When Matthew Mellon, the heir to the so-called Billionaire Bank, died suddenly in April 2018, he was worth nearly $ 200 million.
Melon owned an exotic collection of nine sports cars, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and other expensive manufacturers. He had a watch worth more money than a typical American family would make in a year. At his will, Melon left his eldest daughter with a valuable collection of $ 100,000 Andy Warhol and Melon Family Silver.
But for years after his death, Melon’s property still struggled to come up with cash to pay off his taxes and satisfy dozens of people and businesses trying to recover Melon’s debt. Was.
This is because most of Melon’s assets (more than $ 193 million) were trapped in a cryptocurrency called XRP managed by Ripple.
“People[n] … Real estate, which accounts for 97% of a single asset, is an easy problem to manage, ”the real estate lawyer wrote in one court document. “This real estate has never been simple.”
The case was not just a court issue. Members of the online crypto community, and even lawyers, have long thought that XRP was lost forever because Melon didn’t share his keys with anyone. However, the more than 700-page court document reviewed by The Daily Dot reveals a much more complex story.
Fluctuations in the value of Melon’s cryptocurrencies, his huge tax invoices, and secret agreements he made while he was still alive led to desperate sales through years of boring processes.
At the end of the days of digitally funded decadence, melon property was forced to face many of the problems associated with cryptocurrencies, an asset that has become more common in recent years.
From billionaire to millionaire and vice versa
The late investor and businessman were part of two powerful bankers, Melon and Drexel. He reportedly inherited $ 25 million as a young man from his deceased father and later chaired the New York Republican Finance Committee, giving him a six-digit donation.
Mellon spent some time in the fashion industry after marrying Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon. It was the first of two marriages, both ending in a divorce.
His enormous crypto fortune began with a $ 2 million investment in XRP in late 2017 after he tampered with Bitcoin. His enthusiasm for Ripple has made him a “global ambassador” for the company.
“My family thought I was insane when I learned it was a home run,” he said. Forbes Only a few weeks before his death. At some point ForbesRipple’s investment in melons has risen to nearly $ 1 billion as Ripple has traded with major financial institutions, but the rally is about to end and the currency has fallen sharply in the spring of 2018.
Investor families and friends were skeptical about the fight against drug addiction. On the day he died, Melon was scheduled to check in at a drug rehabilitation facility in Cancun to treat his oxycontin addiction.
“It was the same thing that made him sick that made him excited,” said Melon’s colleague. New York Times.. “It was part of what he did more, saw more, and tried to experience more.”
A week ago he posted a photo of himself holding a cigar in front of a white smile.
“This is shining! Very sober and very happy … !!!!,” said the caption.Around the same time, he became a friend and editor Page 6 That he was recovering from his addiction.
On the morning of April 16, 2018, Melon was found dead in a hotel room at the age of 54. He had a heart attack after taking ayahuasca. Daily mail, Although other publications could not support that fact.
Encrypted and in the basement
Melon left behind two ex-wives, three young children, and an estimated $ 193 million in XRP. There is no mention of currency in his outdated will, and it is reported that he kept the currency keys on his device in the names of others in different parts of the country.
His secret method left a real estate lawyer scrambling to gain control. They wanted to sell XRP as soon as possible. According to court documents, its value fluctuated up and down by 30% in the weeks following Melon’s death. They went daily without selling and risked a higher risk of losing millions of dollars while facing his exorbitant invoices and debt.
Lawyers were able to obtain XRP by approaching Ripple, the company that manages currencies. But it’s a unique privilege, says real estate planning experts. This is because most cryptocurrencies are not closely tied to centralized entities.
Jerry Bayer, a law professor at Texas Tech University and an expert on digital assets in real estate planning, told Daily: Dot.
However, access to Melon’s wallet was only the beginning of many years of efforts to settle real estate.
Binding to an agreement signed by Melon with Ripple, real estate could only sell a small amount of XRP every day. Lawyers were able to negotiate a slightly higher limit, but their efforts to lift the limit or sell all XRP in bulk failed.
According to Beyer, such an agreement is a very rare obstacle that real estate encounters.
“I’ve never heard of such a crazy thing,” he said.
