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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Why can't Scholastic CEO leave his estate to his friend and not his sons?

In June 2021, the sudden death of Richard Robinson caused a shock to his two adult sons. The reason for the shock is that Mr. Robinson was the CEO of Scholastic Publishing and he left his entire share of the company to his friend and co-worker, Lole Lucchese. His share is worth $1.2 billion, as the company famously published millions of children's books including the Harry Potter series and the Goose Bumps series. 

I'm sure his sons had expectations of being very rich one day, thanks to their inheritance. Now that it hasn't worked out that way, his sons are apparently "exploring their legal options". In other words, they are shopping for lawyers who will find ways to pry some of the money away from the named beneficiary, no matter what their father wanted.

This case bothers me. Why should his sons, who are both adults, both able-bodied, and both independent of their father, assume that they should inherit his estate? The woman he left it to was, according to some reports, a love interest of Mr. Robinson, We do know for sure that she worked in his company in key roles for 30 years. He described her in his will as his "partner and best friend".

Why should he not leave his company to someone who knows the company, has proven her ability to run it, has worked hard alongside him, has shown him personal loyalty and has brightened his life?

So far there has been no suggestion that there was anything wrong with the will itself, made in 2018. Nobody has suggested that Mr. Robinson lacked capacity to understand the will or that Ms. Lucchese forced or unduly influenced him into making the will. His sons have only said that the will is "shocking" and "surprising", To them, I'm sure it is. To those who run the company, maybe not.

The case is not in Canada, so I don't pretend to know all of the laws and rules that will apply to the will and the litigation. 

The reports that I've read have said that the sons are hoping for a collaborative approach to settling the estate issues. As far as I can tell, there is no estate issue except that their noses are out of joint that they are not now multi-millionaires overnight. So, to translate their intentions, it appears that their approach will be "give us several million dollars each and we'll go away. If you don't, we'll sue you and drag it through the courts and cost you millions anyway." Most people would take that deal just to have a peaceful life, but we'll see what happens.



7 comments:

  1. Many of us are curious and would like to know more.
    There must have been an enormous amount of disharmony in that family.
    The sons can sue, but at what cost? Will some lawyer who has had some success with this type of case take on this case Pro Bono? It would not surprise me, as I believe this does happen in the USA. I have read (perhaps from you Lynne) that sometimes it is wise to leave something. Maybe in this case a million dollars each? The boys then, could not say that they were left out of the will.
    Webeye

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jung v Poole Estate, 2021 BCSC 623 (CanLII)
    Thinking Of Disinheriting Your Children? Think Again
    https://www.canlii.org/en/bc/bcsc/doc/2021/2021bcsc623/2021bcsc623.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An interesting case for sure. Don't forget though that BC has laws unlike the rest of the country that allow variation of wills that likely would not succeed anywhere else.

      Lynne

      Delete
  3. An inheritance is a gift, not an obligation. However the father could have expressly stated in the will, that the sons were to get nothing (to make it clear).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, he certainly could have. I do that in my client wills, to avoid exactly what is happening in this case. Clarity and precision are everything when the testator is no longer around to explain his intentions.

      Lynne

      Delete
  4. In the case of Children or a family member with a Disability, is that not an Obligation on the Testator's part? How would the Court view that?
    Webeye

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes a child of any age with a disability is a whole different matter. The law does expect a parent to support a child who cannot support himself due to a disability (to the extent that the estate can do so, of course).

      When it comes to other family members there is no such obligation automatically. However, there can be circumstances where a testator was supporting someone else, such as a grandchild, financially before death. In that case, there is precedent for the testator's estate being obligated to support that person.

      Lynne

      Delete

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