BlogRead the Latest News

 

The Multi-Millionaire Next Door

Ronald Read was a gas station attendant in Vermont who retired after 25 years and then worked as a janitor for J.C. Penney for 17 more years. When he died last year at the age of 92, he left most of his $8 million estate to the local library and hospital.  His step son, whose mother died in 1970 after a brief 10 year marriage to Mr. Read, was unaware of his wealth.   He was renowned for his frugality, which included not paying for parking, wearing clothes held together by safety pins, and gathering free fire wood for his stove.  No one suspected he had any wealth, much less $8 million.

Several quick points:

1.  Assets worth more than $5.43 million are subject to federal estate tax, but bequests to charity are not taxable.  Mr. Read’s estate will not be subject to federal estate tax.

2.  Mr. Read’s estate will not be subject to Vermont estate tax either because Vermont exempts $2.75 million from estate taxation.

3.  Kudos to his step-son who continued to visit his step-father for 45 years after his mom died after only 10 years of marriage to Mr. Read.

4.  Perhaps we could all accumulate a significant net worth like Mr. Read if we eschewed cell phone and data plans, cable TV packages, and daily Starbucks runs.

ronald read(small)

If You Have to Ask, . . .

An individual who is a beneficiary of his uncle’s estate asked the Ethicist at the NYT if he should follow his uncle’s instructions to donate several thousand dollars to various charities.  The instructions were made in a letter accompanying the will.  The beneficiary perceived the groups to be “extremely right wing” and was offended by some of them.   The Ethicist instructed the beneficiary to make the donations or not take any money.

Several points:

1. Leaving money to someone with the expectation that he will share it with someone else or a charity is not legally binding nor a good idea (see the comment about not legally binding).

2.  Charitable bequests should be made in the will so they are carried out (and so charitable deductions are effective).

3.  Expecting anyone from California to donate money to a conservative cause is tilting at windmills.

All Cats (and Shelters) Look Gray in the Dark

An animal shelter in Collinsville, Oklahoma which always struggled financially received a $188K check from the estate of an unindentified deceased animal lover.  Two weeks later, it received a request from the law firm administering the decedent’s estate to return the check because the bequest was intended for a shelter with the same name in Collinsville, Illinois.  The shelter has not yet returned the check, although it has said it will.

Several points:

1.  In making charitable bequests, I always list the address of the charity to prevent this type of confusion.

2.  Because of its error, the law firm has stated it will donate $12K to the Oklahoma shelter, which is 6x more than the shelter usually has in the bank.

3.  Apparently the Oklahoma shelter spent some of the $188K, perhaps $12K, or else it would have returned the funds last month.

Contact Me

All Posts By Jay Brinker

I am an attorney located in Cincinnati, Ohio who practices in the areas of estate planning, probate, asset protection, and small business advice. I make a difficult and bewildering process as simple as possible. Most importantly, I provide "more for less" for my clients.