Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Turn of Fortune

Starbuck Neck, 2008

Here’s another true story from the world into which some of us only have a chance to stick our toes occasionally. It involves a “young” retired couple, friends of friends. [Some names and places have been changed.]

David and Landis are the picture of prosperous content. They winter in Florida and summer at a waterfront estate in New England. They’re both good looking, casually gracious, perennially tanned and always well dressed. They’re affectionate with one another in that way that people who remarry late in life often are. Landis is as beautiful today as she was when she was in her twenties. David carried the easily athleticism of the big man on campus he once was when he played college football for Woody Hayes at Ohio State.

We knew David and Landis lived a comfortable life. What we didn’t know until recently was that David was the grandson of a man who invented a very popular household product. You’d recognize the name immediately. You probably even have some of it in your house right now.

The name of the product isn’t important to this story, though. Only that it created a vast fortune for David’s family. A current reckoning of the estate that would be split between David and his sister upon the death of their mother valued their inheritance at just north of $100 million.

This is a good thing because it also turns out that David owed the IRS more than a million dollars. But with his mother’s death expected momentarily, David wasn’t worried. His share of the inheritance would square things with the taxman and leave more than enough to play with.

Only it didn’t work out this way. Quite unexpectedly, David suffered a heart attack and died just a week or so before his mother passed. His sister, who always blamed Landis for the breakup of David’s first marriage, announced forthwith that she would not be sharing so much as a penny of the estate with Landis.

I’m sure there must be more details to this and perhaps some equitable remedy. But at least for now Landis has been advised by her attorney that any attempt to claim any part of David’s mother’s estate will be costly and likely futile. The New England estate and the Florida house are both on the market in order to settle up with the IRS.

The rich are indeed like the rest of us, at least when it comes to bad luck.


  1. Bad luck, indeed! This is even more tragic than that poor Anna Nicole Smith's story.

  2. Well, now, life is like that--you just never know, do you!? That's why I don't like making plans. Love that top photo! Beautiful.