People in California surely know Disneyland as one of the state’s biggest tourist attractions and the self-proclaimed “Happiest Place on Earth.” Over 50 years ago, the visionary behind the empire, Walt Disney, died and left his estate to his family and loved ones. Disney left untold millions to his children, including his daughter Sharon, who died in 1993 and left her share of her inheritance in a trust fund for her twin children, Brad and Michelle, who are now 43-years-old.
Now Brad and Michelle are embroiled in a nasty court battle over their share of the inheritance, which includes the trust funds that are estimated to be worth about $300 million. According to the terms of their trust, the twins were entitled to receive lump sum payments amounting to 20% of the trust at the ages of 35, 40 and 45. There was one requirement that the twins had to meet in order to be eligible for the payment of the lump sum – they each had to demonstrate the maturity and financial ability to reasonably manage these massive payments.
At the last milestone, the trustees determined that Michelle was eligible for the payment, but denied the payment to Brad, stating he did not meet the requirements necessary to receive his payment. Brad and his counsel and supporters are challenging the ruling of the trustees in a court case, which began earlier this month and should last about three weeks. If he is successful in his challenge, the current trustees could be removed.
When it comes to estate planning, a trust can be a useful tool, but it is only as useful as the trustees set in place to safeguard the intent of the testator. People should consider using an experienced estates and trusts attorney as a trustee. The right trusts attorney should have the qualifications and experience necessary to administer the trust in a fair and objective manner, even in the face of intense pressure and with large monetary sums at stake.
Source: The Telegraph “Walt Disney’s twin grandchildren in bitter row over inheritance,” Nick Allen, Nov. 30, 2013