Edie Sedgwick was born in California on 20 April 1943, the product of a distinguished lineage, and one of eight children. Her millionaire father, Francis Minturn Sedgwick, or ‘Fuzzy’, was unstable and abusive, and, by 13, Edie was severely anorexic. Furthermore, the Sedgwick children were taught at home on their 6,000-acre ranch — cared for by nannies, rigidly controlled by their parents and instilled with the idea that they were superior to most of their peers — an attitude that probably helped towards Sedgwick’s undoing.
At 20, Edie briefly studied art at Harvard, driving around in a grey Mercedes-Benz, complete with chauffeur; when this was crashed, she used limousine services. Bored, she dropped out of college, and at the age of 21 came into her trust-fund inheritance, taking a lavish apartment in New York. She soon started experimenting with LSD and became known on the socialite and bohemian scene, boasting to friends that she’d frittered her way through $80,000 in just six months buying clothes and jewellery. Her stick figure, huge eyes and chopped-off hair made her a new Jean Seberg. She got modelling jobs and could have made that her career — but for the fact that her drug taking was becoming notorious.
With an endless supply of money, Sedgwick seems to have had no idea of its value and didn’t need to think about a career, a diversion which might have saved her. “One consideration we frequently see when talking with clients is how to use their wealth to benefit their children without it somehow removing their drive,” notes Catherine Grum, director of wealth advisory at Barclays. “Warren Buffett once commented that he wanted to give his children just enough money that they would feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing.
“People have very different views on the amount of information someone in their formative years should be given about the family fortune,” Grum adds. “I’ve seen clients who want their seven-year-old to have full information, others who want their wealth to be kept a secret for as long as possible. It’s important for families to discuss all the issues and for parents to manage the conversation early — and manage expectations.”
By 1964, two of Edie’s brothers had died. One hanged himself the day before his 26th birthday, the other rode his Harley-Davidson into a bus at 31. Neither had worked; they were rudderless, with no drive, but an abundance of time and cash. Wouldn’t it have been better if the Sedgwick children had been told they would receive their inheritance after the age of, say, 40, and only if they already earned a living?
“With a discretionary trust, it’s the trustees that decide who, if any, of the beneficiaries receive the funds,” stresses Janine Moore, chartered legal executive with solicitors Attwaters Jameson Hill. “We would generally draft a Letter of Wishes to the trustees, offering guidance as to how the funds in the trust are to be used — this could be anything from paying for university or college to driving lessons or purchasing property. A Letter of Wishes isn’t legally binding on the trustees, but it explains the wishes of the settlor — whoever put the money into the trust. In this way, the trust can be used to protect funds from beneficiaries who, for example, become bankrupt or who are struggling with addiction or mental-health problems.”
If only. In 1965, at the age of 22, Sedgwick met artist Andy Warhol. She began to appear in Warhol’s movies and generated so much interest that he wrote films specifically for her. For a few short years, she had a goal. But she’d been too indulged, had no self-discipline and sank deeper into drug abuse. On 14 November 1971, she attended a fashion show where she was attacked by a fellow guest as a heroin user. The next morning, Edie Sedgwick was found dead. She was 28.