New York residents may wonder why some family fortunes seem to endure for decades or even centuries while others peter out after only one or two generations. Such fortunes are often amassed by a towering central figure like Cornelius Vanderbilt or John D. Rockefeller, and the estate plans that these individuals put into place often determined how long their wealth would last.
The Vanderbilts were once one of the nation’s wealthiest families, but the railroad and shipping fortune is now all but depleted. The Rockefeller family are still among America’s richest, and part of the credit for this should go to the trusts set up by John D. Rockefeller. Trusts allow grantors to control how their assets will be managed and distributed after they are gone, and they can prevent vast fortunes from being exhausted by the lavish spending of heirs.