For the Halloween episode of Motley Fool Answers, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp engage in a spirited discussion of the horrors some folks have visited upon their families' finances from the afterlife by making big mistakes in estate planning.
In this segment, they examine the truly bizarre case of Max Hopper, an innovator who died with a large and complex estate but no will or trust. So J.P. Morgan was hired to handle matters. Let's just say folks at the bank are now probably really regretting their failure to expedite matters.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Oct. 31, 2017.
Alison Southwick: Is that a gremlin or J.P. Morgan? Either way, it's the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. Feet, feet, feet.
Robert Brokamp: This is the story of Max Hopper, who was an [innovator with] American Airlines. He created their reservations system. He died in 2010 with assets of more than $19 million. But he didn't have a will. Didn't have an estate plan. No trust or anything like that, so J.P. Morgan was hired to be the administrator of the will.
However, very recently, according to Bloomberg, the family sued J.P. Morgan. Why? Well, in a statement from the family's lawyer they said, "Instead of independently and impartially collecting and dividing the estate's assets, the bank took years to release basic interests in art, home furnishings, jewelry, and notably Mr. Hopper's collection of 6,700 golf putters."
Southwick: Wait! 6,000?
Brokamp: 6,700 golf putters.
Southwick: Was that like his thing?
Brokamp: I guess so. And 900 bottles of wine.
Southwick: Well, that I can understand, but 6,000 putters?
Brokamp: Some of the interests in the assets were not released for more than five years.
Southwick: Was it J.P. Morgan just being bad at their job?
Brokamp: I guess so. When they were taken to court, the jury agreed that J.P. Morgan was not doing a good job, awarding the family some money. Now remember, his estate was worth $19 million. Do you want to take a guess how much the jury awarded the family from J.P. Morgan?
Southwick: $100 million.
Brokamp: Between $4 and $8 billion...
Southwick: Wait! What?
Brokamp: ... dollars, because the jury was instructed to consider the net worth of the company in their judgment. So given that J.P. Morgan is worth over $300 billion, they figured it was fair.
Now, anyone who reads about this case will be told it's going to get knocked down in appeals. They're not going to get $4 to $8 billion. The lesson, here, is to get an estate plan. But if you don't have one, hire J.P. Morgan. They'll do a horrible job...
Southwick: You get your payday...
Brokamp: ... it will take years, but you will make billions! Billions!
Southwick: Love it!
Brokamp: Or as a more practical piece of advice, when you name the person to be the executor or administrator of your estate, name someone who is responsible and who will get the job done.
By the way, did you know there's a female version of the word "executor?"
Southwick: Trix? Ooh.
Brokamp: I know. It sounds kind of dirty.
Alison Southwick has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Robert Brokamp, CFP has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.