With the arrival of summer, you might have a bit more time to kick back and relax with a novel, and there are some great summer reads out at the moment. Maybe it’s because of the extreme situations warranted by these stories, but it seems like absolutely every character I meet in a book lately is in desperate need of an estate plan. Where is a good attorney when a novel needs one?
The Rocks, Peter Nichols (Riverhead Books, 2015) – Take a break on the beautiful island of Mallorca with this unusual cast of characters. The opening scene of the novel depicts two of the main characters, long ago divorced, involved in a skirmish in an outdoor market. Divorce naturally complicates estate planning, especially if you don’t have a plan. Even more complicated, however, is owning property in a foreign country. Who will inherit the elderly Lulu’s lovely Mallorcan resort escape (“The Rocks” of the book’s title) when she is passed? She should go to estateplanning.com to find a WealthCounsel attorney who can help.
Modern Lovers, Emma Straub (Riverhead Books, 2016) – Oh, my–the costly probate these characters will face if they don’t meet with a good attorney, and soon. Former members of a rock band whose frontwoman has since died, they continue to receive royalties from their hit song. But have they made arrangements for their artistic legacy to carry on when they’re gone?
We learn early in the novel that Elizabeth orchestrates the neighborhood by selling real estate to all her friends. Does she have an LLC for her business? Is she prepared?
Finally, there’s Jane and Zoe, who eventually own two restaurants (so they need to think about succession planning). They also have a daughter, Ruby, who ends up living in Mexico. She could certainly use some powerful health care documents so her mothers could bring her home to the US to receive care, or she could extend her benefits to Mexico. While marriage equality has helped LGBT couples in many ways, financial and estate planning challenges remain for many same sex couples, especially because Ruby is biologically the product of Zoe’s younger brother. There are legal steps they can take to protect their businesses, their daughter, and their finances with the help of a good attorney!
My Name Is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout (Random House, 2016) – We meet Lucy while she is in the hospital in New York City, recovering from an illness that remains a mystery to the reader. Her mother comes to visit, and Lucy revisits her tumultuous childhood in rural Illinois. If Lucy’s illness had been more serious, would her family be financially prepared? And what about her mother, would she want to provide for her aging and struggling parents back in Illinois if she passed away? Without a will, these questions won’t find answers.
Arcadia, Lauren Groff (Hyperion, 2012) – This is an older book, but Groff is coming to Steamboat Springs for Literary Sojourn in September, so it might cross your literary path this summer. The main idea here is that the main character’s mother is independently wealthy, which requires its own estate and financial planning, but she also requires copious amounts of full-time, long-term care as she ages. Do your children know if you expect them to fill this role? Are you financially prepared?
A Doubter’s Almanac, Ethan Canin (Random House, 2016) – Another Literary Sojourn read, A Doubter’s Almanac is a bit of an unwieldy book, but the twist in the middle will keep it fresh and moving forward. The estate planning question here involves the legacy of a Fields Medalist Mathematician. Milo Andret, the mathematician in question, doesn’t need to worry about providing financially for his heirs, who have made plenty of money. Intellectual assets, however, are an important part of our legacy. Can they help him preserve these assets for the future? Only with comprehensive estate planning–they have a wonderful doctor in the story, but there are attorneys who are just as helpful, and who could help Milo have the maximum impact in his field.
While sitting beside Stagecoach Reservoir or while on a backpacking adventure this summer, take along a novel and allow yourself to be taken away into the story. Luckily, our lives aren’t usually as dramatic or entangled as the characters in these books, but good planning can help resolve tensions in even the most complicated family situations. It can also be helpful even for those of us whose lives don’t feel interesting enough to become a good novel. After all, your wishes can only come true if you make them known!
If you’ve got a book club, we have a talk about estate planning, healthcare directives, or other topics that can help you understand and navigate these ideas. We’d love to meet your group. Email email@example.com to set up a meeting.