Monday, April 15, 2019
15 American billionaires died last year and left behind $60 billion in assets, some of which consisted of intense complexities such as yachts and sports teams. The number of billionaires is increasing, hiking up to 747 in 2017 from 490 in 2010. The prestigious 1% owns an amazing 37.2% of the country's wealth, and they are maintaining control for longer by living longer.
Tom Benson endured a years-long legal battle with his children and grandchildren who disapproved of him shifting future control of some of his assets to his current wife, Gayle Benson, in 2014. It culminated with a mental competency hearing for the 87-year-old, in which it was found that he was fit to manage his own affairs. Sumner Redstone finally ended a four year litigation with a former lover and confidante who had insisted on being reinstated as his health-care agent.
Elizabeth Glasgow, a partner at Venable LLP that specializes in in succession and wealth planning, says that the litigation is heightened because the mass amounts of wealth of these individuals are expected to trickle down to even their great-great-grandchildren. With so many people wanting a piece of the pie they created, these aging billionaires are hesitant to give up the reigns.
John Davis, founder of Cambridge Family Enterprise Group, said that, "Stepping into the shadows is something that older people don't want to do." Especially in businesses, they want to stay active and have a vital role. This can be a recipe for disaster, but often, early planning can avoid certain dramas.
See Simone Foxman, U.S. Billionaires are Living Longer, Making Heirs Wait, Bloomberg, April 3, 2019.
Special thanks to Jay Brinker (Cincinnati Estate Planning Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.