Let’s be honest, the topic of estate planning can be a little, well, dry. Every lawyer, financial advisor, real estate agent, and the like will encourage you to have a quality estate plan professionally drafted, but it tends to be one of those things you’ll get to eventually. Life happens, work piles up, your to-do list grows longer and deciding what you want done with your remains after you die seems like a worry for another day. But, once in a great while a story comes up where the topic of estate planning is so necessary and uniquely integrated that it’s hard to ignore—cue the buzz-worthy podcast, S-Town. The podcast broke a record with 10 million downloads in four days, so don’t just take my word for it.
Caution: A few spoilers ahead
If you haven’t listened to S-Town and don’t want to know ANY details of what unfolds, stop reading now. Go listen and then come back to read how S-Town exemplifies some of the key reasons you need a will ASAP.
The highly bingeable story from Serial Productions (masterminded by the producers at This American Life and Serial), takes place in a small town in Alabama. As This American Life producer Brian Reed dives into what appears to be a true crime story, in line with the first season of Serial, the tale takes an unexpected twist following an unanticipated death.
The person who passed away didn’t have an estate plan. At first this may not seem like a big deal, but without a last will and testament, the individual’s death left a wake of conflict and confusion. Without an estate plan, a mother with dementia is left without defined care and guardianship; 13 dogs are left without a pet trust to declare who will care for them; property is fought over; a felony charge is issued; a religious funeral is held despite the deceased’s atheism; a house and land are sold, likely against the wishes of the individual if they had been alive; an immaculate, amazing garden maze will be destroyed; and because the deceased was “unbanked” there were no cash assets to pay for a funeral and other important costs. This person had verbally told some people what he wanted them to have in terms of property and monetary assets, but there was no written record, and such hearsay doesn’t hold up in a probate court.
S-Town is not only an example of excellent storytelling, but also a real world example of what can happen when someone dies without putting in place clear directions and wishes for property, cash and non-cash assets, pets, health care, and final disposition. You don’t want your family and friends to fight, press charges, and dig up your property in search of gold when you die. So, there’s no day like today to have your estate plan drawn up.
A good place to start is with my obligation-free Estate Plan Questionnaire.
Already have an estate plan? Good. It’s probably time you reviewed and updated it.
Feel free to contact me any time to discuss further how to start an estate plan. I offer a one-hour free consultation, without any obligation. I can be reached any time at my email, email@example.com, or on my cell, 515-371-6077.