Many people have been following the developments in the conservatorship of Britney Spears.  It is hard not to since the matter has been in the headlines so often of late.  Ms. Spears alleged gross financial and personal abuse by her father, who, until he was suspended earlier this week by Los Angeles Superior Court, had been the conservator in charge of Ms. Spears’s finances since 2008.  He was replaced by a temporary conservator of Ms. Spears’s choosing.

There is little doubt the Ms. Spears needed a conservator years ago when she had a very public breakdown.  Ms. Spear’s objective is to have the conservatorship discontinued. Whether she needs a conservator now will be for the court to decide.  I am sure we will be reading about this for some time to come.

California utilizes conservatorships for people in need of financial oversight.  New York did until 1993, when Article 81 of the New York Mental Hygiene Law was enacted.  Conservators were replaced by property guardians.  Committees, which oversaw a person who could not handle his or her personal needs, were replaced with personal needs guardians.  The beauty of Article 81 guardianships, unlike conservatorships and committees, which were all-encompassing, is that guardianships can be tailored in each case with the standard being the least restrictive means needed to protect the individual determined after a hearing to be incapacitated.

With that said, the guardianship of famous artist Peter Max made the news earlier this week.  Mr. Max was adjudicated as incapacitated under Article 81 in late 2016, and a guardian was appointed for him.  He is said to have dementia.  Underlying the need for a guardian was the alleged abuse of him by his then-wife.  However, she committed suicide last year just prior to when Mr. Max’s second guardian was replaced by his current one, an attorney.

Mr. Max’s daughter alleges that her father is being held hostage by the guardian in the sense that access to her father is restricted and also that the current guardian is abusing her authority as Mr. Max’s property guardian.  Mr. Max’s son and a close friend of the artist both assert that the guardian has placed onerous restrictions on visiting Mr. Max.  Mr. Max’s daughter wants the guardianship to end.  His son, who is estranged from his sister, does not.   It is important to note that the veracity of the allegations against Mr. Max’s current guardian has not been determined by the court.

Britney Spears and Peter Max are high-profile individuals.  But, what about the many, many average people for whom a conservator or a guardian has been appointed?  What prevents abuse in their cases and, if there is abuse, how is it remedied?

In New York, court-appointed guardians are granted specific powers and cannot act beyond those powers.  Lay guardians must take guardian training, as must guardians who are attorneys, as in Peter Max’s case.  The court usually will require a guardian to be bonded for the amount of money that he or she is overseeing for the incapacitated person.  A property guardian, whether a family member or friend of the incapacitated person, or an independent guardian, must account each year for all of the money received and expended by the guardian.   A personal needs guardian must visit the incapacitated person a certain number of times each year, must make sure the incapacitated person receives proper care, and must keep the court apprised of the incapacitated person’s health and well-being.  Often, the court appoints one person to be both the property guardian and personal needs guardian.  A court examiner is appointed for each guardianship.  The court examiner is an individual, usually an attorney, whose function it is to review the initial and annual reports that each guardian is required to file.  The court examiner must alert the court if the reports are not filed or if there are discrepancies in the reports.

Even these safeguards do not ensure that there is no abuse.  If the incapacitated person has family or friends other than the guardian, they should keep close tabs on what is going on and should alert the court to anything that appears untoward.  If the incapacitated person is able, he or she should do the same.  Although there are abuses, most of the time an Article 81 guardianship is a humane solution to an often-sad situation.



Pity the poor estate planners. They are like zookeepers managing an ever increasing menagerie of exotic beasts, creatures of the tax code and regulations designed to take maximum, albeit legitimate, advantage of the complexities increasingly built into the system.  For example: CRATs, CRUTs, FLPs, Zeroed-Out CLATs, Stretch IRAs, RMDs, GRUTs, DAPTs, Grantor Trusts, SLATs, etc. This week’s entry on the firm’s Trusts and Estates blog continues earlier references to retirement accounts and adds a “new” member to the zoo, a STAT. It all calls to mind a quote from the writer Barbara Ehrenreich:

“It seems to me that there must be an ecological limit to the number of paper pushers the earth can sustain, and that human civilization will collapse when the number of, say, tax lawyers exceeds the world’s total population of farmers, weavers, fisherpersons, and pediatric nurses.”

