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The Dean Law Firm Blog

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Lessons from Hollywood: Top Estate Planning Tips from the Movies

By Julia “Jules” Pullin

Hollywood has produced compelling movies surrounding estate plans, many of which include lessons for your own estate plan. Some notable examples include:

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017, PG), which follows the Baudelaire orphans after their parents die in a fire. Their parent’s fortune is inaccessible until the oldest child, Violet, turns eighteen, so the Baudelaire orphans must dodge the nefarious plots of fortune-stealing Count Olaf and solve the mystery of the VFD.

Lesson: If you have minor children, appoint a guardian for your children and leave your children’s inheritance in a trust to ensure their comfort and security.

In The Ultimate Gift (2006, PG), Jason receives an unexpected windfall after his grandfather’s death. However, before Jason can collect his inheritance, he must complete twelve assignments within a year so that he is eligible to receive the “Ultimate Gift”.

Lesson: Your estate plan can be a way to communicate your legacy to your loved ones.

Knives Out (2019, PG-13) is a mystery surrounding the death of famous author Harlan Thrombey. When the Thrombey family gathers for the investigation of Harlan’s death, an unexpected Will beneficiary throws the family into turmoil.

Lesson: Update your estate plan periodically according your wishes and the family dynamics. Also, maybe don’t confront a disinherited beneficiary alone.

Sense and Sensibility (1995, PG) begins with the Dashwood sisters and their mother being turned out of their manor following Lord Dashwood’s death and brother’s subsequent inheritance of the Estate, forcing them to live on a meager inheritance.

Lesson: Ensure that your Will adequately provides for your dependents and that the terms of their inheritance are clear so that no one is left bereft.

I Care, a Lot (2020, R) follows the exploits of a con artist, Marla, who manipulates the legal system to be appointed as guardian over vulnerable elderly persons, whom Marla places in an assisted living facility while she steals the victim’s riches.

Lesson: Ensure that your estate plan includes incapacity planning, so that you can appoint a loved one to manage your affairs and avoid potential predators.

Other films centering around estate planning includes Rain Man (1988, R), The Bachelor (1999, PG-13), Bleak House (2005, PG), Brewster’s Millions (1985, PG), The Descendants (2001, R), Little Big League (1994, PG), and Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, R). Grab some popcorn - and call an attorney to create or update your estate plan.

Julia “Jules” Pullin is an attorney at The Dean Law Firm, PLLC, a boutique law firm practicing in estate planning, probate, guardianships, and elder law. Julia Dean, the managing attorney, has been recognized as a Top Attorney and Leading Advisor by Acquisition International, Forbes, Newsweek, H Texas, Houstonia, and the Sugar Land Sun, and has earned Martindale-Hubbell’s Client Distinction Award. The Dean Law Firm, PLLC, has been named “Reader’s Choice for Attorneys in Fort Bend County by Living Magazine, “Texas’ Most Outstanding Estate Planning Boutique” by Acquisition International and is “Best Law Firm of the Year” by Lawyer International Legal 100.


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