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Lessons from Downton Abbey: leaving a loving will

The popular British aristocratic drama that has taken America by storm has also provided a valuable lesson in estate planning. While the lesson might not seem like a big deal, it can have a very real impact after a person passes away. The lesson was that a loving note with a will can go a long way.

In the latest episode of the season to air in the United States, the Crawley family is faced with a harsh reality. They will lose the palatial estate they have been managing for generations, all because of a bad investment that will force them to sell. However, one new member of the family might be able to save the lavish mansion and surrounding property if he accepts an inheritance that has found itself in his hands. The young man is reluctant to accept the money but changes his mind and saves the family from having to sell, only after reading a kind note from the person that bequeathed the gift.

This shows that sometimes personalizing a will can go a long way. Had the note not been left for the young man, he would have given the gift away, forcing a drastic change of lifestyle for the family. Although most cases aren't this severe, sometimes family members might be unsure of why they were left something, or they are unconvinced that the person who died really wanted them to have the asset.

Including a story with the will can help family members come to accept the assets you have left them. Sometimes including what you hope they will use the assets for, or what you hope they will accomplish in their future will help them. Instilling values or beliefs that you might find helped you through your life might also help them.

Source: MarketWatch, "A 'loving will' rescues Downton Abbey," Karin, Stifler, Jan. 15, 2013

-Wills and other estate planning measures can help New Jersey families understand the wishes of their loved ones. Please visit our New Jersey estate planning website to learn more about wills.

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