1. The Descendants (2011) A multi-layered story about Matt King (George Clooney) containing plots and sub-plots that dominate our attention, the movie title refers to the fact that King is the descendant of a wealthy banker and a Hawaiian princess. Kings parents left valuable real estate in Hawaii in a trust. With that trust about to end, King must decide whether to sell the land to a developer, enriching himself and his greedy cousins. King doesn’t want to spoil his own children, either. He says “I want my children to have enough that they think they can do anything, but not so much that they know they can do nothing.” This can often times be an issue with wealthy families thinking about estate planning.
2. This Is Where I Leave You (2014) A group of grown-up Jewish youngsters together for a week of sitting shivah after the father dies. The siblings argue over the family's retail store. The serious older son had been running the business with Dad. The youngest son wants to become part of the management team. In the will, the four brothers and sisters each get an equivalent fourth of the business. This one scene strikingly outlines the need for a family business to think about and plan for succession.
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) In the key scene, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) is informed that Madame D. has died under mysterious circumstances. Taking Zero (Tony Revolori), the young lobby boy along, he sprints to her wake and the reading of the will, the executor exposes that in Madame D.’s will she has bequeathed to Gustave a very valuable painting, Boy with Apple. This enrages Madame D.’s family, all of whom hoped to inherit it. The family tries to hurt Gustave. With the help of Zero, Gustave takes the painting and returns to the Grand Budapest Hotel, securing the painting in the hotel's safe. During the trip back to the hotel, Gustave makes a pact with Zero: in return for the latter's help, he makes Zero his heir.
4. Brewster’s Millions (1985) Monty Brewster (Richard Prior) is a Minor League Baseball pitcher. Brewster is told that his recently deceased great-uncle, whom he has never met, has left him his entire fortune but with several conditions, but with one goal in mind; the great-uncle wants Brewster to develop an aversion to spending money so as not to squander his fortune. Brewster is challenged to either take $1 million upfront, or spend $30 million within 30 days to inherit $300 million. In the key scene, Brewster decides to take the $30 million challenge. This raises what are called “spendthrift” and “incentive” issues.
5. The Aristocats (1970) This Disney film offers a textbook illustration of the classic “life estate with remainder in fee simple absolute” — an elderly widow who leaves her entire estate to her cats (crazy cat lady) for as long as the cats will/can live, with the remainder to her butler after the cats die. As is often the case if you watch true crime shows, the butler isn’t eager to wait that long and has criminal plans for the cats early demise.
6. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) Importantly, it demonstrates the often cited fact that over half of Americans and particularly small business owners and farmers don't have a basic will or estate plan.
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