The Trusts and Estates community is awash in articles on the proposed changes to the tax laws, the latest scare articles concern the increases  in the capital gains tax that may not only effect the very wealthy but may also capture many middle class taxpayers who have owned homes for lengthy periods of time. If those income taxes are made law and made retroactive, then the law may have a major impact on people that are not very wealthy.

Another source of worry, one that may be relevant to a large number of all taxpayers, is the concern over retirement accounts in light of the recently enacted SECURE Act. “SECURE” stands for “Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act.” (I kid you not, think of the hours a young and highly-credentialed Congressional staffer spent on concocting that acronym.)

In an article called “The ABCs of Estate Planning for IRAs Under the Secure Act,” one of the countries leading experts on estate planning, Natalie Choate,  writes on issues worthy of our consideration. Read it if only to learn what a STAT is. The link for the article is:  Morningstar Articles.

Ms. Choate writes,

“The ‘ABC’ (and sometimes ‘D’) system described here is designed to cut through that confusion and get you quickly to the estate planning options for each type of beneficiary and their minimum distribution consequences. The client has only four options for how he can leave his IRA to any beneficiary. The ABCD approach gets you instantly to the RMD effect of each approach. Here goes:

In the client’s beneficiary designation form for the client’s IRA:

A: The client names the beneficiary directly.

B: The client names a “conduit trust” for the beneficiary.

C: The client names a see-through accumulation trust for the beneficiary.”

Finally, on a personal note, Phil Schaap has passed away. You may ask, “Who?” If you do, then you are not a fan of American music. He was the great historian, producer, promoter, and raconteur of America’s one great contribution to world culture, Jazz. Every morning, for almost 50 years, Phil would hold forth on WKCR on the music of Charlie Parker. The show was called Bird Flight. I hope his alma mater, Columbia, that sponsored his radio show has an archive of his broadcasts. He was a recipient of the 2021 NEA Jazz Masters honor. He should have been honored much earlier. This link to a short video from Jazz at Lincoln Center, with which he was long associated, is worth your time. RIP, Phil, and thanks, Jazz at Lincoln Center.


While the producers of the television show Jeopardy are trying to find a replacement to the late Alex Trebek (your writer is old enough to remember the original host Art Fleming), a popular category of the game show provides the title for this week’s collection of trusts and estates related news, Potpourri.

  1. What is an RMD and How Do I make a mistake with it? Happily for your writer, there is little need for a deep knowledge of the intricacies of qualified retirement plans, IRA accounts, income tax deferrals, and required minimum distributions when among my colleagues is an acknowledged master of the relevant arcana, Victor Finmann. Nonetheless, this headline caught my attention as someone in constant need of fresh content for this blog, “84% of Retirees Are Making This RMD Mistake.”

This recent article from Yahoo Finance discusses the RMD mistake most people are evidently making:

From the article:

“An RMD [as in ‘required minimum distribution’ – there are severe income tax consequences for not taking them] is the minimum amount the government requires most retirees withdraw from their tax-advantaged retirement accounts at a certain age. In 2020, the RMD age was raised from 70.5 to 72. . .

“Retirees’ prudence surrounding withdrawals may be misguided, though.”

“The RMD approach has some clear shortcomings,” JPMorgan Chase’s Katherine Roy and Kelly Hahn wrote. “It does not generate income that supports retirees’ declining spending in today’s dollars, a behavior that we see occurs with age. In fact, the RMD approach tends to generate more income later in retirement and can even leave a sizable account balance at age 100.”

The article may be useful for retirees in planning their financial needs as they get even older. As always, consult a professional before making any decision.

  1. What happens to my digital data, music, and pictures when I die?

This recent article from AP News asks the increasingly important estate planning question: “Who gets the keys to your digital estate?”

“In the past, your executor — the person entrusted with settling your estate after your death — probably could have figured out what you owned and owed by rummaging through the papers in your filing cabinet and the bills in your mail, notes Sharon Hartung, the author of two books for financial advisors, “Your Digital Undertaker” and “Digital Executor.” That’s no longer the case.

“Because our digital assets tend to be virtual in nature, an executor is not going to find them in a search of our home office,” Hartung says. “We’re going to have to leave some additional instructions on what we’ve created and how the executor is supposed to get access.”

Digital assets have become a major element in a comprehensive estate plan. New York has enacted a new set of laws to deal with these matters. The law is found in Article 13-A of the Estates Powers and Trusts Law. To give an example of the kinds of issues that may arise, see the link below to the Serrano case from New York County. It is a very clear analysis of the new law and its limitations. Most of us are not Bitcoin billionaires, but most of us probably have a substantial number of family pictures on our electronic devices, not to mention our iTunes music library (which presents a whole set of different issues about what constitutes ownership).

