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“Knives Out”: an enjoyable movie about estate planning

On Behalf of | Dec 18, 2019 | Wills & Trusts

The list of stars in the surprise hit murder mystery “Knives Out” is impressive, including Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Frank Oz, Christopher Plummer and others who appeal to moviegoers of a certain age. Critics, too, have lavished praise on the fun, engaging whodunit.

What makes the film’s success somewhat startling is that its story revolves around a topic few find entertaining: estate planning. A recent article in Forbes (spoiler alert: their article and our blog post include spoilers) goes over what the movie gets right – and wrong – about estate planning.

The movie concerns the death of the patriarch of a wealthy family who changed his estate plan shortly before he passed away. Viewers will try to figure out who was responsible for his demise as the film navigates some important estate planning concepts, including will contests, undue influence and more.

Senior Forbes contributor Megan Gorman writes that the movie’s will-reading scene is both dramatic and humorous. Daniel Craig’s character explains that a reading is essentially the acting out of “a tax return by a community theater.”

But a financial planner told Gorman that the scene is really just a continuation of a “common misperception” that there’s a “reading of the will” – an event she say that simply “does not happen in real life.”

The planner says that she has repeatedly encountered people disappointed to learn “that there is no will reading in real life.”

While the reading is pure fiction, Gorman writes that elements of the movie’s will contest ring true. When the patriarch’s family learns that the will is not going as they expected, they immediately consider a will contest.

An estate planning attorney confirms for Forbes that “contesting wills is becoming increasingly common” in situations in which people are willing to “challenge estate plans.”

Gorman writes that “Knives Out” is an enjoyable movie that serves as a fun way to learn a bit more about estate planning.


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