Family is the most important thing in the world. At the same time, we all have family members who get on our nerves. Racist uncle, cousin of deceased, obnoxious in-laws, lazy siblings, etc. Hopefully you don’t have many of these individuals in your extended family. But what if you did. Imagine a terrible universe where you hated everyone in your immediate family. To make matters worse, imagine a universe where you are extremely rich and all these horrible relatives cannot wait for you to die so that they can inherit your wealth. what will you do? Well, if you are a 19th century lumber and mining barring Wellington r. Burt, you sure know what is the most bizarre and strong-willed in American legal history…
Wellington R. Burt was born on August 26, 1831 in Pike, New York (near Rochester) to a poor peasant family. He was the ninth of 13 siblings. And despite being the ninth-born child, he was actually the first-born son. Imagine a bathroom line in that house on a Friday night.
When Wellington was seven years old, his entire family moved to Jackson County, Michigan, where he was able to purchase a large piece of land to cultivate. Michigan was a state for only a few years (from 1837), and families like Burts were encouraged to move out of the east with cheap plots of farmland.
When he was 12 years old, his father died and became head of the Wellington family and farm. It was a very difficult task and Burt has an avid work ethic and a cold personal temperament that will last a lifetime.
When he was 20, Burt succeeded in attending two years of college.
At the age of 22, he felt comfortable enough to leave the family farm for an extended period, so he worked as a freight seaman bound for Australia, New Zealand and South America. The future tycoon spent his time in Australia, particularly the city of Melbourne.
Wellington returned to Michigan in 1857 at the age of 26. In those days Michigan was in the early stages of an explosion in the business of wood which would later be called the “Green Gold Rush”. Upon his return, Burt found a job at a lumbar camp. The job paid $ 13 per month, which is equivalent to $ 350 per month todaThis. Within a few weeks, Burt was made the foreman of the entire camp and his monthly salary was doubled.
A fortune is born
After much of the mess went poorly, Wellington understood the value of the savings a lot. He lived a life of moderation and pinched every penny so that he had enough money to buy 320 acres within a year.
His timber business was soon flourishing. Over the next decade he acquired more and more land, especially around Saginaw County, Michigan. In 1867 he established a full service timber community with his Saginaw River property which he named Melbourne, after his favorite city as sailor at this time. Within a few years, Melbourne was one of the largest timber mills in the world.
Unfortunately, Melbourne was destroyed by fire in 1876. Hurt Burt did not continue his habit of saving and diversifying, it would certainly bankrupt him forever. As his mills in Michigan were being rebuilt, Burt began focusing on land he owned in Minnesota, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. As luck would have it, in addition to wood, the land in Minnesota also had a large amount of iron. Later known as the Mesabi iron category of St. Louis County, it would be one of the largest discoveries of iron in American history.
The discovery of iron led to Wellington’s r. Turned Burt from a moderately successful lumbar businessman into a multi-millionaire.
Again not resting on his laurels, Wellington diversified his wood and iron profits by investing in rail and banking companies. He personally took CS&M. Financed a railroad called Railroad, which was eventually sold to the Grand Trunk Railroad Company for a small profit.
At its peak, Wellington was essentially the sole owner of all railways coming in and out of various areas of Michigan, notably Ann Arbor. Once a worldly man, he bought railroads in China and Russia at a time when it was completely unheard of. Burt also began a political career that included an unsuccessful run for governor of Michigan, and a successful stint as state senator from 1893–1994.
Thanks to the immense success of his various business ventures, Wellington was in his sunset years until he anticipated a peak in the midst of $ 40 and $ 90 million. This is similar to $ 500 million to $ 1.2 billion in today’s dollars. Wellington was one of the 10 richest people in America in his time.
Skip a generation
Along the way to earn that fortune, Wellington married twice and had seven children and two grandchildren.
For a time, Burt intended to leave that fate to his family and various state-run organizations in Michigan. That plan changed.
First, Wellington met at a location with a local property appraiser.
