Thursday, May 22, 2014
In 1993, Walt Disney’s youngest daughter, Sharon Disney Lund, died of breast cancer. Her three children—Brad, Michelle, and Victoria—were to inherit a vast fortune from a combined trust worth about $400 million. The payouts were to be dispensed to the three children at ages 35, 40 and 45 amounting to about $20 million for every five years. However, there was a caveat: Sharon empowered three trustees to withhold distributions in the even the children did not demonstrate “maturity and financial ability to manage and utilize such funds in a prudent and responsible manner.”
This limitation has had a devastating impact on the Lund branch of the Disney family. Its interpretation by the trustees has led to accusations of conspiracy and mental incompetence, as well as insinuations of incest, all leading up to a two-week long trial last December. The trial pitted family members against each other, and questioned whether Brad was capable of utilizing proceeds from the trust. On March 25, the judge issued a proposed decision, making it apparent that the trustees were not keeping Brad from his money so that they could earn more themselves, “The court is convinced that the Trustees sincerely believe that Mr. Lund does not have the maturity and financial ability to manage and utilize a substantial trust distribution. The trustees are legitimately concerned about Mr. Lund’s ability to protect himself from those around him who may wish to take financial advantage of him.”
Although the trial is over, the legal battle is just beginning. An appeal has been promised and a guardianship petition over Brad is still pending. “Whatever courtroom they meet in next, it will be far from the happiest place on Earth.”
See Eriq Gardner, Walt Disney Family Feud: Inside His Grandkids’ Weird, Sad Battle Over a $400 Million Fortune, The Hollywood Reporter, May 21, 2014.