It’s a scenario that terrifies both parents and children: the head of a family dies unexpectedly, and a child must assume the mantle of leadership without the benefit of the previous generation’s wisdom.
This is the premise of Marvel’s Black Panther. After the Death of King T’Chaka, his son, King T’Challa, must return to Wakanda to assume his place as the rightful heir to the throne.
While most people aren’t rulers of a small, secretive, technological superpower, everybody needs an estate plan—and too many people aren’t prepared. In fact, more than half of all American adults don’t have a will. Even if your son doesn’t need to fight the ruler of the rival faction for his right to the throne, this could lead to disputes over inheritance and leave your beneficiaries vulnerable.
Estate planning is a great way to protect your beneficiaries and be sure that your wishes are honored. Here are some of the estate planning lessons we learned from Black Panther.
It’s important to be explicit.
The source of Wakandan wealth is a metal known as a vibranium, and the royal family acknowledges Wakandans as the sole beneficiary of its proceeds. Although this kind of national understanding of mineral rights is rare, it is critical to protecting the resources of the nation.
One of the biggest benefits of estate planning is that it makes your wishes explicit. In lieu of a royal decree, estate planning is the best way to make sure that your intentions are honored after your death and avoid any confusion among your heirs. It’s also important to coordinate with an estate planning attorney on this process to be sure that your will is legally enforceable.
Trouble can arise after death.
Estate planning can also protect your beneficiaries from creditors, liabilities, and (maybe) even vengeful distant relatives.
In Black Panther, T’Challa’s exiled cousin Killmonger assists the enemy in stealing vibranium and returns to Wakanda with the intention of succeeding to the throne. Because traitorous Killmonger is technically the rightful heir, the country must fight a civil war to reinstate T’Challa.
Estate planning can help avoid disputes among your inheritors and protect your beneficiaries from circumstances that arise after your death. Asset protection measures act as a safety net, keeping somebody who wins a lawsuit against you from having access to the protected portion of your estate.
Structure your wishes—and understand their limits.
Estate planning offers multiple tools to make sure that your wishes are carried out as well as ways to protect your beneficiaries from potential lapses in judgment. In the case of a minor beneficiary, estate planning allows you to designate a conservator to oversee the minor’s finances. It can also allow you to protect an adult beneficiary from bad financial decisions, outside pressures, or losing money in divorce proceedings.
It’s also important to recognize that ultimately, your beneficiaries will have at least some freedom to make their own decisions. Although his father intended for vibranium to remain a secret, King T’Challa discloses the existence of the metal in an address to the United Nations and commits to using the nation’s wealth to provide aid for the benefit of African communities.
Even though this did not honor the letter of his father’s wishes, T’Challa adapted the policy to meet the needs of his time. When structuring your estate, consider who your beneficiaries are and the extent to which you trust their judgment. Work with an estate-planning attorney to set up the necessary protections and to determine how (and when) to release control over how assets are used.
A Matter for Family—and the Law
Although it might be tempting to think of estate planning as purely a legal process, how you manage wealth depends on your long term goals, and your long-term goals are determined by what you value. This means that financial decision-making principles should be part of the next generation’s moral education.
Prepare your heirs for leadership by providing counsel on managing resources now, and work with an estate planning attorney to make sure that systems are in place to protect and guide them in the future.
Ready to apply these teachings to your own life? Contact our experienced estate planning attorneys to see how we can help.
Also, check out the man in the Blue Suit giving input on Chadwick Boseman’s (T’Challa’s) lack of an estate plan over on CNBC.