Wendy and Jen Wreck the Movies: Brewster’s Millions (1985) or Put me in, Coach, I’m ready to PAY, Within 30 Days!!!

April 21, 2022 | Jennifer F. Hillman | Wendy Hoey Sheinberg | Trusts & Estates

What Happened:

Montgomery Brewster’s minor league baseball career is fizzling.  Optimistic Brewster believes his big break is just around the corner, but the break he gets is not the one he expects.

Brewster’s previously unknown great-uncle Rupert Horn dies leaving Brewster $300 million – but only if Brewster can spend $30 million in 30 days (Approximately $76,273,327 in 2021 dollars!!!).  If Brewster fails to spend the cash, the New York law firm of Granville & Baxter becomes the executor and is entitled to a huge fee.  (An executor’s commission of approximately $6.03 million or $15.34 million in 2021 dollars.)  The balance of the estate is then payable to charitable beneficiaries, leaving Brewster with zilch, zippo, nada (if you disregard the fun memories).  No sweat, right?  Wrong – nothing is ever as easy as it seems.

There are conditions. Brewster can’t give away more than 10% of the money, he can’t tell anyone why he is spending money foolishly, and there are strict guidelines on how he spends the $30 million.  All of this is conveyed to Brewster by Rupert via old school videotape.  Rupert also helpfully tells Brewster he can “wimp out” and walk away with $1 million.

Brewster, a professional athlete, says no-go to the “wimp clause” and sets out on a whirlwind, action-packed 30-day spending spree.  His creative spending includes running for mayor of New York City, playing baseball against the New York Yankees and partying like its 1999 (♬cause they say, 2000 zero zero party over oops out of time).  An evil attorney attempts to foil Brewster’s plans (and get the big payout for his firm), but Edward Roundfield (a/k/a Commissioner Gordon), Rupert’s lifelong attorney and alternative executor, saves the day.  Good wins out and Brewster prevails, inheriting the full $300 million.

What Should Have Happened:

Rupert Horn is an old curmudgeon (sadist) with what he thinks is a wicked sense of humor that he usually gets away with because he scares people.  (Cue the montage of cruel jokes played on staff, family and unwitting victims while Rupert watches from behind a pillar dressed as a less-attractive Mrs. Doubtfire).  Yet, despite Rupert’s antics, he is a smart businessman.  Rupert visits Wendy and Jen to discuss his testamentary wishes and create an estate plan.

Rupert tells Wendy and Jen that he has deep regrets about an unfortunate practical joke involving a banana peel and a staircase that he perpetrated on a relative many years ago.  To atone for his wicked ways, Rupert wants to provide for his only living relative, Montgomery Brewster, a childless minor-league baseball player but leave the bulk of his estate to benefit several charities that bring joy to sick children in hospitals.  Rupert is worried that Brewster won’t know how to manage the money and will be exploited by creditors and predators.

Wendy and Jen spend considerable time talking with Rupert about his family, his assets, and other concerns.  Wendy and Jen create a detailed family tree based on information Rupert provides, verifying that Brewster is truly Rupert’s only distributee or living heir.  Wendy and Jen propose creating a lifetime trust and explain the benefits for someone in Rupert’s situation, but Rupert says he absolutely does not want a trust.  Wendy and Jen then explain that Rupert can have a Will that creates a trust after he dies.  This testamentary trust can give Brewster fixed annual distributions during his lifetime, and on Brewster’s death the balance can go to the charities.  Wendy and Jen tell Rupert that there will even be an estate tax benefit to naming the charities as beneficiaries.  Rupert is so relieved by this solution that he genuinely smiles, and his heart, much like the Grinch’s, grows three sizes that day.

Because Rupert has alienated all of his friends and family, he asks Wendy and Jen to act as co-executors of his estate and co-trustees of the testamentary trust.  Wendy and Jen tell Rupert that they are flattered he has so much trust in them, but they only just met, and he should give this some more thought.  Wendy and Jen tell Rupert that he can nominate almost anyone as executor and trustee and that he should take some time and look for other people to appoint – heck he could even appoint a bank or professional fiduciary company.  They also tell Rupert that New York law does not require an attorney to serve as executor.  They tell Rupert all about the disclosures required in Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act §2307-a. This rule is designed to provide people with important information when appointing their attorney as executor.  Wendy and Jen explain the statutory commissions and their fees for legal services.  They give Rupert a written engagement letter to take home and review with his business attorney.  A week later Rupert tells Wendy and Jen he wants to move forward with the plan and that he wants to name them as co-executors and co-trustees.

Wendy and Jen send Rupert a draft of his proposed will.  Rupert reviews the proposed will and returns a marked-up copy with some changes.  Rupert later comes into the office and signs his Will as well as an acknowledged writing confirming the §2307-a disclosures.

Rupert then wrote a heartfelt letter to Brewster explaining his wishes.  Many years later when Rupert died the letter was delivered to Brewster.  Rupert, a much kinder prankster in his later years, glitter-bombed the letter, coating Brewster and the office in pink sparkles.  Brewster, overcome by Rupert’s kindness and the joy of glitter, dedicated a large portion of his annual income distributions to support afterschool programs in underserved neighborhoods.

It is always important to work with a knowledgeable and trustworthy trusts and estates attorney (especially if they like glitter).

Save the drama for the movies.

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