Wills Problem: The Estate of Jackie Kennedy Onassis
The overall testamentary plan seems to be that Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ (testator) estate was allocated proportionately to those people she deemed to be the closest to her. Thus, the further away from Jackie via bloodline, the less the person inherited and the less personal the gifts seemed to be. The majority of her real and personal property was left to her children, while friends and other relatives received legacy gifts. Some of the gifts to her friends were very specific (as in question 3), so it is likely that there was some sort of sentimental value between Jackie, the devisee, and the property in question. Whole-blooded relatives received a larger portion than her half-blooded relatives and those related by marriage. Jackie’s children were to also receive the corpus of the martial deduction trust created by President Kennedy, in which Jackie had the power of appointment.
Because Jackie left the children real property and the trust, she was trying to make sure that these stayed within the family. Some of the gifts she gave (as in question 3) could be sold or used up, but the real property given to her children and trust of President Kennedy would be more long-term gifts. The trust would also be considered a charitable deduction, so the taxes would be much less. Also, Jackie wanted the estate to pay the taxes so the devisees would not be responsible for the estate and gift taxes.
Under intestacy, Jackie’s children would have taken everything since neither her parents nor any of her spouses were still living. This would be true under both Stage 2 and Stage 3 per stirpes rules. Maurice Tempelsman was named as her “friend” and they never married so he could claim any type of spousal exception. Although her children already gain the most under the will, they would have gained even more under intestacy. All the gifts that went to her friends, nieces, nephews, and half-siblings would have all been included with the children’s take. They estate would have been divided equally between Caroline and JFK, Jr. initially. After JFK, Jr.’s death in 1999, his share would have been divided among his children. Caroline’s share would have been divided among her three children upon her death if her husband was no longer living. Jackie’s friends would have taken nothing.
The children do not necessarily lose out under intestacy. They would have lost more cash and some other tangible items, but they still gained all the long-term assets aside from the Hammersmith estate.
Jackie Kennedy Onassis left property in her will under the First A, B, and C to her “friends” Rachel Mellon, Maurice Tempelsman, and Alexander Forger. But what would happen to those items of property if any of these individuals do not survive the testator? To determine what at happen to these gifts, one would need to look at the applicable lapse and anti-lapse statutes.
Lapse is defined as the failure of a testamentary gift when the beneficiary predeceases the testator. Under Stage 2, if the beneficiary died before the testator, then the law assumes that the testator would not have wanted the devised property to pass to the devisee’s descendants or heirs. Therefore, the gift would not go to the estate, issue, or heirs of the deceased beneficiary, but the gift would become “void”. If another alternative beneficiary was then listed for the property in question, the property would pass to them through the residuary clause of the will. If there were not an alternative beneficiary listed, the property would go to the testator’s heirs via intestacy unless any anti-lapse statutes applied.
Anti-lapse statutes assume that the testator would want the issue of a devisee in their will to take the devised property if the devisee predeceases the testator. The majority Stage 2 rule protects gifts from lapse if they are made to a grandparent or to a descendant of a grandparent of the...
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