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What Can We Learn From Harvey Fite?

Self-taught sculptor, Harvey Fite spent 37 years of his life creating Opus 40, a 6.5-acre labyrinth (LOVE that word!) with thousands of rocks, tons of patients and no cement.  A marvel, Opus 40 is currently owned by a non-profit organization, but the house next door is owned by Fite’s 81-year-old stepson and managed by his 20-year-old grandson LOL.  The stepson’s grandson was renting out the house online to short term renters, forcing the non-profit to erect an unsightly chain linked fence to separate Fite’s creation, which they own, from Fite’s house, which they don’t.   Neighbors and the non-profit have alleged that the Airbnb renters were making noise all night and posing a safety hazard and legal liability to Opus 40, right next door.  The fence is only the latest in the on-going dispute between the family and Opus 40; it all started with the non-profit change of status in 2018 from a family-run enterprise to a professional nonprofit. 

So, what can we learn from Fite’s fight (sorry, couldn’t resist)?

Along with a good lesson in patience, we learn the value of estate planning.  Fite did not establish a plan to manage Opus 40 or his house next door.  Instead, he left everything to his wife and at her passing, she left it all to her son (Fite’s stepson).  It’s unclear in Fite would have wanted his stepson’s grandson to have control over his estate, but without a plan, you get what you get and don’t get upset.  Had Fite established a trust, or even a last will, he would have been able to set up a structure or team that give direction to the management of his estate and his legacy wouldn’t be intertwined with legal disputes.  I guess we can say that to prevent the Fite (fight), it’s best to have an estate plan (uuuggg, it happened again).

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