Reality program might educate viewers about estate planning

Has reality television hit a new chord with a program devoted to real-life inheritances? Called “Strange Inheritance with Jamie Colby,” the Fox program may unintentionally educate its viewers about some of the issues that may arise in estate planning. 

For example, one episode involved a man who left his farm not to his bloodline, but to two retired television actors who also happened to be complete strangers. Does that sound like a will contest in the making? 

An attorney that focuses on wills and trusts knows that the documents involved in estate planning must be able to survive legal challenges. Disgruntled heirs, unhappy with their bequests, might seek a larger inheritance through a legal proceeding. However, there are other situations that might provoke a similar response from heirs.

For example, how should an individual plan his or her estate when only some children are involved in the family business? Should income from the business go to those beneficiaries who aren’t working in it? An attorney might advise other strategies for equalizing the distributions among beneficiaries. Perhaps children who are not involved in the family business could be named as the beneficiaries of a life insurance policy.

True, not all disagreements among heirs might be avoidable. However, with the help of an attorney, estate-planning documents can be drafted in a way that will safeguard against some of the common grounds on which wills are challenged, such as undue influence, fraud, lack of capacity or improper execution. An attorney can include evidence to demonstrate that an individual was mentally capable and not pressured into drafting the documents at issue. Traditionally, such measures might have included witnesses. Thanks to technology, video evidence may also be a very convincing way to demonstrate that an estate plan reflects an individual’s true intentions. 

Source: Deadline, “‘Strange Inheritance’ Bestows Record Ratings On Fox Business Network,” Jan. 27, 2015

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