In sum, it is well worth your time making known in an effective way (either in your Will or in conjunction with your internet platforms and their individual requirements) how these assets are to be handled when you depart for that great hard drive in the sky.

Matter of Serrano:


Dorothy Parker is known for having been a prolific writer and poet.  She was born in 1893 and died in 1967.  She is famous for her satirical style and biting wit.  She was a member of the legendary Algonquin Round Table, a group that included Robert Benchley, an American humorist, and Robert E. Sherwood, an American playwright and screenwriter, both renowned in their own right.

Ms. Parker was known for her sardonic wit.  One merely has to search her name on the Internet to find numerous quotes that fall into that category.  For instance, she is quoted as saying, “That would be a good thing to cut on my tombstone:  Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.”  That quote seems appropriate for this Blog entry.

Ms. Parker bequeathed her estate to Martin Luther King, Jr., and upon his untimely death, to the NAACP.  Ms. Parker was cremated.  But, alas, she left no instructions about what she wanted done with her ashes.  At first, they were unclaimed.  In 1973, they were sent to her attorney’s office.  Her ashes remained in a file cabinet belonging to her attorney’s colleague until 1988 when the NAACP claimed them.  The NAACP buried them in a garden outside of its Baltimore headquarters and dedicated a lovely plaque.  One line of the plaque states, “For her epitaph, she suggested, ‘Excuse my dust.’”  Fitting.

A couple of years ago, when the NAACP moved its headquarters into the City of Baltimore, and was planning another move, to Washington, D.C., the subject of Ms. Parker’s ashes arose.  What was to become of them?

Well, by now, Ms. Parker’s relatives opined that the ashes should be moved to the family plot in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.  After all, although she was born in New Jersey, she considered herself a New Yorker.  In August 2020, the urn containing her ashes was exhumed and re-buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, presumably Ms. Parker’s final resting place.  The memorial was grand, befitting a woman of such renown.  A headstone was erected.  Her fifty-three-year journey was over.

What is the moral of this story?  Is there a moral?  Not really, but a lesson to be learned to avoid this type of situation is to execute as part of your estate planning a simple document called an “Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains.”  In that document, you can designate an agent to control the disposition of your remains and specify any special instructions about them, such as whether you want to be cremated or buried and, if so, where.  Of course, the document becomes operative only upon your death and can be revoked at any time prior to then, assuming you have the mental capacity to do so.

With all Dorothy Parker’s writings, just one more would have avoided having to “[e]xcuse [her] dust” as it traveled about for more than fifty years.


Daniel Craig is a prominent actor, one of the most recent incarnations of  the James Bond franchise. Mr. Craig made headlines recently with his announcement that he finds that “inheritance is distasteful.” He plans to give little if anything to his children and the rest to charity. Shocking. Positively shocking? No, a charitable disposition is to be lauded and it is hard to imagine that the actor’s children will be left impoverished

Why did Daniel Craig feel the need to make this statement? Most people prefer to tend to their financial and family affairs privately.  Perhaps it is an example of “virtue signaling” that is prevalent among the celebrities of the world who may be embarrassed by their wealth. It calls to mind a witticism of the late playwright George Bernard Shaw, “Money is not the root of all evil. The lack of money is the root of all evil.” Pulling Shaw out of thin air serves an ulterior motive, it gives your writer the chance to recommend two great movies made from Shaw plays that star the incandescent and underappreciated Wendy Hiller – Major Barbara and Pygmalion. The latter was made into the classic musical My Fair Lady. A musical comedy based on the class struggle? Who would have thunk it? Ironically, both Pygmalion and My Fair Lady ended as Shaw never intended. In the play, Eliza walks out on Henry Higgins, “If I can’t have kindness, I’ll have independence,” she declares. Then, according to Shaw’s final stage direction, Eliza “sweeps out.” So, perhaps there is a link between my digression to Mr. Shaw, the movies, and Mr. Craig’s pompous pronouncement. “That’s Entertainment.”

Good luck, Mr. Craig. If you are serious about your plans then be sure to make the arrangements now. There are a large number of planning techniques available that will accomplish your goals now and still provide for your children. If you leave it to your Last Will and Testament to accomplish, then take care that it is safely stored in a place where your children will not find it. And if you are adamant about disinheriting them, take the proper steps to assure your charitable beneficiaries have little to fear from the litigation your children will probably commence. Just saying.

