this is not always the case according to an article published in The Guardian. A wealthy eccentric tycoon, Wellington Burt, made all the necessary precautions to ensure his immediate family did not inherit his fortune. The Michigan tycoon called it his ‘golden egg’ and 92 years later it was incubated in his Saginaw, Michigan estate. When he died in 1919 at age 87, he had a multi million dollar fortune to give away and was expected to leave this handsome fortune to his family.
However Burt wrote the most peculiar will, stating that the ‘golden egg’ would remain untouched until 21 years after the death of his last surviving grandchild. When the last surviving grandchild passed away the countdown for Burt’s fortune began. The fortune was estimated between $100 million and $110 million. The fortune was divided by 12 beneficiaries as according to the probate judge presiding over the trust. Burt left his immediate family a monthly allowance of one thousand dollars per year, which was the same allowance he left to the coach, cook and housekeeper.
No one knows why Burt created such an unusual will. Some say it was due to petty family gripes, or that he was just a very bitter man. This shows how complex and binding a will can be.
According to an article published by The Balance, for a will to be legally binding you must be sound of mind. This means that you have an understanding of what you own to leave others, your relationship to those beneficiaries and that you are indeed leaving them this property in your will.
The story of Wellington Burt also displays how one can draw up an extremely detailed will. (There is a difference between a will and a trust). According to investopedia, a will is a legally enforceable document stating how you want your affairs handled and assets distributed after you die – an important component of estate planning. Whereas a trust is a fiduciary relationship in which you give another party authority to handle your assets for the benefit of a third party, your beneficiaries.
A trust is another method of estate transfer. A trust is created for a variety of functions, and there are many types of trusts; overall, however, there are two categories: living and testamentary. A will can be used to create a testamentary trust. You can also create a trust for the primary purpose of avoiding probate court, called a living revocable trust.
The case of Wellington Burt shows the complexity of a testamentary trust whereas it was established in accordance with the instructions contained in a last will and testament. A will could have more than one testamentary trust. The trustee named is responsible for managing and distributing the trustor’s assets to the beneficiaries as directed in the will.
The allocation of the trust was presided over by a local judge who was given authority to handle Burt’s assets for the benefit of his beneficiaries.