Forbes: Estate planning doesn’t often make it to the Academy Awards. But that’s happened this year, with The Descendants nominated for Oscars in five categories, including best picture, best actor (George Clooney) and best director (Alexander Payne).
Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings (see related story here), it’s a multi-layered story about Matt King (played by Clooney), a rich trial lawyer in the throes of a midlife crisis and personal tragedy. His wife Elizabeth has been injured in a boat race accident and lies in a coma, leaving him to care for his two daughters—the precocious 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) and rebellious 17 year-old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley). Meanwhile, he discovers that his wife has been having an affair and planning to divorce him.
While these plots and sub-plots dominate our attention, the movie title refers to the fact that King is the descendant of a wealthy white banker and a Hawaiian princess. They left valuable real estate on Kauai in a trust. With that trust about to end, King must decide whether to sell the land to a developer, enriching himself and his greedy cousins.
To most viewers, estate planning themes are secondary to the film’s other dramas. But it turns out that the legal issues were painstakingly developed and fact-checked. On location in Hawaii in March, 2010 to get the lay of the land and soak up its culture, Alexander Payne, the director, consulted Randall Roth, a professor at the University of Hawaii School of Law and a nationally known trusts and estates expert.
Continue reading about estate planning lessons to be learned from The Descendants.