Millionaire's Heirs Wait 92 Years for Inheritance

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on May 16, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Annoyed with his family, the will of lumber baron Wellington R. Burt forbade the distribution of his multi-million dollar estate until 21 years after the death of the last of his then-living grandchildren.

Ninety-two years after his own death, the time has finally come. His remaining descendants are about to become multi-millionaires.

From all accounts, before his death in 1919, Wellington R. Burt was in conflict with his family. Despite leaving annual allowances for his favorite son, cook, housekeeper, chauffer and secretary, ABC News reports that he placed the rest of his fortune in a trust, prohibiting distribution until his family died off.

If you're curious about the language Burt used in his will, it's actually a nod to a legal doctrine known as the Rule Against Perpetuities.

The goal of the Rule Against Perpetuities is to create a cut-off date so that distributions of estates do not continue endlessly. In other words, it's an attempt to end probate as soon as possible.

Under the Rule, a will's bequest is not valid if it can't be distributed within 21 years after the death of an ascertainable person.

A bit confused? Don't worry--the Rule Against Perpetuities may just be the most hated legal doctrine by law students and lawyers across the country.

It, however, is cause for celebration for the 12 remaining descendents of Wellington R. Burt.

Each member of the group, aged 19 to 94, and including great-grandchildren all the way through great-great-great children, is set to inherit a portion of the estate, which ABC News reports is valued at about $100 million.

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