The Telegraph: Daniel Craig Shuns Quite Distasteful Inheritance Children

Newsweek: Daniel Craig Won’t Be Leaving Inheritance

Page Six: Daniel Craig Won’t Leave Inheritance To Kids



Last week we introduced the story of a battle over a portion of the Walt Disney fortune. His grandson is challenging the sale of a ranch in Wyoming by the trustees of a family trust. The article reporting the story contained a number of questionable statements that might be worth reviewing if only to illustrate some points of trust law and empathize with the difficult job of a trust officer. (See the link below to the original article.)

 “Trustees for Bradford Lund, the grandson of legendary animator and producer Walt Disney, have reportedly negotiated the sale of a family ranch outside Jackson against Lund’s wishes.”

The trustees are bound by a fiduciary duty to all the trust’s beneficiaries, a group that may include many others aside from Brad. Hence, his wishes to keep the ranch is not dispositive and may violate the trustees’ duty to other beneficiaries.

“For months, Lund has been locked in a legal battle with his own trustees over Eagle South Fork, the 110-acre ranch in Teton County left to Lund and his twin sister, Michelle, by their father.”

The sentence is contradictory. It displays a common misunderstanding of trusts. Assuming the governing law is similar to New York’s, then a trust may be the legal owner of the ranch while the beneficiaries are the beneficial owners. While the trust may be the legal owner of the ranch, the trustees hold it in a fiduciary capacity for the benefit of the beneficiaries. In fact, if this were the only asset of the trust and the beneficiaries relied on the trust for income, then Brad would be complaining of the trustees violating their duties under the Prudent Investor Act (or its local equivalent) in failing to make the trust assets diversified and productive for his living expenses. Can Brad challenge the sale? Sure, perhaps the trust instrument stipulated that barring extenuating circumstances the ranch was to remain in the trust and enjoyed by family members for years to come. After all, who among us would not like to live on ranch in Wyoming on a trout stream?

“In January, trustees told Lund he could pay just over $34 million (which they referred to as a “discounted price”, despite the residential appraisal of his portion of the land coming in at under $10 million) to retain ownership of his half of the ranch. Michelle Lund was reportedly not interested in keeping her share.”

Wait a minute, something does not add up here. The property was set to sell for $35 million by the trustees to a third party. Assuming (a big assumption) Mr. Lund and his sister Michelle are equal beneficiaries of the trust, on both the income and principal side, and therefore equal ultimate owners of the trust’s assets, then the trustees would be free to sell the ranch to Brad for its net fair market value (whatever that may mean under the circumstances) and credit him for his share of the equity. Valuation disputes are always difficult to litigate, even at these high values, because they involve expert testimony and, as all litigators know, one can get an “expert” to testify that up is down or that down is up.

“Lund’s legal team argues he shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for property already owned by his own trust — a trust that, by law, is supposed to act according to his interests.”

Maybe yes, maybe no. They may be other family members whose interests in the trust do not coincide with Brad’s. The trustees must steer a course of undivided loyalty to all beneficiaries of the trust, both present beneficiaries and future ones as well. If Brad’s conduct is found to be unreasonable and contrary to the wishes of the other beneficiaries, then he could (in New York) be made to pay not only his own legal fees but to have the trustees’ legal fees come from his share of the trust estate.

“The letter says the trustees don’t expect the sale to be final until this fall, and an affidavit ordered by Lund’s team has them under oath that the sale won’t close until September. If the sale goes through before then, the trustees could be guilty of perjury.”

Bwa hah hah hah . . . That’ll be the day.

“According to court filings, the trustees are set on having the case heard in a Los Angeles court out of convenience for them. But Lund’s legal team argues it should be heard in Wyoming, where the ranch is. A motion to bring the case to Wyoming was denied by a judge this week.”

The issue of jurisdiction and the issue of venue are different concepts in the law and it is impossible to say in this instance who is right and who is wrong. While the instrument that created the trust may choose to have a particular state’s law govern the relationship, that does not mean that the choice of law in one state is the preferred or even the proper venue to bring the proceedings. Perhaps the real issue here is a tactical one. The trustees want to litigate where they have home field advantage (of convenience only, of course) and Brad vice versa.

