Estate Planning Lessons We Can Learn from Encanto
Not only is Disney’s animated film Encanto hugely entertaining, it also contains some valuable estate planning lessons:
- Why leaving a family legacy is important and how it can have an impact beyond your immediate family;
- How multigenerational planning can benefit future generations;
- Why treating each beneficiary as a unique person is essential; and
- Naming the “strongest” child as your fiduciary may not always be the most sensible decision.
A Family Legacy Can Impact More Than Just Your Immediate Family
In Encanto, the Madrigal family had received a “miracle,” and family members received unique “gifts” associated with the miracle. Along with the miracle and the gifts they had received, the Madrigal family also recognized their responsibility to use their miracle and gifts to benefit the whole town. They took their responsibility very seriously.
Like the Madrigal family, your family legacy can have a significant impact beyond your immediate family. You can create an estate plan to benefit the world around you. You can design your plan so that the money and property you leave will cultivate a legacy for your immediate family and also benefit the community for generations to come. The Carnegie Foundation, which funds libraries and learning centers around the country, and the Getty Foundation, which provides access to museums and funds art history and conservation measures, are well-known examples. But you do not have to be a billionaire to provide for your family and the community. You can create an estate plan that reflects your values. By creating an estate plan, you can detail who receives your assets (family, charities or a blend of both), what assets they will receive, when they receive them and how your assets may be used.
In addition to creating an estate plan, you can leave a legacy and impact your community by doing things like funding a scholarship, a room in a library or even a park bench. Such charitable gifts can be a powerful source of family pride, creating meaning and a legacy for your family.
The Significance of Multigenerational Planning
In Encanto, Abuela was just as concerned about her grandchildren and helping them to obtain and properly use their gifts as she was about her own children. Although designing an estate plan that benefits only your children is typical, grandparents may also want to look at ways they can benefit multiple generations by using a living trust or funding a 529 college savings plan. Gifts to grandchildren may often have a bigger impact than gifts given to older, financially established children. Encanto teaches us to think beyond what we can leave to only our children; there are multiple ways to help future generations as well, financially or otherwise.
Each Beneficiary Is Unique
Encanto’s soundtrack went viral, and the song “We Don’t Talk about Bruno” became a huge hit. Bruno is the black sheep of the Madrigal family and can be viewed as a metaphor for any family’s marginalized members. Just like Bruno, there may be members of our own family whom we are reluctant to talk about – perhaps because of difficult relationships, someone’s poor life choices, or because someone has not lived up to expectations or followed societal norms. Still, we need to acknowledge that family members come in a lot of different flavors and recognize the good and potential in each of them, even if they do not fit the mold. That said, it’s important to tailor your estate plan to fit each beneficiary’s individual needs. For example, giving an individual a sizeable inheritance may make sense for some financially saavy beneficiaries, but not for others who may be financially irresponsible.
Another cautionary tale from Encanto is about exerting control. Abuela Madrigal did not want to involve Bruno or Mirabel in the family endeavors because they did not conform to her idea of what they were supposed to do and how they were supposed to act. Trying exert control by requiring children or grandchildren to do or achieve certain things to qualify for their inheritance can have difficult or unintended consequences, and can harm your loved ones’ relationships. When designing your own estate plan, it is important to balance your values with the unique characteristics of each individual beneficiary.
Think Before Putting More Pressure on the “Strong” One
In Encanto, Luisa is the physically strong sibling. Most families have the characteristically “strong” child who takes on most of the responsibility along with most of the pressure. It is natural to appoint this responsible child as the trustee, the agent under a power of attorney, or in another fiduciary role in your estate plan. Yet, just as Luisa sings, “pressure that’ll tip, tip, tip till you just go pop,” sometimes we, too, assume that the “strong” or “responsible” one can continue taking on more responsibility. It’s important to remember that acting as a trustee or other fiduciary takes time and energy. Sometimes the best person for the job just doesn’t have the time or energy, so it’s important to carefully consider whether the person you are appointing can actually handle the responsibility.
If after watching Encanto you begin thinking about your estate plan and the kind of legacy that you want to leave for successive generations and the community, please call us. We can help you ensure that your legacy is properly planned, administered, and enduring.