Updated Thursday, July 10, 2014 as of 7:54 AM ET
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Duke Heirs Battle Over Billion-Dollar Fortune
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
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How many people would jump at the chance to trade places with 15-year-old twins who stand to inherit one billion dollars in six years?  Don’t raise your hands too fast.

Georgia Inman and Walker Patterson Inman III would seemingly have a charmed life, being the only living heirs to the Duke family fortune.  That’s right — Duke, as in Doris Duke, Duke University, and Duke EnergyCorporation.Yet Georgia and Walker were recently suspended from a private school in Utah for about $25,000 in unpaid tuition and late fees.  Perhaps one billion dollars doesn’t buy as much as it used to.

The sad reality is that Georgia and Walker have spent most of their lives caught in the middle of various legal battles. Their mother is Daisha Inman, who now has custody of them.  She’s been battling in court against JPMorgan Chase for the last several months over the twins’ trust funds.

The twins’ late father, Walker P. Inman, Jr., was Doris Duke’s nephew.  During his divorce proceedings with Daisha, he reported to a court that Georgia and Walker would inherit around one billion dollars when they turn 21.

The Duke trusts are being managed by corporate giants JPMorgan Chase and Citibank. The New York Daily News recently reported about this dispute, in which Daisha accuses JPMorgan of being “harassing and negligent”.  She says JPMorgan made her children feel anxious and embarrassed about being suspended for non-payment.  She also claims the family was nearly evicted because the bank won’t release enough money for their living expenses.  Reportedly, Daisha and the children had to leave their island estate in South Carolina because of problems with the rent.

JPMorgan fears that it has to be cautious with the trust distributions.  It stated in a court filing that if it grants all of Daisha’s financial requests, the trust funds will be depleted long before the children turn 21.  The bank requires extensive documentation of every request.

And some of those requests have been extreme.  In 2010, Daisha asked for $50,000 for Christmas gifts, including a trip around the world for the twins.  She also wanted $6,000 for a Halloween party.  She says she spends $1,000 per month for her children to eat out, especially at Starbucks.

Records show that she receives more than $16,000 per month for living expenses, plus tuition, medical insurance, and more.  Yet, Daisha claims this pales in comparison to the $180,000 that the twins’ father used to spend on their care before he died of a methadone overdose in 2010.

At first blush, it seems odd that the bank would be so tight-fisted with such a large amount of money.  If the childrens’ trust funds total a billion dollars, then one year’s worth of interest alone, at a conservative two percent, would equal twenty million dollars.  In other words, there would be more than enough money to spend on every request without coming close to tapping into the principal.

In reality, we suspect that the trust funds are a lot smaller than the one-billion figure that Walker Inman, Jr. reported — a figure that has been widely reported since then.  Walker, Jr., while a very wealthy man, was not a direct heir to the Doris Duke fortune, other than receiving about $350,000 per year while he was alive.  Doris Duke was the only daughter of tobacco and energy magnate James Buchanan “Buck” Duke and almost all of her share of the Duke fortune went to charity when she died.

Of course, Walker, Jr., and his kids both inherited through his grandmother, Nanaline Holt Inman (who was Doris Duke’s mother).  Walker Jr.’s father and Doris Duke were half-siblings.  Here’s an article showing the Duke/Inman family tree.

Reportedly, the twins’ share of the Nanaline Holt Inman Trust is worth around $28 million.  There are other Duke family trusts for them as well, but chances are pretty good that the one-billion dollar figure is over-stated.  Otherwise, the bank would have no fears about depleting the trust assets in the next six years.

Either way, the actual value of the trust funds for the twins would still be substantial.  So the big question remains, why is JPMorgan Chase being so cautious with the money?  Even at $28 million, it would be hard to use up all of the trust funds.

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