Kennedy Trusts Seen as an Educational Tool

The recent death of Massachusetts Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy might provoke some insightful thought about the nature of trusts – and how comprehensive and versatile they can be.

Joseph P. Kennedy, the patriarch of the Kennedy Family, left behind a labyrinth of blind trusts to manage the millions he had earned from scratch. He put his wealth into trusts with a long-term strategy in mind, to manage the family’s holdings for several generations of Kennedys. These blind trusts are run by financial experts whose goals are to invest conservatively and maintain the principal. Small amounts of profit are doled out to members of the Kennedy family annually. This network of blind trusts has maintained their overall wealth during the recent recession and in some instances they have flourished, even though the family can at times be hard pressed for ready cash.

In 2006, the recently-deceased Ted Kennedy could count as holdings five distinct family trust funds worth a minimum of $45 million to possibly as much as $150 million. Kennedy estimated that the family’s multiple trusts distributed $500,000 to $5 million in annual income. Before 2006, Senator Kennedy’s filings listed assets at less than $20 million. As only the family’s financial advisors were privy to details about the primarily blind trusts, it’s difficult to determine what made them double in value during the course of a single year. One thing for certain: Edward M. Kennedy passed away near the peak of his family’s net worth.
Trust instruments possess a unique nature. The Kennedy Trusts are excellent examples of how comprehensive and versatile trusts can be. First established as a single trust in 1926 by Joseph P. Kennedy, the Kennedy patriarch followed with successive trusts in 1936 and 1949. Each was “entrusted” with its own purpose; for instance, the 1926 trust was intended for Rose and their children, and the 1949 instrument was intended for his grandchildren. Each trust was established as a blind trust, in that it acted independently from any other trust.

The Kennedy trusts had staying power and were built to last, with each ensuing trustee active in providing for the beneficiaries while simultaneously protecting the principal for future generations. It was sad and tragic that Ted Kennedy has been taken from us as Americans. His stature as a voice in the U.S. Senate is beyond dispute. But the Kennedy trusts are a legacy for all of us, an excellent example of how trusts can be designed to protect and build even a relatively modest estate.

Gene Osofsky is an East Bay elder law attorney in California. Gene Osofsky specializes in Medi-Cal planning, wills, probate, trusts, nursing home issues, special needs planning, and disability planning. To learn more about East Bay elder law lawyers, East Bay elder law attorney, Medi-Cal planning, Medi-Cal planning lawyers and The Law Offices of Osofsky & Osofsky, visit