What Can We Learn from a Napa Valley Winery?

Jay Corley, founder of Monticello Vineyards, died in 2016 leaving behind his seven children to run his $30M winery. The kids aligned into two camps, one wanting to keep the vineyard in family hands and the other desirous (love that word) to sell it to the highest bidder. The years of scheming and plotting finally came to a head at a furious shareholder meeting recently where voices were raised, and accusations of fraud were thrown around the room. I wish there were cameras to capture it all!

So, what can we learn from this succession-like real life drama?

  • Trustee Management: There are benefits to having a trustee manage a family’s interest in a trust.
  • Decision Making: We can list the one or two members of a trust as the decision makers to run an interest in a company to avoid multiple folks from arguing or challenging each other.
  • Family Involvement: Some beneficiaries are prepared to manage a business while others are not.
  • Qualifications: Just because someone is born to a businessman doesn’t automatically make them suitable to run a business.

With that said, a trustee can make the decisions on behalf of the beneficiaries and spare the fighting and accusations.


So, there we have it, we learn that a trust can hold an interest in a company and that sibling disputes may be avoidable through an estate plan, but it does make for good TV!

Portrait of Odelia Goldberg, Esq.

With over 50 years of combined experience, our probate, estate planning, real estate, elder law and asset protection attorneys provide peace of mind for our clients throughout South Florida.

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