Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rule Against Perpetuities--Alive and Well

While it's not entirely a land use issue, many of us have had to deal with perpetuities issues in land. 2011-04-05 027  Contrary to what you hear from certain property-haters out there, the Rule Against Perpetuities still affects many property law issues, even if it lurks behind the scenes much of the time.  Some of you may have seen this story going around: Millionaire's heirs get inheritance after 92 yrs; Lumber baron Wellington R. Burt finally parts with his fortune, 21 years after his last grandkid died.  

(AP)  SAGINAW, Mich. — Ninety-two years after his death, Saginaw lumber baron Wellington R. Burt is finally parting with the fortune he withheld from his descendants until 21 years after the death of the last grandchild born in his lifetime.

The estate is now valued at $100 million to $110 million. It will be shared among 12 of his heirs later this month.

According to The Saginaw News, Burt once was among the eight wealthiest Americans. He made millions of dollars in the harvesting of the Saginaw Valley's timber and then another fortune in Minnesota's iron mines. He served as mayor of Saginaw and later as a Michigan state senator.

At 19 years old, Christina Cameron of Lexington, Ky., is the youngest of the 12 and is in line to receive $2.6 million to $2.9 million. . . . Cameron is the great-granddaughter of Marion Landsill. She was the last survivor among Burt's grandchildren who were born in his lifetime. She died Nov. 21, 1989.

Saginaw County Chief Probate Judge Patrick McGraw said the estate is "one of the most complicated research projects" he's faced in his 12-year career in Saginaw.  When McGraw arrived in 1999, the estate had long been a part of courthouse lore.

The Dead Hand got its wish, to the maximum extent allowed under the RAP!  Show this story to your  students the next time you hear that they know a guy who knows a guy who knows a lawyer who says the RAP doesn't have any real-world impact.  While many states have abolished or reformed the rule, property law still remains in the shadow of the ol' lives in being + 21 rule.  Personally, I think it also gets the point across if you wear a Rule Against Perpetuities t-shirt like the one above from my closet, but that may not fit everyone's sense of style.  Thanks to Steve Homer, John Kowalczyk, and Ash Shepherd for the pointer.

Matt Festa

History, Property, Property Theory, Teaching | Permalink

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