They say that money is the root of all evil, but that’s not quite right since money can also be the product of much hard work, knowledge, and ability. What tends to be right more often than not, and also what happens to be more unfortunate, is that money is the “toxic soil” of crooked trees, unruly gardens, and those that don’t understand money and value itself.
That’s a serious challenge to the wealthy estate planner and especially the planner with a business to leave behind.
As pointed out here in the Wall Street Journal recently, a possible, if difficult, option among wealthy parents is some form of disinheritance. That’s right, you may actually decide to simply not leave your wealth (or some form/amount of wealth) to your children. It need not be out of malice, but it likely will require every bit of planning that otherwise leaving a robust inheritance otherwise would.
Your challenges aren’t in the political system, the tax court, or even arcane IRS challenges, but they are no less real. For one thing, you must decide what to do with those assets if not to let them transfer downstream. At the same time, you must protect your decision against entreaties and potential lawsuits from the disinherited.
The poster-parent of this idea, and the source of much legal activity in the Australian Court system, is none other than Gina Reinhart the mining billionaire (and an heiress herself). It seems Ms. Reinhart came to the conclusion that her children aren’t fit to run the company and shut them out of the ownership stakes of the business (although they are already part of the family trust):
Court documents cited in the Australian media show that Ms. Rinehart believed the kids weren’t fit to manage their fortune. She said none had ever held a real job, unless it was given to them by the family. “None of the plaintiffs (her children) have the requisite capacity or skill, nor the knowledge, experience, judgment or responsible work ethic to administer a trust in the nature of the trust in particular as part of the growing HPPL Group,” she claimed in court papers.
It’s not a complete disinheritance, but it is a decided opinion, and a terse objection, to leaving certain things to those children. Indeed, a tough call.
More information about the Reinharts and their trials can be found in the original article.
Their specific situation and grievances aside, it goes to show that planning to give and planning to withhold are, usually, two sides of the same coin. They require the same decision making and authoritative execution.
Reference: Forbes (March 13, 2012) “Billionaire Says Her Kids Aren’t Fit for Inheritance”
Schultz & Associates Law Center, P.C. is an Oregon law firm with offices in Eugene, Salem, and Roseburg, Oregon.