If you haven’t already seen the Academy award nominated film The Descendants, you may want to rent it, especially if you are currently creating your own estate plan. The film follows Matt King, played by George Clooney, an attorney who is left to care for his two daughters after his wife is injured and goes into a coma. There are several estate planning issues that come up in the film that may be of interest to you.
Issue 1: Inherited Wealth. In the movie, King is the descendant of wealthy Hawaiians and has inherited land on the island of Kauai, owned by a trust. King must determine whether to sell it or keep it, and knows that transferring too much wealth to his own daughters can leave them spoiled and unlikely to have a happy life. It is a common concern amongst wealthy families, and the issue of how much to leave to your children is always difficult.
Issue 2: Living Wills. After she is injured and goes into a coma, it is revealed that King’s wife and the mother of his children has left behind a Living Will in which she indicates her preference to not receive life-sustaining care in her situation. Because she did leave behind a Living Will, her doctors must follow her directions and cannot artificially prolong her life.
Issue 3: Long Term Trusts. In the film, King is a beneficiary of a trust started by his grandfather. Because of certain arcane laws the trust can not last forever, which is why King must make the decision to either sell it or keep it in the family. Creating a trust has its own special requirements and restrictions, and you should speak to your estate planning lawyer for more information.