Ever heard of Charles Millar’s birth derby?

stork-derby-16by9-01Charles Vance Millar, a wealthy Canadian lawyer was known for his practical jokes.  But his biggest prank of all was the one he left in his last will and testament.  When his will was read after he died on October 31, 1926, it was revealed that he had made several unusual bequests.

Millar had no close relatives or heirs but he did have a great deal of cash and properties.  He gave shares in a jockey club to gambling opponents and shares in a brewery to teetotalling religious leaders.  He left his house in Jamaica to three men who hated one another, on the condition that they would own it together.

But his most unusual bequest was made for the balance of his estate – approximately $9 million (in today’s Canadian dollars).  The remainder would be bequeathed a decade later “to the mother who has since my death given birth in Toronto to the greatest number of children as shown by the registrations under the Vital Statistics Act.”  If there was a tie, he wanted his fortune to be divided equally among the winners.

It’s not known how many families decided to try to win this prize.  However, by the deadline in 1936, more than 24 Toronto families had had at least eight babies during the ten year period.

“Ten years after Millar’s death, 32 lawyers showed up to an initial hearing to claim a share of the fortune for the families they represented.  After some quick record scanning, though, the presiding judge, William Middleton, cleared out everyone who didn’t have at least nine kids younger than 10.  That left six families.”

Two of those families settled for about $200,000 each.  Pauline Clark had 10 children during the specified time; however, five were born out of wedlock.  The judge interpreted the bequest to mean “legitimate children”.  Lillian Kenny gave birth to 11 children but three of them were stillborn.  The judge said “A child born dead is not in truth a child.”  Hence the reduced settlement.

Four other families with nine children each – the Timlecks (see photo above), the Nagles, the Smith and the MacLeans – were each awarded the equivalent of about $2 million!

This bequest is probably a lot more unusual than anything you will put in your will.  However, whatever you want to do with your money once your deceased should be well documented so that your wishes will be carried out.

For more information about wills and trusts, check out our website http://www.diesmart.com.

Checked your state’s unclaimed property database lately?

TaffyWhen Sophie Walter died in Illinois in 2009, she left behind a sizable estate, some of it in a pet trust for Taffy, her beloved cat.

The cat’s money was paid out monthly to Taffy’s caregiver, Karen Norwood (who had also been Sophie’s caregiver at an assisted-living facility during the final years of her life).  The funds were used to cover Taffy’s care and maintenance for the remaining years of her life.  She died last year at age 17.

In addition to the pet trust for Taffy, Walters left her money to several animal welfare charities.

Her story would never have been noticed if it weren’t for $121,479 that had fallen through the cracks following her death.  This money was in a savings account she had at JP Morgan Chase Bank.  After five years with no activity on the account, the bank turned that money over to the state treasurer, as required by law.

Taffy’s trust was only discovered when the state treasurer’s office looked for the money’s rightful owner.  Whether the money actually belonged to Taffy is unclear but it was passed on to the same animal welfare charities that had received the balance of Walter’s estate.

A cat can’t check the treasurer’s unclaimed property database but you can.  It’s a good idea to check it every so often in case you actually have an account you’ve forgotten about or a bequest from a now deceased relative has fallen through the cracks.

For more helpful hints about what to do after someone dies, check out our website http://www.diesmart.com.

 

50% of Prince’s estate value goes to pay estate taxes

PrinceYesterday, Prince’s estate had to file an estate tax payment plan.  Since his estate was valued at about $200 million, the taxes are expected to be about half of that – 40% to the federal government and 16% to the state of Minnesota.  Allowable deductions and exclusions will reduce that amount to 50%.

If Prince had an estate plan with trusts to benefit relatives and charities he chose, the amount of taxes due would have been very low.  Instead, only about 50% will go to his six siblings and the government will take the rest.

Prince’s estate didn’t have to actually have to pay the entire $100 million yesterday; it can make payments over time.  That’s a good thing since Prince’s estate isn’t very liquid.  There are many entertainment assets which are still being valued and it can take a long time since their actual worth will be determined.

It’s not clear whether the IRS and Prince’s estate will agree on the value of his music catalog; it’s difficult to put a dollar value on this kind of asset.  The estate can learn from the experience of Michael Jackson’s estate.  He died in 2009 and yet his estate is still not settled.  The tax case will go on trial in Los Angeles next month where there will be a dispute about more than $700 million in taxes, interest and penalties.

You probably aren’t worth this kind of money but even if your estate is only worth a few hundred thousand dollars, you should still have an estate plan.  It will make it much easier for your heirs and will enable them, rather than the government, to share in the total value of your estate.

For more information about estate planning, go to our website http://www.diesmart.com.

Do you have a will?

cynyjagxuaa5ewcIt’s never too soon to write a will.

Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez, a Washington state police officer, was fatally shot while responding to a domestic violence call in early December.  He had been with the Tacoma police department since 1999 and was highly respected and experienced.

Although he had a career in a dangerous field, he had not taken the steps necessary to protect his family if he was killed.  He lived with his fiancé, Rebecca Humphrey, and had talked about writing a will before they were married… but had not done it before his death.

Gutierrez was the breadwinner in their family, supporting Rebecca as she started a small business.  Now he is gone and Rebecca cannot access any of his money.  His estate will have to go through the probate process before she will possibly have access to any money.

Meanwhile, bills are piling up.  The Tacoma Police Department gave her $2,000 to cover her immediate needs and also set up a fund for the family.  But she will burn thru the $2,000 very quickly and doesn’t know how or when the fund will be distributed.

Rebecca is hopeful that everything will be worked out.  She says that Jake’s family hasn’t been fighting over money.  However, she wants others to hear her story and prepare for the worst.  She says “If you love your kids or fiancé or spouse, please think about that now for them so they don’t have to when they are grieving.”

If Gutierrez had written a will before his death, a lot of anguish and difficulty could have been avoided.

Even though you may not have a career in a dangerous field, you cannot plan when you will die.  You should prepare now and make decisions on how to take care of your family when you’re gone.  See an estate planning attorney or, if you have a simple estate, find a form on the internet.  But, whatever, you do, write your will today.

For more information about wills and estate planning, check out our website http://www.diesmart.com.