I just heard an absolutely compelling interview with Edmund de Waal, author of the memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2011). De Waal, one of England’s most respected ceramicists, a the fifth-generation heir, inherited an exquisite collection of Japanese carvings. De Waal knew very little about his Jewish roots until he started to explore his family’s history. (He was raised in an Anglican British family.) Listening to him telling his story I realized how much my own story is connected with my family’s Jewishness, with antisemitism, with WWII, and, of course, with wealth. De Waal talks about discovering deep wells of hiddenness in his family history, and that the hiddenness arose out of their place in Viennese society as wealthy, art-collecting, assimilated Jews. Everything came crashing down after Hitler came to power. Continue reading
An article in Canada’s national Globe and Mail newspaper, called “A Family Feud Straight Out of Dickens,” (Febuary 4) is all about greed and how it can destroy families. Since I have interviewed family members who barely survived litigation sparked by similar circumstances, I think this is worth sharing.
The story concerns the Kaptyn family of Toronto. John Kaptyn, a Dutch immigrant and real estate developer, left most of a $75 million fortune to his grandchildren, bypassing his two sons. The sons litigated their father’s will, and the legal costs have “devoured millions of dollars.” (This is typical.) Ontario Superior Court Judge D.M. Brown compared the struggle to the feuding Jarndyce family in Dickens’ Bleak House. Judge Brown denied 80 percent of the sons’ claim and said, “If the family of John Kaptyn remains set on wasting away, through litigation, much of the estate which John Kaptyn obviously spent decades of hard work amassing, they should not look to this court for any sympathy.”
Doreen Kaptyn, Kaptyn’s widow, said that the family has been torn apart by the dispute. “John was the glue that kept the family together. This is a very sad story.”
Two similar accounts are found in Labors of Love: The Legacy of Inherited Wealth, Book II, from The Inheritance Project
This blogpost is an excerpt from For Love and/Or Money: The Impact of Inherited Wealth on Relationships by Barbara Blouin, The Inheritance Project
Heirs may have valid reasons for fearing what can go wrong if they marry someone with much less money. They may have witnessed in their own parents’ lives the battles for control that financial inequality often trigger. Or they may already have been burned. To protect themselves, some heirs choose to postpone marriage — sometimes indefinitely. Others require their fiancé(e)s to sign prenuptial agreements. Martin Newman asked his future wife to sign a “prenup”, as it is often called, out of fear that he might repeat his mother’s experience. “Watching what happened to my mother has made me cautious,” he says. “Both men in her life were there for the money. My father wanted to be accepted into the social arms of St. Louis with an attractive woman at his side and a few million dollars in the bank. My stepfather went through his own fortune, and then he married Mother.” Not surprisingly, both marriages failed miserably. “I was so cautious that I didn’t even get married until I was forty. One reason I married Eileen is that she has simple tastes. You could take her whole wardrobe and put it in a weekend bag. When I first mentioned a prenuptial agreement to her, she looked at me and said, ‘I don’t want your money. I know that I can support myself, and I love you for who you are, not for what you have.’’’ Continue reading
One booklet (33 pages) from The Inheritance Project is called “For Love and/or Money: The Impact of Inherited Wealth on Relationships” by Barbara Blouin. There is no more fraught subject than intimate relationships between inheritors and those with less money. The greater the gap between the wealth of one partner in a relationship — particularly in a marriage! — the greater the risk that the relationship will be headed for stormy waters and will ultimately fail.
There are many reasons for these risks — too long a subject for a short blog post. One aspect of marriages between a wealthy (inherited or not) and a non-wealthy partner is the trend toward creating what are commonly called “prenuptial agreements.” This too is a very complex subject, and I will devote several blog posts to it. For starters, I would like to quote from an excellent article by Judy Barber called “Surviving Prenuptial Agreements” :
“When a couple approaches the agreement with honesty, deep regard for each other, and sensitivity to the potential emotional and financial implications, it can help strengthen and sustain the relationship through a difficult time.” Please read this 3-page article by Judy Barber. And please come back to www.inheritance-project.com for more on this subject.