The dying wish of William Payne, one of the state's earliest settlers, created the nation's oldest charitable trust and eventually led tenants to build 167 cottages — most of them used by summer vacationers — on the land he left for the seaside city of Ipswich. The rent money has generated some $2.4 million to help fund public schools over the last 25 years.
Wills and trusts are actually some pretty powerful devices, not just arcane legal concepts. As you consider formulating your will or using a trust, or as you actually put one to paper and sign it into being, it’s important to remember the unforeseen consequences. Consider the case of William Payne.
For a recent lesson on the power of, and the potentially powerful problems caused by, far-sighted estate planning, consider this story regarding the dying wish of William Payne. It was 351 years ago, and with only eight days left to live, Bill Payne put to paper his will and the spectacular bequest of some 35 acres of seafront property to the benefit of the schoolchildren of Ipswich, Massachusetts. In his will, Payne specifically ordered that such land ought never be sold or wasted.
The years rolled on and a village of summer cottages sprang up, with the rent money going to the public fund for the schools. Then, the years rolled on some more and the present trustees hope to undo the will and convert the property and those homey cottages into condominiums. As you might expect, this has raised the ire of citizens, lawyers, and historians alike.
It’s a complicated story, more so than I’ve related here, but there are a few important facts. First and foremost, William Payne put something to paper that lasted 351 years and benefitted generations of people – an entire town and maybe an entire state – and he did so with careful consideration, a plan, and a pen. Second, the more ambitious the plans for an estate or assets, the more reason for a carefully considered plan.
The future has a funny way of unmaking the past, it seems. Nevertheless, if something is important enough to plan for, then it’s important enough to consider all the way through. This is true, even when you aren’t looking 351 years in the future.
Reference: Yahoo News (February 24, 2012) “351-year-old will sparks bitter dispute in Mass.”