Wills often come up as plot devices in the movies, and for good reason. When a will is poorly or vaguely worded regarding gifts, beneficiaries, and conditions on those gifts, or where the existence or validity of the will is called into question by accusations of undue influence, forgery, and other issues, rich drama ensues. But while drama is good for the movies, we want to avoid it in our real lives. With that in mind, let’s see what lessons we can take from the following five movies.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – This Oscar-winning film begins with an attorney reading a will to greedy inheritors hoping to take ownership of a prized painting. As the film continues, we learn there is an additional will which have gone missing, and the reveal of the missing copy of the additional will sets in order the family chaos that ensued throughout the film. While a hilarious film, it is also a good reminder of the importance of properly updating your will and keeping clear records of updated wills while properly revoking previous wills.
- Little Big League (1994) – In this family favorite, the owner of the Minnesota Twins dies and bequeaths the team to his 14-year-old grandson. While a fun concept, leaving a team to someone who doesn’t have any business skills or an understanding of league politics would likely mean the downfall of the franchise. When developing plans for the future generation, ground them by planning for contingencies as appropriate. For instance, if you have a 25 year old son who has demonstrated poor choices with money, considering leaving his inheritance to a trust that can control how and under what circumstance he collects those assets.
- The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (2012) – In this horror film, a son inherits his mother’s creepy house, but her ghost possesses it. Although it’s a silly premise, some inheritances come with things that might be difficult to jettison or manage. These don’t normally include evil spirits and dilapidated pole barns, but it’s still important to fully understand what you’re leaving to the next generation. If you owe money, under some circumstances, for instance, creditors will badger your children and spouse to collect that money. If your affairs are disorganized, you could be leaving your loved ones a complex and anxiety-provoking mess to clean up.
- The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) – A classic romance and drama, this film exemplifies the risk of not creating a will. A recently widowed woman lives in a home haunted by a British sea captain who accidentally died at a home without a will. As a result, an Australian (whom the captain doesn’t know) takes possession of the home and the ghost of the sea captain works with her to set right the matters he failed to prepare for before his death. Short of becoming an apparition on friendly terms with living people who will carry out our wishes, presumably most of us won’t have the opportunity to go back and fix slips of judgment after we’re gone. If you worry, for instance, that your spouse might remarry someone who then commandeers the family business and ruins it or keeps it from your children, leverage legal tools which can protect your business and your children’s future.
- The Bachelor (1999) – In this film, a commitment-phobic man is forced to marry if he wants to collect his inheritance under a will. Such bequests are called “conditional bequests” as the beneficiary can only receive the gift under the will if he or she meets the requirements of a certain condition. This may work out well in the movies, but you need to think though the consequences (both useful and destructive) for any conditions you set for your beneficiaries. A court may not honor a condition you attempt to set forth in your will, and as a result the gift may not be distributed in accordance with your wishes.
Contact a Qualified Pasadena Inheritance Attorney
Work with experienced Pasadena inheritance attorney Christopher Johnson to guide you through the nuances and complexities of estate law and planning and create the will that best serves your needs.