How Does Hollywood Affect Estate Planning 

Many people fall for a basic trap or misconception that they have a sufficient estate plan because they have one document: a will. It’s the document that most people are familiar with. This concept is embedded in our culture and entertainment. Hamlet, for instance, is worried about his father’s will because it disinherited him in favor of his uncle Claudius.
Knives Out, released in 2019, depicts the famous Hollywood-created “reading of the will.” (This can also be seen in the classic Brewster’s Millions.) 

Anyone who has listened to our show, Truth and Planning, or has read any of our content, understands that a will doesn’t impact title. In this regard, it is not the all-encompassing, one-stop-shop document that people believe it to be. This misunderstanding may be from movies, television shows, and other widely consumed media.  

Breaking Down a Myth with One Question

This universal question applies to all of us: What will happen to our assets when we pass away? It’s a question that we ask our clients because of how telling their response is. And this is when people say that they have a will. So, let’s take the classic movie scene when a will is being read. It gives this to one person and that to another. Imagine that in this scene, the goofy nephew in college randomly gets the mansion. The lawyer read it right off the will. 

However, in reality, the nephew then goes to the lawyer who read the will and asks what he must do before moving into the new mansion. The lawyer then says, well, the house is titled in the name of your uncle and his brother—and the brother intends to move into the mansion with his girlfriend because his name is on the deed. Why is the nephew not getting the house passed down to him through a will? Because title trumps a will! In light of that, ask yourself what that will is worth. For the fictional nephew, nothing. 

A document alone is of no value to you in estate planning because title dictates everything. 

Another way of looking at this is that if you own a home jointly with your spouse and have a will that leaves everything to your daughter, your daughter will be very disappointed when she doesn’t get the house. Furthermore, you may pass away thinking your affairs are in order when, in fact, they are not. 

Here’s Another Question

If you have a will and the titles of your assets don’t reflect what is in your will, then you are likely wondering why your attorney didn’t tell you this. This monumental discussion should have occurred when you drafted a will. Don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that you were deceived or misled. Many attorneys are trained to select the correct document that meets the client’s needs, especially regarding estate planning. There is simply more to estate planning than choosing documents, despite what we have come to believe through movies. 

Get it Right 

Let’s go beyond Hollywood and the theatrics associated with a will and consider trusts. Trusts are a complete estate planning document that can work in conjunction with appropriately titled assets. And this can be done while you are alive without giving up ownership of your assets if you use a revocable trust. Completely walk away from the concept of the “reading of the will” and choose an estate planning path that reflects your intentions. Contact J. Kevin Tharpe, P.C., to schedule a consultation. 

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Kevin Tharpe

With 25 years of experience, Kevin understands how estate planning, special needs planning, and government benefits programs work together. This is a crucial element of a thorough plan. He explains your eligibility for benefits programs and ensures that you do not make costly mistakes that may disqualify you or deplete your assets.

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