“If the sale does go through, the trustees have indicated they’ll receive a 2% “marketing fee” for facilitating the deal. According to Chris Hawks, a Jackson lawyer representing Lund, that’s highly unusual.”

No, no they won’t, at least under New York law. The trustees are already compensated by a commission (in New York, it is statutory and for a corporate trustee it is according to a schedule set by the trustee) and an added sales commission on the sale of a trust asset would be, in New York,  “self-dealing,” an egregious breach of a fiduciary’s  duty.

“Aside from the litigation over the ranch, Lund has also petitioned the Los Angeles County Probate Court to remove his team of trustees from their positions, citing a pattern of breaches in their duties to him as the trust’s beneficiary.”

Removal of trustees – easy or difficult? The courts in New York usually give great deference to the choice of fiduciaries made by a testator (for an executor) or a grantor (for a trustee). Nonetheless, the court has the power to remove a fiduciary for a variety of causes ranging from misconduct to (in rare cases) extreme hostility between the beneficiary and the trustee.

“He has struggled to access inheritance payments that have been withheld for more than 15 years, as trustees claim he’s mentally incompetent to receive the money. Lund, now 50, was meant to receive payments of approximately $20 million every five years between his 35th and 45th birthdays — meaning he’s out around $60 million dollars in total.”

Wait! What? If the trust requires said payments, they cannot be withheld. If the trustees believe their beneficiary is incompetent, they have a remedy that corresponds to their duty, one similar to a guardianship in New York but they cannot do what they are said to have done. That being said, why is there even a dispute over the ranch that must be generating huge legal fees? (One of Brad’s attorneys is Washington political figure Lanny Davis.) The trust could have made a distribution in kind to Brad of the net value of the ranch in lieu of one or more of those large distributions. I hope there is more to the story than being reported.

The article:

Casper Star-Tribune Disney Trustee


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.

Casper Star-Tribune

News and Crime New York State

Casper Star-Tribune

Ranch Dispute in Wyoming

Rocket Miner

Wyoming News: Jackson Hole property

Cowboy State Daily


Most of us know the name “Britney Spears” from her long show business career, which began when she was a child.  By the time she was twelve years old, she starred in The Mickey Mouse Club.  She later catapulted to stardom as a “pop” star.  Most of us are equally aware that Ms.  Spears suffered the same ill-effects from which many child stars suffer.  In 2007, she had a very public meltdown, the most visible sign was when she shaved her head and exhibited other erratic behavior.  What we do not know is the mental anguish she endured that led up to it.  This led to the conservatorship that we have read about periodically since 2008, and more frequently in the last year or so, as she has pushed back against what she alleges are wanton abuses of her person and liberty interests.  For a complete discussion, I point you to an in-depth article from The New Yorker that I found online, titled, Britney Spears’s Conservatorship Nightmare,  by Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino.

The allegations range from the financial abuse by her father, who oversees her large monetary estate, to allegations that she has not been allowed to have another child, despite her fervent desire for one.  These types of allegations should resonate with everyone, as they impinge on our basic liberty interests.  However, often there is a need for a conservatorship, or as it is denominated in New York’s Mental Hygiene Law Article 81, a guardianship.  Indeed, it appears that, in 2008, it was appropriate for the California court to place Ms. Spears in a conservatorship.  What is not appropriate are the seeming flagrant abuses practiced on her by, among others, her father, under the auspices of the court.

These types of public cases shed light on the potential for abuse, and often actual abuses, by conservators or guardians and can discourage a well-meaning person from commencing a legal proceeding to have someone adjudicated as incapacitated, so that, to use New York’s term, a guardian of the person or property will be appointed for someone who needs help and support.  What New Yorkers should know is that, despite the potential for abuse, Article 81 includes certain protections for an individual alleged to be incapacitated, often referred to as the “AIP,” or, later, declared incapacitated.  For example, when an Article 81 proceeding is commenced, the court generally appoints a Court Evaluator to essentially, be the “eyes and ears” of the court.  The Court Evaluator is usually an attorney or other professional who has taken the requisite training and is on a list approved by New York’s Office of Court Administration.  It is the Court Evaluator’s duty to interview the person who commenced the proceeding, the AIP, and those people, often family members, who can shed light on the situation.  Among other things, the Court Evaluator is tasked with looking into the AIP’s finances and whether the AIP has implemented other means by which he or she can be cared for, for example, having an agent under a Power of Attorney, who can handle that person’s financial affairs.  After the investigation is concluded, and prior to the hearing, the Court Evaluator renders a report to the court with his or her findings, recommendations, and conclusions.  Additionally, the court often appoints counsel for the AIP to represent him or her during the proceeding.  At the hearing, the petitioner must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, the allegation that the AIP is incapacitated and needs a guardian and, if the court declares the AIP to be incapacitated, it is the court’s duty to grant the least restrictive powers under the particular facts to the guardian appointed.  Often, the court requires the guardian to be bonded, particularly, if he or she will be responsible for an appreciable sum of the AIP’s money.

