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“Knives Out” film sparks estate planning questions

| Jan 6, 2020 | Will |

Audiences in South Carolina and elsewhere have been flocking to the movies to see the film “Knives Out,” a creative take on a classic murder mystery featuring a cast packed with stars. The film has earned over $70 million at the box office with its take on the investigation of the death of an elderly, wealthy man. However, after people are done enjoying the film, they may wonder how closely the estate planning issues depicted in the movie compare to real-life concerns. The plot of the film involves determining who was responsible for a man’s death as well as how his assets should be distributed.

A lawyer in “Knives Out” gathers family members and heirs together to hear an official reading of the will. While it makes a powerful dramatic device, there is no such procedure in real life. Instead, people will submit the will to probate court in their area for further proceedings. While the will reading is a fictional device, the next step in the film is all too common. If beneficiaries believe that the will was written under some kind of duress or was a fake altogether, they can contest the document in probate court.

People can contest a will when they say that it is a false document or that the person who made the will did so under undue influence or without capacity to do so. They may say that the deceased had dementia and was unable to make these kinds of decisions or that an important person in their life benefited from pressuring them to make the changes.

Surprises after death can lead to serious family conflicts, so many experts advise keeping beneficiaries apprised of major estate decisions. People thinking about a plan for the future may consult with an estate planning attorney to develop wills, trusts and other key documents.