Russian Power Structure / Contested Estates

Russian Power Structure / Contested Estates

Date

HostGeorge Noory

GuestsBen Mezrich, David Edey

In the first half, author Ben Mezrich shared what writing his book, Once Upon a Time in Russia, taught him about the oligarchic Russian power structure under Vladimir Putin. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, he explained, then-President Yeltsin bestowed an enormous amount of wealth and power upon a group of industry leaders, creating the oligarchy that persists in present-day Russia. Within a few years, Vladimir Putin, a former KGB intelligence officer, was chosen by the oligarchs as their political leader—but he quickly turned the tables, demanding that in exchange for keeping their wealth, they stay out of the way of his own ambitions for power. Putin enforced these demands through violent and corrupt means, building his own massive fortune in the process, and remains in power today. Although Putin's true motivations and goals in the current invasion of Ukraine aren't completely clear, Mezrich continued, we can make some sense of the news coming out of the conflict by looking at it in this context of Russian history of the past few decades.

Mezrich also shared updates on his latest book, a thriller called about an art heist called The Midnight Ride. Although it's a fictional work, the novel is based on the true story of the 1990 theft of millions of dollars' worth of art from Boston's Gardner Museum. The story focuses on two of the less valuable items stolen in the real heist, and incorporates elements of organized crime and American colonial history. Perhaps appropriately given its mystery and crime themes, Mezrich revealed he was inspired to write the novel by a late-night phone call by someone claiming to be one of the real-life Gardner art thieves.

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David E. Edey, a Certified Executor Advisor who has worked in the financial planning industry in Montreal for more than 35 years, joined the show in the latter half to discuss some of the problems families face when one member dies without a will or an estate plan. Unfortunately, Edey said, while some families do make proper, clearly understood legal arrangements for an estate ahead of time, some wills and estate plans are kept secret until a family member dies, and worse yet, over half of all Americans have no written directives for their estate at all. When this is the case, the court system becomes involved, which is not only costly and time-consuming, but can result in conflict among the surviving family members, he went on.

Edey offered a number of practical steps he said would ensure that a loved one's estate is settled legally, completely, and according to their wishes. First, a will should be drawn up, ideally by an attorney. This process entails choosing an executor— the person ultimately responsible for carrying out the terms of the will— as well as beneficiaries, the people who will receive some portion of the deceased's estate. He emphasized the importance of having conversations with both executors and beneficiaries as early as possible, so that both parties understand the time and effort involved with settling the estate. Finally, upon the family member's death, three goals should be kept in mind: the payment of all taxes and debts owed by the deceased, the assignment of all benefits (money, property, etc.) to beneficiaries, and the verification by a probate court that the estate is "closed," or that the first two goals are legally satisfied.

News segment guests: Christian Wilde / Kevin Randle

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