Sunday 25th May, 2008


‘Magic’ of a will

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Once more, I flew like Peter Pan over London, last week, living the magic at Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, and this time I watched my niece skip through Cinderella’s castle like in a dream, saying in her shrill Canadian accent: “I can’t believe we are actually here!”

So many years had passed since my first stroller rental there, but this time I saw an estate, an empire that had grown and reinvented itself like none other.

When Walt died in 1966, his dream didn’t die with him. It continued to grow into a multi-billion-dollar movie, vacation, clothing and media corporation, with significant family participation.

The plaque at the entrance reads, “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.”

This may well be the essence of estate creation and transfer and it is serious business. The transfer of assets from an estate is a legal procedure in which an executor is selected to oversee the distribution, if there is a will.

This is one of the critical decisions that the person making the will must make. Many people underestimate the amount of work the executor has to do and too many people appoint executors who are either unwilling or unable to do the work of assembling the assets of the estate in document form.

Set up charities

Walt had appointed his wife Lillian, H Sturdy and United California Bank as co-executors of his will. His also left provision for the resignation of the individuals named so the institution could handle or help with the work of assembling the entire estate.

In his will he set up two significant trusts: the Disney Family Trust and a Charitable Trust.

In the Family Trust he provided for unborn grandchildren as well, mostly in the form of an income, in consideration of any other income his heirs may legally possess.

He set up two charities: the Disney Foundation and the California Institute of Arts. Millions of dollars have passed through these trusts to assist the poor and the sick.

It is only through the medium of a will that individuals can ensure, in law, that the assets of estate they leave behind will be used for charitable purposes. If you die without a will, you will have to hope your heirs will use some of what you leave behind to help others. This is one of the distinct advantages of making a will.

One of the other benefits is you get is to select an appropriate executor. If you have a large empire, or if ownership of your assets is complicated, you may need a corporate executor such as a bank. Remember, that will cost you in the long run, even though the bank or institution may charge you nothing upfront.

You can simplify the work of the executor by keeping your asset titles in good order and keeping a list in an appropriate file so necessary documents can be easily located. Please do not leave your heirs to dig up every room in the house to find your documents. For that matter, they should not have to turn the house upside down to find the will in he first place.

If your estate is a celebration of your life’s work, which it should be, wouldn’t it be nice to leave a will that is s symbol of your yesterday, your tomorrow, even your fantasy?