Philip Roth’s Legacy

Philip Roth’s Legacy

No fanfare, or announcements about the large bequests. Philip Roth worked with an estate planner to create an estate plan that would promote his wishes, and we are now learning about notable parts of it. For example, he left more than $2 million to the Newark Public Library.

How much money did Philip Roth have in his estate and what’s being done with it?

We don’t know.


Because he left all his asset in a trust, and that information is not publicly available the way it would have been through probate.

We do however know about the public bequests such as the library donation.

This WSJ article (available here if you have a subscription) does a nice job of summarizing the various bequests we know of so far. Here are some highlights:

Philip Roth not only had an affinity for writing, but wanted to promote the writing of others and access to the writing of others. His $2 million endowment for the library is managed by the community Foundation of New Jersey, and specifies that the interest from the fund be used only for books or materials for the library’s general collections – not capital improvements.

Mr. Roth left roughly 7,000 books to the library, along with a separate “significant” fund to help manage that collection. It is believed that this collection will attract literary tourists from around the world. He left instructions for how the books should be handled, and even picked out the room for them to be housed himself.

Mr. Roth left “a substantial amount” to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation along with the royalty rights for his book sales to support fellowships like the one he received from the organization.

Perhaps Philip wanted to follow in the footsteps of Andrew Carnegie who founded libraries in areas he had a personal connection with.

We see a success story from Newark going above and beyond to support Newark and other institutions that supported his success. From an estate planner’s perspective:

We can see the success story of financial privacy.

We can see the success story of specificity in how the estate should and should not be handled, making it more likely his wishes are followed.

We can see the success story of incorporating royalty rights into the estate as part of a charitable contribution so that they don’t need to be valued as part of the taxable estate.

Planning ahead can make a big difference when it comes to estate administration, which can be complicated. The professionals at Garden State Trust Company would be pleased to help you create a similar success story, and ensure that your financial legacy matches your wishes.