Leaving A Legacy

You’ve heard the recent news that a billionaire died unexpectedly leaving a very surprising estate plan. Scholastic CEO M. Richard Robinson Jr. died unexpectedly in June 2021 and left behind a plan to leave control of the $1.2 billion company to its Chief Strategy Officer of the company, Iole Lucchese, whom he also happened to be in a romantic relationship with. He also left his personal possessions to Ms. Lucchese, leaving out his two sons, his siblings, and his ex-wife, with whom he was still close with. Leaving a legacy for his family that may be painful for generations to come.

We will never know exactly what Mr. Robinson discussed or didn’t discuss with his family, but we can assume they are not happy.  We were told that they are now looking into their legal options to see if they can gain back any access to the company and personal possessions of their loved one. 

Without knowing the full situation and seeing Mr. Robinson’s estate plan documents, it’s hard to speculate what his thoughts were or why he would leave his family out of his fortune, but we can certainly learn a lot about our own estate plans from this dramatic story. 

Trust-Based Plans vs. Will-Based Plans

Mr. Robinson had a will drafted in 2018, which stated his intentions to leave the company and his possessions to Ms. Lucchese. It’s surprising that a billionaire would have a will instead of a trust-based estate plan. A trust would ensure his loved ones wouldn’t have to go through the probate process, which as we can see, makes all of their affairs (including their family fortunes) public.  Probate will certainly drag his family through a conflict. With all this information being public, it leaves his executor and estate vulnerable to outsiders coming in and trying to stake claim in the fortune and racking up even more legal fees. 

Business Succession Planning

It also seems odd that a company worth over $1 billion would be left to someone in a will. Any business, either big or small, should have a proper succession plan drafted by a professional. A proper succession plan will have protections for your company and explicitly list your plan and wishes for how you want the company to run after you are no longer in charge. 

Having a simple Will exposes the business and succession process to challenges.  Anyone who wants to contest the Will may challenge Mr. Robinson’s intended business succession planning, undermining his wishes and succession planning. 

Leaving the Right Legacy

With such a high net worth, not having a proper estate plan or putting asset protections in place, can mean tons of tax implications for your family. This will only cut into any fortune that you intend to leave your loved ones. We are also guessing that Mr. Robinson’s will was a secret that was kept from his family. We don’t know the family dynamics here, but we do know that not discussing your estate plan with your loved ones can leave them with conflict during a time of grief. In this particular story it seems his family and his girlfriend will be stuck in court battles that will be costly and could take a very long time to conclude. Trying to comprehend going through the probate process while also grieving is one of the hardest situations you could put your loved ones through. Is that the type of legacy you would want to leave? What does leaving a legacy look like to you? You don’t want to leave your family guessing as to why you disinherited them and leave them in pain that they may not ever be able to heal from. 

If you have an estate plan that you’d like to review or you need to begin the estate planning process, please contact us. We will discuss the best plans for you and your family situation and will guide you through the process, even how to discuss your plan with your family. We offer a risk free consultation, so there’s truly nothing to lose to see if we are the right fit to help you leave the right legacy for your loved ones.  

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Disclaimer: This article is intended to serve as a general summary of the issues outlined therein. While this article may include general guidance, it is not intended as, nor is a substitute for, qualified legal advice. Your review or receipt of this article by Lexern Law Offices, Ltd. (the “LLG”) or any of its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the LLG. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors of the article and does not reflect the opinion of the LLG.