Why does Teresa Heinz Kerry control the family fortune?

Much has been made of Teresa Heinz Kerry being a “multi-millionairess”, but I haven’t ever seen it explained anywhere why someone unrelated by blood to the Heinzes controls the rather large Heinz family fortune. It sounds like she controls the entire fortune. Isn’t this a bit unusual?

Heinz Kerry’s previous husband died in a plane crash and presumably she was a significant beneficary in his will which included stock in the Heinz corporation as well as other assets.

HNZ is a public corporation, and most of its stock (about 64%, according to Yahoo) is held by institutional investors. Ms. Heinz Kerry, through some family trusts, has about a 4% stake, according to HNZ. She doesn’t even have a seat on the board. At a market capitalization of $12.93 billion, 4% is about $517.2 million. Her fortune has been estimated at anywhere between $500 million and $3 billion, so who knows what other holdings she has.

Also, I believe that Senator Heinz was an only child, so there weren’t too many people the money could have gone to.

Er, she’s not actually in charge of it.

Her name is also not Teresa Heinz Kerry. She never took Kerry as a last name. Her name is simply Teresa Heinz. Not sure why the press continues to misreport this.

Perhaps because his official website says that it’s Teresa Heinz Kerry.

I read the above article before I posted the question.
The link does say she inherited $500 million or more, and elsewhere I’ve seen that described as the “family fortune” and also that she controls where the money of the family foundation (trust?) goes. If you inherit money and vast estates, wouldn’t you say that you’re “in charge” of it?

Heinz has blood relatives, most obviously, his sons. Why aren’t they running the show?

Why are you so opposed to Teresa Heinz being the exectuor of that trust? I am assuming the family fortune is in a trust of some kind, that’s what I would do.

When the husband died, he probably named her executor, maybe because his children were too young, or he thought she would do a good job.

When my father dies (if he dies first), my mother will be the executor of that part of our family trust, even though my brother and I are very much alive.

Saying she isn’t a “blood relation” of the Heinz family seems funny to me. Once we’re married, you are my family. Period.

I believe Heinz-Kerry is mostly involved with the Heinz Foundation, a charitable organization.

Because John Heinz left his estate in trust with his wife as the executor? As almost any spouse would do. I don’t get it–just because Teresa is a woman, she shouldn’t be handling the money?

I don’t think there’s any law currently on the books that states to handle money (even vast amounts of money) you have to have a penis.

Of course I have nothing against it, but the media seems to portray that both the power and money is in her hands - the thing is, it wouldn’t be weird if her husband was a self-made man, and she was at his side as he made his millions; but I thought most of the wealth comes through an older generation, either his parents or grandparents. They are long dead, but I find it strange that they would structure a trust to allow the money to go to someone unrelated to them.

I don’t know much about it, but all the accounts say she’s the millionairess, not that she’s just an executor (many executors are not beneficiaries at all).

Remember, the accounts don’t just say they are his millions, but rather the family’s millions.

Also, I thought there was an old default law that if you inherit money through your parents, and you don’t co-mingle it with monies you earned jointly, that that inheritance doesn’t automatically all go to your spouse if you die. If that were the case, the spouse could just remarry, keep all your money and your kids would get nothing. So why would those grandparents structure a trust so that their grandkids would potentially get less than their daughter-in-law?

So, when my dad bites it, anything he leaves behind should go to me and my brother rather than our mom? Is that what you’re saying?

She has control of her late husband’s money (and near as I can tell, that’s all she controls) because he chose to leave it to her. Why did he choose to leave it to her rather than to their kids? You’d have to dig out the ouija board and ask him to know for sure. Any explanations we put forth are nothing but guesses. It’s pretty common, however, for married couples to name each other as primary beneficiaries of their wills. When the first spouse dies, the surviving spouse gets pretty much everything and rewrites his/her will, usually naming the kids as the primary beneficiaries. At a wild guess, I’d say if you looked at Theresa’s will, whatever she inheirited from Sen. Heinz is probably slated to go to the boys.

BTW, this is NOT a male-female thing at all. Where the heck did that come from?? Don’t know why you get that impression. This is a “what’s the real story” thing. Seeing as how most marriages are like a house of cards these days it’s not a strange question. I would have the same question if it were a man in her position.

