Winning an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay, the 2011 film The Descendents may seem like an odd place to learn about why creating an estate plan is important, but it is. The film follows Matt King, played by actor George Clooney, after he learns that his wife has been left in an irreversible coma following a boating accident. Here are two lessons you can take away from the film about why it’s good to begin your estate planning efforts as soon as possible.
Lesson One: The unthinkable can always happen.
In the movie, Mr. King’s wife is severely injured, left in a coma, and is not expected to recover. Though such injuries are very rare, they can happen to anyone. While Mrs. King left behind an advance medical directive in the film that made her medical wishes explicit, if you do not have such a living will or health care directive your spouse and family may have to make your decisions for you. If they don’t agree about what decision to make, it may result in conflict.
Lesson Two: Leaving behind wealth can be problematic.
The title of the film refers to one of the central conflicts, namely that Mr. King and his family have inherited an incredibly large land trust from their ancestors. Though Mr. King is a thrifty man who lives only off his income, he knows that the wealth from the trust has not only caused problems for him and his family, but if he leaves a large inheritance to his two daughters it may leave them without the ability to find true meaning of life. People creating an estate plan often wrestle with this issue, though there are numerous different options available if it is a concern.