Suzanne Walsh, a Connecticut real estate planning lawyer who promotes regulation of digital assets, wasn’t exactly sure why Ripple made such an agreement. But she said cryptocurrency restrictions make sense when compared to stocks.
“If you intend to protect your company, you need to protect your company from the massive dumping of your stock,” Walsh told The Daily Dot.
Whether or not you agree, XRP needed to be liquidated as soon as possible. Melon’s real estate had tens of millions of dollars in taxes and hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and didn’t have enough cash to pay off everything.
Melon was years late in his income tax filing before he died, and the size of his multi-million dollar property meant that the IRS wanted a major slice of it. ..
There were also 20 entities, primarily individuals, who claimed that Melon owe them money for hundreds to nearly $ 6 million.
The biggest claim came from Melon’s ex-friend Stacy Emman. He engaged his property in a legal exchange of over 200 pages about the money Melon verbally agreed to invest in her luxury sunglasses line.
In another unique example, the property reached a $ 282,500 settlement with Melon’s housekeeper, who filed a posthumous sexual harassment proceeding against him.
“This is basically a 24/7 call asset,” the lawyer wrote in one court document. For years, lawyers and staff had to log on and sell the maximum amount of XRP daily, including holidays and weekends, in order to make all payments.
By the end of 2019, the value of the property was less than half of the original $ 197 million as liquidation continued and the price of XRP fell to the lowest point since Melon died. At 19 cents per unit, he lost more than two-thirds of its value.
After an additional year of sale, in late 2020, the property paid $ 60 million in federal estate tax, its largest debt. But still, a “significant” amount of inheritance tax remained unpaid.
Due to the delay due to Ripple’s agreement, the property only liquidated all its debt in January 2021, almost three years after Melon’s death.
It’s not unheard of to have real estate in court for the rest of his death, Walsh said, but that’s not ideal.
“It’s an incredible annoyance that those trustees have to do that,” she said.
Anyone familiar with the settlement between Melon and Ripple had to sign a nondisclosure agreement, court documents show. Real estate lawyers couldn’t even ask a consultant to evaluate the value of XRP without first swearing a secret.
The law firm that manages Melon’s real estate did not cite a nondisclosure agreement as a reason, but declined to comment. Ripple did not respond to multiple requests for comments.
The Daily Dot also contacted both Melon’s ex-wife and her lawyer, as well as the trustee responsible for managing the inheritance of Melon’s children. No one responded to multiple requests for comment, except for Melon’s second wife, a lawyer who declined to comment.
It’s not clear if the executor continued to sell the rest of Melon’s XRP this year, but it could still be worth much of the initially valued value. According to CoinMarketCap, XRP prices have rebounded this year to levels that weren’t seen before Melon died.
The decision to sell or own can have a significant impact on Melon’s children. The Alaminta “Minty” melons, Force melons and Olympia melons (19, 10 and 9 years old, respectively) are all nominated as heirs at the will of their father.
Experts say that the trustee responsible for the inheritance may have no choice but to continue selling. The law requires that the trustee in his position make only a cautious investment to maintain the value of the trust.
“Most people interpret it as meaning they can’t hold cryptocurrencies because of their volatility and risk,” Walsh said.
Beyer agreed that children’s trust could run into problems with most of their value at XRP.
“They probably need to sell it and invest in something safer,” he said.
Cryptocurrencies were once considered an ambiguous type of asset, but real estate planners are now facing an increasing number of clients with money in their digital wallets.
“We see people walking through the door with serious money in cryptocurrencies,” Walsh said.
Cryptocurrencies are private and usually not controlled by central authorities, so certain people are attracted to cryptocurrencies, but their characteristics make digital assets conflict with standard real estate planning practices. Some Walsh clients are hesitant to record their passwords in an important way.
“Some of them think they know best. They are the ones who are aware of this technology and the ones who have poured it into this wealth,” she says. I did. “And they don’t necessarily trust something like me.”
It is impossible to know if the reason Melon did not renew his will to include possession of XRP is distrust. Maybe he intended to do it before he died. But Melon’s immense wealth, celebrity status, and premature death made common real estate planning mistakes a very unique case.
“I think everyone could have foreseen this, or thought that all this had happened,” Walsh said.
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