I’m just looking for facts, I am not expressing an opinion, nor do I have some kind of agenda.

If I were setting up a trust, everything else being equal, I would make sure my grandkids would eventually have some control over it: not an in-law. From my experience of the world, this is how most people think. What I want to know is what factors about the situation don’t I know about?

Okay, I think I understand what you’re asking now. You’re asking a) is an inheiritance considered a marital asset and b) why did the Heinz family structure their wills so that Sen. Heinz could leave it all to Theresa if he so chose?

(We won’t even touch the idea that your inlaws aren’t your family, since that’s likely to turn ugly quickly.)

Is an inheiritance considered a marital asset? Well, that depends on the situation and the state. If the marriage had ended in divorce rather than death, Theresa wouldn’t have automatically gotten half of the inheiritance in most states, so in that sense it’s not really a marital asset. AFAIK, though, wills aren’t like divorce settlements. Divorce looks at jointly held assets, while a will looks at all assets, both jointly and individually held. If the Sen. had died intestate, the bulk of his assets, both joint marital assets and individual assets, would have gone to his wife, with a smaller portion going to each of his surviving children.

When my grandfather died intestate, for example, the house he and his wife lived in was considered a marital asset, so he and Grandma were each considered to own half of it. Of Grandpa’s half, half went to Grandma, and the other half was split among his biological children. (To further complicate matters, one his daughters had predeceased him, so her sixth was split 50/50 between her husband and son.) His privately held assets were divided the same way as his half of the house–half went to Grandma, and the other half was split among the kids.

Near as I can tell, though, Senator Heinz did not die intestate. He had a will, and that will left pretty much everything to his wife.

Why did the Heinzes let him leave it all to his wife? Well, again, you’d have to dig out the ouija board and ask them, because they sure didn’t tell any of us before they died. At a WAG, though, I’d say they didn’t get a choice in the matter. I don’t know that much about probate laws, but I don’t think you can dictate in your will how your beneficiaries are allowed to dispose of their inheiritance at their deaths. You can put certain restrictions on the use of the money while they’re alive, like leaving a donation to a foundation to be used for a certain project, but I don’t think you can mandate that they leave the money to such-and-such when they die.

I believe this is the right answer. When I became the beneficiary of some trust money, my grandfather could not control how I used the money once it was mine. He (his will, actually) could only control how and when I received it, which was in three installments five years apart, starting when I was 25. That way, I couldn’t blow it all at once!

Sen. Heinz was able to do anything he wanted with his money, and I have heard nothing to indicate that he felt his wife was not a “real” member of his family after 25 years of marriage.

Do you have something against marriage, Rusalka? 'Cause ya sound bitter. Or it could be that your world view is narrow, because your views on this matter seem at odds with just about everything I have heard or experienced.

Theresa’s husband was third generation wealth-I believe (although I could be wrong) that his grandfather was the legendary H. J. Heinz of the original “57 Varieties!”

I’m sure, btw, that Theresa’s sons are not left wanting.

Since the Heinz money goes back several generations (100 years, I just looked it up) it is highly unlikely that the bulk of it was directly inherited through a will, rather, it was probably passed on in trust. So what you say is true if the wealth was inherited directly (probate, I guess it’s called), but it is NOT necessarily true if the inheritance was held in trust.

I can set up a trust and dictate what happens to it many generations into the future. Why would I set it up so that the wife of a descendant could walk off with all the money if the fancy struck her?

The Kennedy family has several family trusts, for example. There isn’t one person who controls it all.

Wow, that seems a bit harsh. I, too, have wondered the same about Teresa H-K’s wealth/inheritance. And it’s not about being personally for or against marriage, Teresa or holding a “narrow world view”. Like Rusalka, you hear “family fortune” and wonder about, to be blunt, someone who married into the Heinz family to have such control.

For instance, I know of a woman who similarly married into wealth and her husband’s inheritance specifically states that if anything should happen to him, she’ll get a sliver of it and the rest will go directly to their two children. And yes, his grandparents were able to stipulate that in the trust - no need to pull out the ouija board to find out that they didn’t want someone not “blood” to have control over their fortune.

So…what you’re asking is why some dead people chose to do the things they did. That’s not a question any of us could ever answer factually, I’m afraid. The best we can do is to speculate, and this isn’t exactly the forum for speculation and opinions.