The transfer of wealth can involve some of the most difficult decisions a family ever has to make. This story demonstrates that an inheritance does not always guarantee a fairytale ending.
With Walt for a great-uncle, Abigail Disney and her siblings inherited huge wealth, as did their parents. In recent interviews, Disney describes how she “lost” her parents to their wealth, as their lives gradually became increasingly isolated from the world, and their own children.
She points to their purchase of a private plane as a tipping point, the point at which they no longer needed to be either uncomfortable or patient, qualities she believes keeps you grounded in reality.
Most strikingly, she portrays what most private wealth advisers would see as the antithesis of a healthy inheritance. At age 18, the first substantial tranche of her inheritance was due to her. She was told about it by the family lawyer, with no involvement from her parents, who thereafter appeared to regard her financial independence as meaning they had no further responsibility for her.
Nor did her siblings ever discuss their inheritances, each choosing their own path in life and attitude to wealth, by trial and error.
Quite predictably, this seems to have left Abigail Disney rudderless, and with lasting cynicism about wealth. Having no guidance meant she had to navigate her own way through others’ blind dislike of her (judging her by her name or wealth), her own perceived need to apologize for her circumstances, and a reflexive instinct to pay for everything in order to compensate for her discomfort.