Modern Estate Planning Lessons from King Lear

King Lear is a Shakespearean tragedy – the story of a man doomed by his estate planning failure. This old play has very modern lessons to be learned, and illustrates the power of planning!

To gift or not to gift?

King Lear had big decisions to make regarding his estate. With an entire kingdom at stake, he would have to plan wisely. Unfortunately, he did not seek advice from an expert real estate planner! He interviewed his three daughters in order to gauge who best to bequeath it to.

The two eldest daughters insisted that he gift the kingdom to them immediately as a safeguard against conflict should he be unexpectedly rendered incapable of ruling. The King was unaware of his options, and didn’t know that a better solution would be to place the kingdom in a family limited partnership or trust. Instead, he gifted the kingdom to his daughters then and there.

Exiled Without Protection

King Lear’s daughters had promised to take care of him. However, once they had unrestricted ownership of his assets, they exiled him from the kingdom. In modern times, the King could have been financially protected by durable power of attorney to manage his remaining assets. He also could’ve been medically protected with medical power of attorney, allowing someone to make medical care decisions for him during his incapacity.

Too Late For Guardianship

King Lear should have opted for a guardianship to safeguard against potential financial exploitation. Today, he could have signed a Declaration of Guardian in the Event of Later Incapacitation, preventing his evil eldest daughters from taking over his assets.

Tragic Family Conflict

The King’s youngest daughter is the only child with his best interests at heart. Unfortunately, she was not given control of any part of the estate. Eventually, the Kingdom is left in tatters and all of the main characters die. While this is a dramatic representation of familial fallout, it should still be considered a cautionary tale. A parent can minimize the potential for family conflict with careful estate planning.

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