Lawrence T. Ullmann, Attorney At Law
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Like many people in California, you may have enjoyed the hit movie “Knives Out.” This comedic mystery film spotlights an array of interesting characters in the family of an eccentric, wealthy writer who suffered a mysterious death. Starring a number of well-known celebrities, the movie has made over $70 million and continues to draw great reviews and interested crowds. However, you may wonder if the approach to estate planning shown in the film is accurate or simply a matter of creative license for the sake of the plot. It may also spark your own interest in drawing up an estate plan, especially if you don’t already have one in place.

Estate planning between fiction and fact

The film features a dramatic reading of the will by the man’s estate attorney with all concerned people gathered in a room. In real life, there is no such dramatic moment. Instead, the will is filed in probate court, and people who want to contest the division of property specified there or present an alternate will also need to take it to court. However, “Knives Out” can reflect some situations where family conflict is sparked by a lack of communication about estate planning decisions. Shocked, angry heirs may be more likely to pursue a will contest.

When a will can be challenged

One of the most common reasons people may have to challenge the will is a claim of undue influence. You may believe that someone in your relative’s life convinced them to change their will through pressure or coercion in order to benefit from the funds themselves. Incapacity is another serious concern. People suffering from dementia may be unable to make decisions about how to handle their assets, and they may also be more vulnerable to those with ill intent.

While the movie may be entertaining, few people want to see their own family members in an ongoing dispute over the distribution of their assets. If you want to avoid the kind of conflicts shown in “Knives Out,” estate planning in advance with the guidance of an attorney may help you to create a clear, undisputed plan.