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Sometimes, Hollywood gets it right. Sometimes though, silver screen concepts and depictions are fabricated or overly dramatized in an attempt to appeal to the viewing public. In the case of recent blockbuster murder mystery “Knives Out,” which included several notable estate planning themes and references, the result was a mixture of the accurate and the not-so-accurate.
(Spoiler alert: While the following bullet points do not give away key plot details, you may want to avoid this post if you haven’t seen the movie yet.)
What Hollywood Got Right
- Slayer Statutes. One estate planning concept the screenplay writers got correct was the concept of “slayer” statutes. While it’s not something we hear about very often, many states have laws prohibiting someone who intentionally kills someone else from inheriting under the deceased person’s estate – regardless of whether the Will, Trust, or other instrument named the murderer.
- Will Contests. The movie also included references to Will contests. Challenging the validity of Wills and Trusts has become increasingly common. There are many potential reasons for contesting someone’s estate planning documents, but one common theme introduced in the movie was undue influence. If someone coerces someone else or otherwise persuades a vulnerable adult to change their estate plan, there may be valid grounds to contest the document.
What Hollywood Took Liberties With
- The Reading of the Will. Knives Out was hardly the first movie to dramatize the reading of the Will. It is common to see scenes of grieving family members crowded in an attorney’s office or conference room while the lawyer reads the decedent’s Will. Someone in the family is invariably shocked to learn they didn’t inherit anything, or that their inheritance is tied to off-the-wall stipulations made by their deceased loved one. The reality is that formal Will readings simply don’t happen in the real world (they do make for good movie scenes, though!)
To learn more about real-world estate planning concepts, work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Contact The Estate Planning & Legacy Law Center today to schedule a consultation!