This week when I turned on the television to watch two of my favorite shows, I got caught thinking about work. Maybe it was a theme within FOX, but both The Simpsons and Bones revolved around issues of estate planning.
The episode of The Simpsons didn’t involve any big discussions or much deep thought (though I know that comes as a surprise). The whole episode shows Marge and Homer Simpson trying to find guardians for their children. While their problem is finding anyone who wants their kids (see the clip below) most people face the harder decision of finding someone they trust to care for their kids.
Bones took the issue more seriously (again, big surprise), it also presented the subject with much needed humor. As I discuss this subject on a daily-basis, I very much appreciated a popular media tackling the matter and presenting it in (as much as possible) a positive light.
As I watched, the lawyer in me laughed at the two extremes Booth and Bones presented. A good will does not need to be 312 pages, but in turn should also not be hand-written on a sticky note. Further, when you have a complicated family or sizeable assets or just want to avoid the courts, a will probably will not accomplish your goals. Revocable trusts are a great option for most families (even if you’re not a genius scientist with best selling books).
However, I winced at the proposition Booth presented of leaving his girlfriend assets and trusting her to be fair to his son. This is something I advise people on a regular basis. Never create any legal document expecting everyone’s best behavior. If you could do that, then why create the legal document to begin? If you want to leave something to your children, leave it to the children, not another person. If you leave it to the guardian/parent/partner, that person has no legal obligation to use it for the children.
In reality I probably winced at the majority of Booth’s sentiments. Especially, that preparing for death is inviting it. Unfortunately, death is a fact of life and can be extremely difficult on those who are left behind. When someone isn’t prepared in advanced, they also leave behind a tangle of assets that the court has to sort out. This leaves their loved ones not only in with emotional grief, but very likely legal grief as well.
Even if I disagreed with some of the characters throughout Bones and wouldn’t recommend Homer & Marge’s style of picking guardians (finding random strangers), I appreciated FOX and both shows tackling a hard subject. In doing so it raised some important questions and hopefully will get some families talking. It’s at least gotten me to do so.