Politics & Government

Helms sought family's peace

The late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms didn't want his children to squabble over his estate; worried about who would get his desk; kept stamp and coin collections; and, even in death, perpetuated the conservative buzz phrase “death taxes.”

Helms split his estate between his wife and a trust to provide any needed support for his wife, children and grandchildren, according to his will filed in Wake County courts July 16, nearly two weeks after his death. He cautioned his children to cooperate in dividing his estate and asked them to discuss it only among themselves, not with their spouses and children.

“I ask that my children try to be as understanding and tolerant of each other as possible,” Helms wrote, “and to make every effort to avoid disharmony among themselves.”

Helms, a conservative lion and Republican senator from North Carolina for 30 years, died July 4 and left most of the details of his estate up to his children and two executors, grandson Charles Knox Jr. and Wake County commissioner Paul Coble, Helms' nephew. Helms did specify, though, that if no one in his family wished to use his Senate desk, then it should be given to the Jesse Helms Center Foundation until a family member wishes to use it.

Helms' wife, Dorothy “Dot” Helms, received his congressional papers, and Coble said Helms already had given a variety of gifts to the Jesse Helms Center in Wingate.

The will, updated in 2002, stipulated that his stamp and coin collections could be sold, with the proceeds added to the estate.

Helms also repeatedly used the term “death taxes” to refer to estate, inheritance and other related taxes, a favorite phrase among conservatives who push to reduce or eliminate such taxes. Helms used it until the end – and after.