Monday, May 23, 2011

Wellington Burt’s Trustee: Maladroit or Maligned?

Remember Wellington R. Burt's trust that skipped generations for 92 years? Saginaw County's chief probate judge has ordered full distribution.

It wasn't easy. Some 20 lawyers were involved in negotiating a distribution that sounds sort of per stirpes. "It gives larger amounts to those farther up the family tree who have fewer siblings."

Burt's curious desire to favor heirs he would never know over those he did has attracted considerable comment. Some question locking up an estate for so long. Others wonder why an estate valued at $40 million or more in 1919 is now worth only $100 million. Had Burt's fortune merely kept pace with inflation, it should be worth more like half a billion.

Was the bank trustee asleep at the switch? Or did the trust consist largely of business interests that crashed in the Great Depression? In the latter case the trustee may have conducted a heroic salvage job.

1 comment:

Jim Gust said...

The fact that the trust survived the Great Depression seems like a miracle. I've done an article on this trust for the June ITN.