Legal education and lessons learned watching cases and people going through them
My oldest son, Liam, is heading back to BYU Idaho for his second year of college. He's a smart kid. In a recent conversation, he commented that about 85% of statistics are completely made up. Like I said, smart kid.
But that's why, for the purpose of making specific decisions, I think statistics can be dangerous. You see, statistics can be manipulated. A number of things matter when developing statistics: How do you define your pool? How do you word the inquiries? How do you define the words? And depending on the answers to those questions (and many more), you can dramatically change the resulting statistics. And so, I'm careful not to rely on statistics too much in making specific decisions.
That said, I LOVE statistics for big picture analysis. Because that's what statistics are really good for—giving us an idea of the big picture. What's generally going on? How are things trending? What is the most likely result in a given set of circumstances?...
I saw Knives Out on Saturday. It was brilliant. I loved it. And don't worry. No spoilers here (but if you don't want to know anything about the movie until after you see it, you should stop reading now).
I was excited to see it because the trailers feature what I have for some time referred to as the "dramatic reading of a will" scene. You know the one. The family's all there. The lawyer is there. And there is a dramatic reading of the will. Chaos ensues. Conflict. Drama. Delightful cinema. I wondered how this one would go.
I was not disappointed. It was spectacular. Meaning it was spectacular cinema. According to Rotten Tomatoes, I'm not alone. Critics and audience members alike find Rian Johnson's whodunnit a delightful romp. I'll go see it again. You should, too. It's fun.
But you should know that it's just cinema. Duh. But too many people think that the "dramatic reading of a will" is real. We "learn" things from that scene that too often people accept as true....
True story: A man dies. He has a will. In his will, he names two beneficiaries. Two people are going to get his stuff. Pretty simple, right?
Because when all you have in place is a simple will, that means a probate case. And that means court requirements. For example, you must give notice of the case and the will to all of your heirs.
For most people, that's pretty straightforward. Your kids are your heirs. And if they've died before you, then their kids (your grandkids) are your heirs. But what if you, like the man in our story, have no kids.
Then your parents are your heirs. But what if you, like the man in our story, are elderly and your parents died long ago?
Then your siblings are your heirs. But what if you, like the man in our story, have 11 siblings, but you're the last one living?
Then we look to your siblings' kids, and their kids, and their kids, etc. With11 siblings and a family history and dynamic like that, you can see where this is going.
On this Halloween day, when everyone is dressed as ghouls and goblins and talking about death and scary things, I thought I'd let you know 13 truly scary things that really happen all the time to innocent people and their families after someone dies in real life.
The courthouse can be a real scream if you don't know what actually happens there. Ask yourself if you want these horrors to plague your kids and loved ones when you're gone. They are all real. I've seen them all in the real world. Don't let these things happen to you.
1. Your family (usually your kids) pays thousands of dollars in legal fees unnecessarily. When someone dies either without a plan or with a will, there is a court case called probate. Yes, there is a probate case when you have a will. A lot of people don't know that. Some probate cases are simple. Some are complicated. Some become nightmares. Most people hire a lawyer to help them. It's a lot easier that way.
Most lawyers bill by the hour. Just last...
The dramatic reading. The lawyer opens his briefcase or top desk drawer and takes out the folded parchment paper. It is the Will. All the family is there. Some look worried. Some look smug. Some look guilty. (Some are.)
The lawyer begins. "I, Now-Dead-Patriarchal-or-Matriarchal-Figure, declare this to be my Last Will and Testament. I bequeath [some small item of nominal significance] to [the lowly servant or nobody-relative]. And then the fun begins. The money goes to one child. The property goes to another. The business to another. The spouse takes (or is left out of the mix) in a big way.
The meeting descends into chaos. There is an argument. Then a fight. A stabbing or a gunshot. A plot twist. One of the daughters was abused. One of the sons is illegitimate. One of the others is a complete fraudster. The spouse is the murderer. And we can't wait for episode two.
This delightful scene is what most people rely on for their knowledge of estate planning. "Of course," everyone...