In planning this issue, we decided to address the somewhat controversial topic of trust incentives-the requirements included in a trust intended to encourage specific values and behaviors among the beneficiaries. Without realizing it, I began to think about the issue framed in the article-capably covered by Tere D'Amato of Commonwealth Financial Network on page 55-as the "Paris Hilton syndrome."
Paris is the poster child of spoiled, rich kids everywhere. Given her grandfather's recent decision to leave the bulk of his fortune to charity rather than his descendents, I wondered if it was a case of retaliation for her very public, very embarrassing behavior. Her antics can be summed up with just a few examples: the notorious sex tape, the 23 days in jail for violating probation, and the twin honors of being named the "most overrated celebrity" and the "second most annoying celebrity" of 2007. Just behind those headlines, however, are some other interesting facts ...
She occupied a respectable spot on the Forbes list of most powerful stars, The Celebrity 100, in 2004, 2005 and 2006 with her income in each of those years estimated at $2 million, $6.5 million and $7 million, respectively. Yes, you read that right ... income, not inheritance. Over the past several years she has worked as a model, TV and movie actress, apparel and handbag designer, singer, author and hostess, and at the height of her popularity, she licensed her name and image to launch perfume, shoes, champagne, nightclubs, hotels and hair extensions, among other things.
Trusts may be effective in dissuading heirs from petty crimes and freeloading, but we must honestly assess whether a trust is capable of engendering and cultivating the admirable qualities we want in our offspring. Paris may not project the ideal image for many families, but she has plainly demonstrated a strong work ethic, a keenly opportunistic business sense, and the ability to live and work as a financially independent woman ... and as Paris herself might say, "That's hot!"