The 2011 film The Descendants was nominated for five Oscars in 2012 and took away one for best adapted screenplay, but it also has some estate planning issues involved in it that should be of interest to many people who are beginning the estate planning process.
In the film, George Clooney plays wealthy attorney Matt King, who is left to care for his two daughters after his wife is injured and left in a coma. As the descendant of a Hawaiian princess and a wealthy white man, King is one of the beneficiaries of the trust that holds substantial properties on the island of Kauai. One of the central conflicts in the movie is whether King should sell the land or keep it in the family.
As he deals with the realities of having to raise his two daughters, King struggles with the issue of whether to leave them an inheritance that leaves them wealthy without them having to earn it. For himself, King only spends what he earns through his income, and even goes so far as to brown bag lunch everyday. He believes that leaving his children too much would leave them spoiled and unable to appreciate life, while leaving them enough money so that they are relatively comfortable and can have options is the ideal solution.
This conflict is often expressed by many people considering leaving their children large sums. The number of people who have inherited a large amount of money and who go on to squander it is surprisingly large. This is not an unknown problem, and many people creating an estate plan choose to leave their children moderate inheritances instead of the entire fortune.
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