At the Hook Law Center, Maureen E. Hook, Ph.D. has an interesting article about one of my favorite television programs: Downton Abbey. It’s superbly acted, set in a famous castle in Yorkshire, England and provides a number of lessons. Maureen mentions two:
So what are the lessons that “Downton Abbey” teaches? First, sell the house, and don’t burden your heirs with something they may not really want. Parents tend to overestimate a property’s value to the next generation. That goes for vacation homes, as well. Old estates and houses can become money pits. François Sicart, chairman of Tocqueville Asset Management in New York says, “Even leaving a home with a trust stuffed with cash to maintain it can backfire, because the children ‘will resent that the cash went to the house and not to them. ”
Second, specify control and ownership rights to minimize family squabbles. Everyone should know who has voting rights, the power to fire, and the size of each person’s equity share in the business or inheritance.
There is a third lesson. If you have watched the series which has now finished it’s third season, you know that people don’t all die of old age. One of the daughters dies quite young in childbirth and (spoiler alert) one of the main characters dies in an accident just after the birth of his first son. All of which is a great lesson about leaving instructions for our spouse and children even if we’re in the prime of life. There is no better way of doing that than to buy a copy of my book Before I Go and the accompanying workbook. It can be ordered from Amazon.com or by contacting us via our website.