The Marriott hotel always looks polished and professional from the outside. Recently, however, we learned that the Marriott family does have some dirty laundry airing out in a probate court. The good news? They are just like every other family – interesting, and not without drama.
Meet the Marriotts:
J. Willard and Alice Marriott first founded the Marriott Hotel Chain and established a Trust to keep their fortune in the family. Their sons, Bill and Richard, now share control of the nearly $3 billion Trust. As devout Mormons, Bill became inconsolably upset when his son, John, divorced in 2015. Now, not only has Bill disowned his son, but has also cut him out of the family’s multi-billion dollar Trust. John is now suing both Bill and Richard for the inheritance that he claims he has not only earned, but is rightfully his.
Is it even possible that someone could disinherit you for a personal choice or lifestyle decision?
In short, yes. Here’s how.
What You Can Do:
Put reasonable, positive conditions on your beneficiaries. For example, you can say that they must graduate college, volunteer, or simply be of a certain age before they can unlock their inheritance. You can also say that the beneficiaries must stay out of trouble (i.e., not committing illegal acts or behaving against public policy). If they do get into trouble, they either don’t receive their inheritance at all, or additional stipulations may be placed on their receipt of the inheritance, i.e. to prevent waste in situations where the beneficiary may not be able to control themselves, such as with dependencies like gambling, drugs, or alcohol.
What You Cannot Do:
You cannot request that a beneficiary perform an illegal act or do something against public policy in order to inherit. You also cannot withhold an inheritance on the basis of who your beneficiary does or does not marry. So if your son marries someone of a certain sex, race, or religion that you do not approve of, you cannot disinherit them explicitly based on their marriage to that person. And conversely, you cannot exclude them on the basis that they did not marry the person of your dreams.
But You Didn’t Really Mention Divorce.
I’m getting there. Disinheriting based on divorce, especially in the situation of the Marriott family, poses an interesting issue. If you explicitly stated in your Will or Trust that you are disinheriting someone based on their divorce, your wish will probably not be upheld and they would ultimately receive the money. Forcing someone to stay unhappily married in order to inherit would likely be void as a matter of public policy. Note though that it wasn’t that long ago that divorce was viewed quite differently and that viewpoint still lingers with people in certain regions or of certain religions and nationalities.
However, amending a Will or Trust does not require you to give a reason for your amendement, so you could amend your estate plan to exclude someone without any rationale given whatsoever. That would more than likely be held up in court, so long as the person who created the Will or Trust was of sound mind and not mentally incapacitated in any way when he or she made that change.
So what’s the verdict?
there has been no final decision yet in the Marriott’s case, I can tell you this: anyone can be disinherited for any reason, so long as that reason is not discriminatory, against public policy, or illegal. Children, grandchildren, siblings, friends, etc., can all be cut out of a Will or Trust at any time, with no rationale as to why. Remember that the only condition is the creator of the Will or Trust must be of sound mind when they make or amend a Will or Trust.
Ready to Make Some Cuts?
Has this story inspired you to make some undisclosed cuts to your own Will or Trust? Or maybe you’re just finally ready to create some form of last testament so that your wishes are carried out. Either way, we can help.
Talk to us: Info@TheProbatePro.com or 248.399.3300.