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Lessons in Estate Planning from Downtown Abbey

For those that don’t know, Downton Abbey is a television show about an aristocratic British family in the early 20th century that has taken American audiences by storm. And interestingly (for me, at least) many of the show’s most gripping plot twists are the result of a number of bad estate planning moves. For example (Spoiler Alert: you may not want to read on if you haven’t finished Season 3):

Be sure to protect your inheritance. The Earl of Grantham inherits the family fortune but soon squanders it on an unwise overseas investment that goes belly up. If the family fortune would have been placed in a properly counseled and prepared trust, the estate could have been protected from the Earl’s bad investment decisions.

Make sure you have a succession plan. Robert Crawley, the Earl’s new son-in-law and heir apparent to Downton Abbey since he is the last remaining male relative of the line, inherits a fortune from his former fiancée’s father and saves the estate just before the family is forced to sell.

While this saves the estate, Robert and the Earl disagree about how to manage the estate. Robert wants to modernize, but the Earl does not. Bad feelings between family members ensue.

Putting a succession plan in place can help smoothly transition the family business from one generation to the next. A succession plan helps ensure that the roles and responsibilities of each family member are clarified and communicated.

Have an advance medical directive and Kids Protection Plan. The Earls’ youngest daughter Sybil tragically dies in childbirth. When medical problems arose, family members fought over how Sybil should be cared for, and brought in two doctors who disagree on what was best. When Sybil died, the family did not know how Sybil would have wanted her daughter raised.

A medical directive could have provided important information on what Sybil would have wanted if she were unable to make medical decisions herself. A Kids Protection Plan would have addressed who Sybil wanted to take care of her children and how she would want them raised.

If you’re ready to do the right thing for your family, call our office today at 888-597-9685 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.

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