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In this week's Newsletter:
  • Our Anniversary Trip
  • Cumberland Island and the Greyfield Inn
  • What is a Limited Partnership?
  • What is a Life Estate?
  • The Wildest Woman in America
Cumberland Island and the Greyfield Inn

For Rizza and me, December 8 was our tenth wedding anniversary, and we celebrated by staying at the Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island. I've got a picture posted below of us in front of the Dungeness ruins and the wild horses. Before I go further, I'll take another opportunity to praise my wife (and law partner) and say how blessed I am to have her. The best estate planning you can do is marry the right person who will be a complement to you, and I think I picked well.

Now let's get to some legal subject matter which I am going to relate to our Cumberland Island experience. Both the Greyfield Inn and Cumberland Island are Georgia treasures, and I hope you'll ask me about them next time you see me, but for purposes of this newsletter, they have prompted me to discuss a couple of legal arrangements that you should know. Some of the history below may not be precise, but I'm long-winded enough without going into even greater detail here. 
What is a Limited Partnership?

Limited Partnership - A limited partnership (sometimes shortened to L.P. or Ltd.) is a type of partnership frequently used to preserve and protect a family business with an active general partner and relatively inactive limited partners. You will often hear about "Family Limited Partnerships" to designate that the limited partnership is for a family business.  Descendants of Thomas Carnegie own the Greyfield Inn where we stayed in a limited partnership.


As background, most of Cumberland Island was once owned by steel titan and industrialist, Thomas Carnegie, brother and partner of Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie was rejected by the Rockefellers and other wealthy members of the Jekyll Club because he was "new money." Carnegie's response was to buy most of the island to the south of Jekyll Island, which is Cumberland Island. Recognizing the island as a treasure, the Carnegie family kept the family in a dynasty trust which lasted until his grandchildren's generation. Like most of the American coast, the family could have sold out to developers and become even richer, but instead several sisters were determined to preserve the island in an unadulterated form. The sisters bought out a few other family members and began to manage the island in a limited partnership of which all of the partners were their family members. In a limited partnership, there is a general partner who manages the partnership and limited partners (with limited liability) who share in ownership but not as much in the day-to-day management. The Ferguson branch of Carnegie descendants now manage the remaining land that has not been donated to the U.S. Nature Conservancy or the National Parks. I spoke to the great grandson of Thomas Carnegie who is the property's caretaker and manages the Greyfield Inn, and he explained that the family has annual meetings to make decisions on the family business. Through good planning, this family has kept a legacy and protected a treasure, all while operating a business in the Greyfield Inn which supports the upkeep of the property.

What is a Life Estate?

Life Estate - A life estate interest in real estate which typically give one the right to occupy the land until one's death, but the life estate tenant has no right to direct who owns the property after their death. The life tenant's tenancy or estate dies with them.


After the civil war, but before Carnegie bought most of the island, a large slave plantation on the island had been disbanded, leaving a substantial community of ex-slaves. Their descendants maintained a community on the island until about a generation ago. In fact, the picturesque First African Baptist Church still stands and hosted the wedding of JFK, Jr., in the 1990s. In the waning days of the community, as many children were choosing to move to and stay on the mainland, the remaining residents accepted offers to sell their shares to the National Park Service with the right to keep a "life estate." I don't know if the residents got good deals or not, but as a result of only having life estates, the resident's families did not inherit any interest in the property. In my world, the most common use of life estates is where parents will deed property to their children and keep a life estate. I usually don't recommend that because there are often better options, but there are times when it make sense.


Almost all of the life estates on Cumberland Island have terminated, and most of the land is federally owned. However, there is one 80-something-year-old woman with a life estate interest in a tiny parcel deep in the island: Carol Ruckdeschel. Carol is a hunter of wild boar, a sea turtle whisperer, and an advocate for the island. She's also killed a man. There is actually a book about this woman that Rizza and I started listening to on the way home called Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island by Will Harlan, a former ranger on the island. I can't do a better job than the book jacket in the describing Carol:


Carol Ruckdeschel is the wildest woman in America. She eats road kill, wrestles alligators, rides horses bareback, and lives in a ramshackle cabin that she built herself in an island wilderness. She’s had three husbands and many lovers, one of whom she shot and killed in self-defense. A combination of Henry David Thoreau and Jane Goodall, Carol is a self-taught scientist who has become a tireless defender of sea turtles on Cumberland Island, a national park off the coast of Georgia.


Sounds like a fun woman, right? She was actually pretty nice when we met her, but I wouldn't mess with her.

DISCLAIMER: All of the content of this newsletter and any other newsletter is general in nature and is not to be relied upon as legal advice. Every individual’s situation is different, and assuming a one-size-fits-all solution is unwise. Legal, financial, or tax advice should only be relied upon when provided confidentially pursuant to an engagement agreement after your professional has agreed in writing to review your specific circumstances and give advice based on those circumstances. Hopefully this newsletter alerts you to issues that may affect you or people you know, leading you to know when to meet with a qualified advisor and get personal advice and service.
Until next time,
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