Disinheiriting the family

Skipping All of the living relatives....

Wellington R. Burt died in 1919 as one of America’s richest men, having accumulated a vast fortune from investments in Michigan timber and Minnesota iron ore. But he may become best known to history as the creator of an unusual trust that shut out his children and grandchildren in favor of later generations who would never know him.

As the Saginaw News reports, 12 Burt descendants will begin receiving their share of his estimated $100-$110 million estate this month – 21 years after the death of Burt’s last grandchild, as stipulated in his 1917 handwritten will. The unusual trust was the result of family feuds that didn’t end with Burt’s death – several children and grandchildren attempted with limited success to break the trust over the years. However, the majority of the trust assets has stayed intact and will be dispersed to a dozen relatives later this month, in shares from $16 million to $2.6 million.

Saginaw probate judge Patrick McGraw called Burt’s estate “one of the most complicated research projects” he’s ever faced. McGraw had to comb through 42 files of grievances filed over the years as well as vet 30 individuals who stepped up to claim their slice of Burt’s fortune. Eventually, 12 were qualified as legitimate heirs. The oldest heir is 94; the youngest is 19. Beneficiary percentages were settled on during a meeting with 20 attorneys representing the dozen heirs and the trust is now scheduled to open on May 31.

 Jay Lashlee, True Trust Book by Jay Lashlee