It is not everyday that important retirement and estate planning issues make their way into popular entertainment drama. One of the few exceptions was the movie “The Descendants” a few years ago which garnered widespread acclaim–and some Oscar awards–in a tale focused on a man who unexpectedly comes into control of vast land holdings in trust following his wife’s surprising death. The main character, played by George Clooney, is forced to grapple with a range of issue while dealing with feuding in-laws and uncertainty about his wife’s wishes.
One of the other exceptions is the massively-popular British drama Downton Abbey. The BBC program has been running for several seasons, with the most recent batch of episodes just finishing to high rating here in the United States. The story is set over the course of several years in the first part of the 20th Century, including the first World War and the decade or so afterward.
Much of the drama revolves around one family living off “old wealth” and the challenges presented in maintaining a large estate and transitioning for its transfer to another generation. Recently, a Wall Street Journal article offered an interesting take on some estate planning lessons that viewers can glean from the ups and downs depicted in the show surrounding the inheritance drama.