Doris Duke’s Story
Doris Duke was a tobacco heiress, socialite and philanthropist who had a colourful personal life. In 1987, when she was 75 years old, she hired Bernard Lafferty as her personal butler, and Lafferty soon became her companion and closest confidant, although there does not seem to have been a romantic relationship. She made a new will naming Lafferty as executor and as trustee for a huge charitable foundation. Doris died in 1993, leaving the butler in charge of a fortune estimated at $1.3 billion. Unfortunately, the butler’s extravagant lifestyle and spending habits were called into question, and the executor under her previous will went to court to try to have Lafferty removed. After years of litigation, a settlement agreement created a board of trustees to manage the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which supports medical research, prevention of cruelty to children and animals, the performing arts, wildlife and environmental causes.
Lawyer’s comment: Don’t let the butler do it. Pick someone competent and trustworthy as your executor.