My #SocialDistancing Movie Binge List – with a twist of Estate Planning

Good TV and movies may be the key to survival in the coming weeks. Add these great movies – with Estate Planning themes – to your #SocialDistancing binge list.

Knives Out – This new release ensemble film is an Agatha Christie style murder mystery with an Estate Planning twist.  Novelist Harlan Thrombey is found dead in his Massachusetts mansion.  His extended family members are all suspects.  When the family finds out Harlan recently amended his Estate Plan to leave his mansion and $60 million fortune to his young Lantinx private nurse, the quest for his killer gets even more interesting.   I found the meeting with the exasperated Estate Planning attorney laugh-out-loud funny.  Who doesn’t love those clients that require detailed explanations of testamentary capacity, undue influence, and the Slayer statute? 

Brewster’s Millions – This one is an oldie but goodie!  Monty Brewster (played by Richard Pryor, at the height of his career) is a struggling minor league baseball player who learns his recently deceased uncle left him a $300 million fortune.  But Uncle Rupert was no dope, and like most of us, he worried about Monty’s spending habits.  So the inheritance comes with a contingency.  Monty has a choice – he can forego the fortune in exchange for $1 million outright OR he can spend 30 days spending $30 million of it and, if successful, get the entire remainder of the $300 million.  The hitch, however, is that he can’t own any assets at the end of the 30 days. Uncle Rupert hopes to teach Monty to hate wasteful spending.  Monty accepts the challenge. 

Rain Man – After his father dies, luxury car dealer Charlie Babbitt (played by Tom Cruise) learns that the bulk of dad’s estate has been left to a special needs trust for the benefit of Charlie’s autistic brother, Raymond (played by Dustin Hoffman), who Charlie never knew.  Charlie travels to meet Raymond with the hope of getting his half of the fortune.  An ensuing road trip results in the brothers’ bonding, and Charlie gives up his plan to contest the Will.   

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – Yes, you read correctly!  Willy Wonka has a wildly successful candy business, but he is nearing the end of his career and has no heirs to carry it on.  His golden ticket scheme is his attempt at a business succession plan.  It’s not a plan I typically recommend to clients, but the legal work to transition the business to Charlie would be interesting.  

image from flickr @wonderlane

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