When is an Inheritance Like a Plague of Locusts in Virginia?

Gift horseThe Smithsonian Institute is seeking the court’s help to alter Carl J. Drake's will; there is a moral to this story!

You commit to charity with nothing but the greatest of intentions, but when it comes to unique gifts of charity, good intentions are not necessarily all it takes to do the most good. Without proper planning and consideration of the options, a gift of charity can actually be a gift of a future burden to your institution of choice.

Consider the case of the Smithsonian Museum and the entomologist Carl J Drake, as relayed in a recent article in the Guardian titled “Smithsonian Museum is bugging out over insect inheritance.” Most museums across the globe really only start out and build their vast collections through the largesse of charitable donors. The Smithsonian is no stranger to gifts of the strangest collections with the most peculiar needs and various limiting conditions. That said, Drake’s insert collection is beginning to bug them. The Museum is actually petitioning the courts in an attempt to modify the gift.

Drake left his vast collection of preserved specimen (dead bugs) to the museum through his will with various rules attached (dare we say a tangled web) to protect the collection and ensure its preservation. In addition, he left his entire fortune to the museum with the express purpose of purchasing new bug collections. Unfortunately, the rules were written several decades ago and they just do not make much sense anymore. Legal restrictions have made it difficult to buy collections so the earmarked funds just sit in the bank unused, moreover, the rules established by the will regarding the existing collection are as onerous as they are outdated. While you can read more in the original article, when it is all said and done, the gift hinders the museum’s ability to effectively manage the collection and they lament the waste.

Drake really loved his bugs and he really thought hard about ensuring his collection would live on. It certainly is a motivation we can all appreciate given the amount of planning Drake did to make the gift. This case illustrates the law of unintented consequences. Accordingly, this situation is instructive on several levels.  If you have a very specific gift to make there is much to do and think about, for example, that family home you never want your heirs to sell. Proper planning means taking into account all possible contingencies for generations to come; a nearly impossible task that requires it's own 'get out of jail for free' planning.

You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: estate planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.

ReferenceThe Guardian (June 12, 2014) “Smithsonian Museum is bugging out over insect inheritance


Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment


We have a LOT more where that came from!

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

Call Now ButtonCall Us Now https://jsfiddle.net/7h5246b8/

Request a free consultation

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
  • We launched the rollout of our on-demand webinar early so that new clients and our allied professionals can view the important component parts of ‘an estate plan that works’ at their convenience.  That is available on our website.
  • Live video workshops will be produced as quickly as possible and certainly ahead of our previous schedule; we will keep you posted as these events become available. Given the ‘boutique’ nature of the firm, we rarely have more than ten people in our office including team members at any one time. During this period of ‘social distancing,’ we promise to have no more than 8 people at any time.   This allows us to comply with the Governor’s directive to limit in-person gatherings.
  • The best way to communicate with us is still by phone during regular office hours of 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, or, you can email any of our team members (that is, their first name followed by @zarembalaw.com).  We will respond to these emails as quickly as possible.
  • Please continue to follow the directives of our local, state, and federal agencies. For your health and in consideration of our team who is assisting you, if you’ve scheduled an office appointment or planned to drop off paperwork and are experiencing a fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath, please contact your primary care doctor for guidance and then our office to reschedule.

Thank you, Walt and the Zaremba Team

Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.