Who was John J. Osborne?
If you were to ask anyone in Belleair Florida who John J. Osborne was before his death from cancer on September 6, 2012, you likely would be greeted with a shrug or a negative shake of the head. It did not take long however, before everyone in this small town of 4000 knew exactly who John J. Osborne was. He was their neighbor. He loved to trim the hedges bordering his modest home. He was a bank examiner by profession before his retirement, he loved to collect antiques… and he was the man that made the town of Belleair the beneficiary of his entire estate. He left almost $4 million dollars in stocks along with his home and all its furnishings. His estate is equal to the town’s yearly operating budget. It is, in fact, more than the town expects to collect in property taxes this year. Admittedly, a surprising gift from a man who few neighbors knew and whose life was presumably summed up in just six sentences in an obituary which ended with the statement: "There will be no funeral service."
The reason I found this story so interesting is that as an estate planning attorney, I am apt to hear (all too often for my liking) that my clients feel they are obligated to leave their estate to family. Certainly, if they have a loving and supportive family I can understand their wish to leave this legacy. However, I make sure that they understand that when it comes to bequests, they have but one true obligation in Virginia and that’s only if there is no spousal agreement to the contrary. Therefore, obligation has little place in my discussions with clients; the word we prefer is “deserve”.
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