In 1915, when Wellington was 82 years old, he built a large fence around his mansion in Saginaw City. Maddeningly, the construction of the fence triggered someone from the county’s appraiser’s office, prompting him to come out of the mansion to assure his property taxes. When assessed, instead of paying $ 400,000 for his various real estate taxes, the county wanted to pay Burt $ 1 million.
There was an injury. He angrily told Saginaw City Council:
“You will only be killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.“
[The implication being that they shouldn’t mess with a guy who was about to leave massive amounts of money to state and local causes…]
When the appraisers would not move, Burt met with his lawyers and immediately removed every state-run organization from his will.
Then there were family quarrels. It is not entirely clear what exactly caused Burt to hate his immediate family members. However what is known here – after his death, when Burt’s relatives were finally presented with his will, he found 42 pages of detailed personal complaints.
Wellington was not being retaliated with his will. Frustrated by years of need, quarrels, disappointments, failed marriages and general disagreements, Wellington instructed his attorneys to literally include what he called a “spite clause” in his will. The Spy clause stipulated that his entire fortune should be held in a simple, minimum interest account with another National Bank. Seems fine so far, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, for his immediate heirs, Wellington also stated that his fortune was kept in that account, without being distributed, until all his children and grandchildren died.
More specifically, he determined that the money would remain closed until 21 years after the youngest grandson at the time of his death. This will was written by Wellington Burt himself. It was signed and notarized in August 1917.
To be fair, they set aside some annual payments to a handful of people. For example, some of their children were given annual gifts of $ 1,000 or $ 5,000. His favorite son was given an annuity of $ 30,000 per year ($ 400,000 in today’s dollars). One daughter was completely cut off. His long-time secretary was given $ 4000 per year ($ 54k today). Their cooks, watchmen, coachmen, and housekeepers were each given $ 1,000 per year ($ 13,000 in today’s dollars).
Think about how cruel it was to his family members who had not seen it at all and didn’t even know if it was legal. As a matter of fact, some legal debate was debated. These types of wills are called “generational skipping trusts”, and they are illegal in some states. It was illegal at the time, one of which was the state of Minnesota, where a large portion of the money came from. As such, a year after his death, family members were able to fight the will and successfully secure $ 720,000 in property and $ 5 million in property related to Minnesota’s mines. It was a small concession. A large proportion of the fortune will remain closed at the Second National Bank in Saginow until 21 years after the death of the youngest grandson.
At the time of his death in 1919, Wellington’s youngest grandson was Marion Lancil. Marion was born in 1905. So she was 14 years old. If Marion passed away a year later, the family members – many of whom would presumably still be alive – would achieve a vast fortune in 1941, 21 years later.
Marion Lancil, aged 84, died in November 1989, to the dismay of his relative!
Marion’s death in 1989 set off a 21-year countdown.
In November 2010, the magic moment had finally arrived, but the surviving family members now had to meet with lawyers to figure out the most equitable way to pay the money.
In May 2011, after seven months of legal negotiations, Millington’s millions were finally distributed. The property, which had grown to $ 110 million by now, was distributed to 12 people:
Great great grandfather
Most of the beneficiaries had never heard of Wellington R. Burt. Average beneficiary received $ 2.9 million. A handful of old heirs received $ 14.5 million. The oldest beneficiary was 94 years old, the youngest was 19 years old. The 19-year-old beneficiary was born in 1992, 72 years His great-grandfather died thereafter. She and her 21-year-old sister both received $ 2.9 million.
In total, more than 30 potential direct descendants, especially their children and grandchildren, died before they were able to benefit from the trust. The banker and lawyer who guarded the money deposited more than 40 full boxes related to Burt’s will.
To put this in perspective, imagine that your father is currently one of the 10 richest Americans in the world. For example, suppose your father was Charles Koch, whose $ 62 billion fortune made him the 10th richest American. Imagine if Charles Koch died yesterday, leaving behind a generation of generations of will and 14-year-old grandchildren. And let us tell you that grandson Marion was 89 years old, like Lansil. The 21-year countdown will begin at that time. Fast forward to year …
Finally, in the year 2117, dozens of future coach-heads suddenly received a fortune. Lucky for them. Not so lucky for current coaches