Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color was a feature (albeit not in color) of my Sunday evenings as a boy (although not as much as Wild Kingdom and Bonanza). This blog entry concerns the Disney fortune and the problems that frequently arise in the generations that follow the demise of the creator of the great wealth.

The first linked article below details the troubles plaguing the Disney family today. It makes for interesting reading and will be the subject of next week’s blog entry when we will dissect the article for inaccuracies, impossibilities, and legal errors. There are three other articles linked as well in order to give you a broader context.

Because of the sums involved, there is litigation. A lot of litigation involving trustees of a Disney family trust and one of its beneficiaries. If there is a trust officer reading this, then you can be sure that at least one reader who is already cringing. Why? Read on!

Trusts are almost unique to common law jurisdictions and countries that trace their origins back to the historical peculiarities of English common law and equity. In explaining a trust to a client it is frequently difficult to explain the difference between legal ownership of trust assets (the trustee), beneficial ownership of those assets (the present and future beneficiaries), and the fiduciary duties that connect the two. Many years ago, your writer was asked to attempt to settle a dispute when a trust beneficiary was outraged that her trustee would not distribute to her approximately $1 million from trust principle to open a clothing boutique on Rodeo Drive. The beneficiary could not understand the nature and limits of the discretion that prevented the bank-trustee from agreeing to any demand made upon it. The sums spent in the litigation were very large.

More on this topic next week when we attempt to parse the facts from the reporting.

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