Manchester by the Sea

Casey Affleck recently won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as a janitor/handyman who becomes the guardian of his teenage nephew, after the boy’s father dies.  This general plot line is known through the advertising trailers.  We will try our best not to give away any of the dramatic elements of the movie in this newsletter.  No spoiler alerts!  It definitely is worth a watch.

Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a depressed handyman working in Boston. His brother Joe Chandler, who owns a fishing boat in Manchester, Massachusetts, dies.  In his will, Joe names Lee as the guardian of his son Patrick.  You know there is a problem in the planning when Lee is sitting in Joe’s lawyer’s office reading the will and saying “I can’t do this”.  Lee had no idea that his brother had named him Patrick’s guardian.  The lawyer stammered: “I just assumed that Joe discussed this with you”.  Wow, is that a bad assumption.

This critical estate planning mistake is at the heart of the movie. While it may make interesting cinema, it is something that should be avoided at all costs.  Planning on who should raise your minor children if something happens to you is one of the most serious decisions you will ever be called upon to make during your lifetime. It should be well thought out and discussed with the person or persons whom you decide to name as your child’s guardian.  Lee reasons that Joe didn’t discuss the appointment with him because “He knew I would refuse”.  Knowing that the person you choose is likely to refuse is not something to be overlooked or taken lightly.  Particularly, when Joe knows there are good reasons for Lee to want to refuse.  The absence of any thoughtful family discussion leads to the tension which is vividly portrayed in the film.

So, by all means, watch the film, but do not emulate the estate planning failure which is at the heart of the movie. Persons named as guardians for your minor children not only should want the responsibility, but you also should make your choice known to them well in advance of any tragedy.  To learn more about the elements of comprehensive estate planning, it is not too late to register to attend our next free “Truth About Estate Planning” workshop on March 14th.  See details in sidebar of the newsletter for the address and time.

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