In honor of May the 4th, aka “Star Wars Day,” based on the greeting “May the Force be with you,” this article addresses estate planning lessons learned from the Star Wars Saga. Yes, you read that correctly.
“Star Wars” is a story of legacy. The saga follows several generations of characters, like the Skywalker clan, as they navigate life and decisions that will affect their own legacies. It is no different from the decisions you and I make regarding our own legacies.
There are two major lessons to be learned from “Star Wars.”
Lesson No. 1: Families are complicated. The Skywalker clan is the poster family for complicated. Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader) marries Padme Amidala, who gives birth to twins Luke and Leia.
We know that Padme dies in childbirth, arguably because of Anakin’s spiral to the dark side and transformation to Darth Vader, leaving her extensive wealth up for grabs. This was compounded by the complication that both twins were given up to two separate families, while Darth Vader works for the Empire.
Now, most families are not Skywalker-level complicated, but most families have some issues that require careful consideration when drafting an estate plan.
For example, in blended family situations where each spouse came into the marriage with assets and children from a previous marriage, what do you want to happen upon the death of the first spouse? Do you want everything to go to the surviving spouse? Or only a portion to the surviving spouse and the rest to your children and nothing to your spouse’s children?
Other issues include leaving an inheritance to a disabled child, or ensuring a child’s spouse never receives a portion of your estate, or how to leave money to grandchildren.
You must consider the family dynamics to ensure your estate plan addresses the issues and develop a plan making sure all of your goals are met.
Lesson No. 2: Estate plans are a must. The moment Padme learned she was expecting, she should have created a Durable Power of Attorney, a Healthcare Power of Attorney, and a Last Will and Testament, with each document naming at least a primary agent and a contingent.
The Powers of Attorney documents would have given her agents the ability to make financial and medical decisions on her behalf. The Last Will and Testament would have named guardians to care for her children and provided detailed instructions for the management of her estate for the benefit of her children.
But Padme had no such documents, leaving her friend Obi-Wan Kenobi to make hasty decisions for her and the children – decisions that might not be aligned with her wishes.
This situation is all too common. If you develop dementia, who do you want to make your financial and medical decisions or inherit your estate? Do you have an heir that needs their share to be managed for them? Do you want to leave money to charity? Do you want to disinherit a child?
It is folly to assume your spouse and-or children can just “handle it” if you do not have the proper documents.
When you have an estate plan that addresses incapacity and death, you can rest assured your wishes are secured, directing the distribution of your estate and controlling how your heirs will inherit.
While the Skywalkers were heroes of galactic importance, their lack of estate planning would have ultimately left their families in a fight worth more than that of the Rebel Alliance vs. the Empire.
Call a qualified estate planning today to address your estate planning goals.
Rebekah Thompson is an associate attorney with Elder Law & Estate Planning Center. hiltonheadelderlaw.com