The court’s supervision of the guardianship process does not end with the appointment of a guardian.  Ninety days after the guardian has qualified, that person must render an initial report to the court and to a court examiner, who is usually an attorney with special training, showing what the guardian has done both with the incapacitated person’s (“IP”) finances and also how the IP is faring personally.   Then, the guardian must file an annual report every year in May.  Each report is reviewed by the court examiner and, if all is found to be in order, the court issues an order approving the report.  Guardians are subject to removal by the court for abuse of the IP’s person or property.  Further, the IP can petition the court to terminate the guardianship, assuming the IP has the mental status to do so.  One hopes these protections are sufficient to protect New Yorkers from what is alleged to have happened to Britney Spears.

But, as we know, abuses occur, and sometimes go undetected.  What then?  A Democratic Representative from Florida and a Republican Representative from South Carolina recently introduced their “Freedom and Right to Emancipation from Exploitation Act” (“FREE Act”).  If the FREE Act is passed, an individual would have the right to have his or her guardian replaced with an independent guardian without having to prove any abuse by the guardian.  The bill also would provide incapacitated persons with independent case workers and other safeguards, necessary when the IP cannot advocate for himself or herself.  Stay tuned.

A story is told about a conversation between two great writers on the nature of wealth. F. Scott Fitzgerald, very enamored of the leisure class, is reputed to have said to Ernest Hemingway: “The rich are different from you and me.” In reply, Hemingway said: “Yes, they have more money.” And then there is the old joke that I won’t repeat here other than to deliver the punch line, “It was either that or dip into principal.”

One of the major goals of estate planning is to make the lives of one’s descendants as pleasant as possible. Pleasant but not dissolute. In a similar vein, John Adams  wrote to his spouse Abigail, “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy . . .commerce, and agriculture, . . in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, . . .”

In this blog entry, we cite to some useful resources that consider the ways the successful entrepreneur may see his or her grandchildren studying or responsibly enjoying the finer things of life rather than ending up on Page 6 of the New York Post. Obviously, there is no substitute for careful individualized planning that takes into account not just your assets but your family circumstances, the character of your children and grandchildren, etc.  Consider this entry as food for thought.

What the coming $68 trillion Great Wealth Transfer means for financial advisors

Managing the Psychological Impact of Inherited Wealth

Four reasons intergenerational wealth is destroyed in 3 generations

How to Help Your Family Wealth Last for Generations




I would rather have it said, ‘He lived usefully,’ than, ‘He died rich.’

  • Benjamin Franklin

Many people erroneously ascribe to Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics, an ideological  hostility to taxation that he did not in fact espouse. In his time, he would have been known as a “moral philosopher,” and his first work of any consequence was called, The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

The tax code has always recognized the multiple goals of taxation. Aside from revenue for the government, there is the intent to equalize the distribution of wealth, the desire to foster certain behaviors deemed ethically beneficial to society as a whole, etc. The charitable deduction provided by the Internal Revenue  Code is an illustration of the goal to foster a charitable attitude and behavior in those who have achieved a measure of wealth. As with any generalized goals, there are opportunities for abuse. President Biden’s administration is looking to curb what it considers to be abuse in the use of the charitable deduction. Here is a link to a recent article that is relevant.

How can one resist an article that begins as follows:

“Last December, two Atlanta tax professionals pled guilty to a scheme that defrauded the IRS of more than $250 million in taxes.

“The scam claimed more than $1.2 billion in fraudulent charitable deductions through so-called syndicated conservation easements, a strategy most taxpayers probably have never heard of. . .

“. . . In the case of the Atlanta tax professionals, they promised more than $4 in charitable tax deductions for every $1 invested with “no economic risk.”

“Congress May Curb Abuses of This Charitable Deduction Used by the Wealthy”