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What Do Downton Abbey and Estate Planning Have in Common?

By February 5, 2012Estate Planning

Recently, my wife and I have been watching Downton Abbey on PBS' Masterpiece Classics. The program chronicles the lives of a wealthy aristocratic family in early twentieth century Britain. The sire of the Crawley family, Lord Grantham, holds a hereditary title that passes to his eldest male heir along with a large entailed estate-Downton Abbey. Essentially, the family's wealth and prestige are distributed based on the fickle lottery of birthright. This is a formula for tension and tragedy that has been the staple of countless English dramas.

The plot begins when the Crawley family learns that the estate's heir and his son are missing and presumed dead after the Titanic disaster. Lord Gratham, having no sons to inherit the title or the estate, is concerned that his family will lose their home and fortune when he dies. His eldest daughter, Lady Mary, refuses to go into mourning at the loss of her cousin, her fiancé, because she was only marrying him to shore up the family fortune. This unfortunate series of events touches off a drive by the Dowager Countess, Lord Grantham's mother, to have the estate's entail smashed in court and allow Lady Mary to inherit. When the new heir is identified, the Crawleys are appalled to learn that he is a solicitor (lawyer) from Manchester, as Gentlemen do not have professions. They cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that such a low-born figure stands to inherit the title and the great house they love.

While this makes for gripping television drama, nobody would want to go through this anxiety and uncertainty in their own lives. Fortunately, estate problems like this one do not present themselves in the United States today-hereditary titles and entailed estates are not part of our legal system or tradition. However, estate planning has a real effect on those we leave behind. An estate plan can ensure that children or grandchildren receive a proper education, that a spendthrift child does not burn through an inheritance in a short time, or that a special pet is protected and provided for. A well thought out estate plan could provide for the support and comfort of a surviving spouse or companion and guard against unnecessary spend-downs. An estate plan can also be used to support charitable organizations, providing a legacy of philanthropy.

Conversely, failure to plan or plan wisely can affect families for generations because of unmet obligations, legal disputes, or unnecessary estate shrinkage due to taxes or legal fees. All of these issues can be avoided if you simply overcome our fears and take the time to plan what will happen when you are gone. Who will receive the benefit of your property, when they will receive it, and how they will receive it are all decisions that must be made. The best way to do this is to sit down with a qualified estate planning attorney from Morris Hall, and talk through the issues and convert your wishes to legally binding estate planning documents. The first step is simply to call 888.222.1328 and set a free consultation today!

Why choose Morris Hall?
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall? First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters. Also, MH is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others - which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones. We are one of only two firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership. If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with MH. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation. 

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