You Think You Hate Your Kids?


People’s reactions to Bill Gates’s decision not to bequeath his kids the majority of his estate range from “wow they must be mad,” to “what is Gates thinking?” which is not surprising. I wonder what they will think, then, in hearing of a recent estate and was just re-opened to its rightful heirs.

The estate of Wellington R. Burt, who died as one of the richest Americans in 1919, didn’t get lost somewhere, and was never shipwrecked or anything as dramatic as that. Instead, the millionaire just insisted that only the smallest fraction of it be left to his immediate family. In fact, Burt bequeathed about as much to his children as he did to his chauffeur and chef, showing how much he must have loved how his kids turned out. But then what did he do with the rest of the money, valued at over $100 million in today’s market?

He didn’t donate it like Gates plans to do. Nor did he blow it all in some last hurrah (Vegas hadn’t been constructed just yet). Instead he decided to take the money and put it in his trust. But Burt was so disenfranchised by his own family that he stipulated in his will that no money would be released until the last of his grandchildren died.

Since that point, 21 years ago, a legal struggle has been unfolding in which the rightful heirs were sought out, found and told of their good fortune. A few knew of their famous lineage, but ultimately none had any idea as to the extent, and now, the 12 heirs are certainly looking to reap the benefits that their grandparents, and great-grandparents weren’t allowed to.

Bold move there Burt, makes me hope that someday somebody will call me and tell me that my great-great-grandfather was actually a Native American billionaire and saved all his money for me. Hey if it worked for one American family, I guess there’s a little bit of hope for all of us….right?

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Posted on May 12, 2011, in News. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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