Trusts and Estates at the Movies – Summer 2018

If you find trusts and estates fascinating, you’re not alone. Over several decades, movie-makers have chosen wills, trusts, and even the rule against perpetuities as captivating subjects for popular motion pictures. While we can’t cover them all here, we commend to you a few of our favorites

  • Body Heat – Plot twists abound in this 1980s movie recalling the style of 1940s film noir. A wealthy wife engages the services of a criminal lawyer to double-cross her spouse, but the lawyer’s lack of estate planning expertise and the wife’s trickery complicate the plot.
  • Descendants – George Clooney stars in this drama with stunning cinematography in Hawaii. Clooney’s character deals with the impact of the rule against perpetuities on the wealth of his Kauai-land-owning family while also struggling with the loss of his wife.
  • Black Widow – An investigator from the U.S. Department of Justice traces the steps of a widow whose several husbands have died mysteriously in this 1980’s noir-style tale of crime. The twist concerns a little-known state law that allows a surviving spouse to overturn her deceased spouse’s charitable bequests.
  • The Bachelor – This mid-90s flick is one of many “conditional bequest” movies in which beneficiaries try desperately to meet some condition in the will of a testator who chose to use the prospect of an inheritance to alter the beneficiary’s behavior. This particular version of that common plot involves a $100 Million bequest to a bachelor – but only if he manages to marry by his 30th.
  • Easy Money – A more comical “conditional bequest” story has Rodney Dangerfield trying to adopt an uncharacteristically healthy lifestyle in order to inherit his mother-in-law’s wealth.

From the old movies where families gather for the reading of a will to the convoluted plot twists of Body Heat or Black Widow, estate planning themes make for some great cinematic stories. We’ll provide updates here as we find new titles to share.

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