Estate Planning on the Small Screen

Estate planning lawyers view the fictional Pritchett Family depicted in the TV show “Modern Family” as an excellent case-study of the type of blended family that needs competent estate planning. In its most recent episode, “Modern Family” tackled this issue head on. One of the storylines of the episode “Ringmater Keifth” centered around the family patriarch, Jay, and his much younger wife, Gloria, discussing the need to update their estate plan.

Two common barriers to completing or updating an estate plan were highlighted on “Modern Family.” The first involved Gloria Pritchett’s fear that discussing her estate plan would hasten her death. This fear alone can often prevent a person from taking the time to carefully craft an estate plan. Fear or superstition do not need to enter into the equation. Good estate planning should actually calm fears about what might happen in the event of an untimely death. Knowing you have a plan in place for unexpected events should bring peace of mind sufficient to overcome any of the fears or superstitions associated with discussing the possibility of your death. Both Jay and Gloria were able to see this peace of mind through the calm, thoughtful approach of their teenage son, Manny, and his desire to take care of his younger brother should Jay and Gloria die.

The second barrier to estate planning highlighted by this episode is indecision concerning who can or should be named as agents in estate planning documents. Indecision in naming a guardian for minor children is a significant barrier to completing the estate planning process, and often can cause people who need a good estate plan to let the question linger without planning anything. Several variables come up in evaluating potential guardians, and the discussion between Jay and Gloria highlighted some of these variables well. Will your children get along with the children of the potential guardian? Does the potential guardian have the same values you do? Is the potential guardian a good parent / too old / too young? All of these issues should be weighed before making a decision. However, with good estate planning advice, you can be sure that you are the person making this decision, not a court. The same holds true with respect to naming other agents, including a personal representative, trustee, or patient advocate. While there are a number of variables to consider for each of these roles, a good estate-planning attorney can ask the right questions to help you make a decision for these roles. And, knowing that you have made the decision, rather than a court or other family members, is worth going through the exercise of debating the merits of each person.

After you watch the latest episode of “Modern Family,” you may be thinking about the need to create or update your estate plan. We can make the process almost as painless as the fictionalized interview around the kitchen table, and the cost of completing an estate plan is often cheaper than doing nothing. Our estate planning attorneys can craft an estate plan that will accomplish your goals and give you peace of mind. Contact us today to learn more.

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