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'Downton Abbey' mimics real life finances

The popular PBS television show "Downton Abbey" can teach people in Texas and across the nation a lot about financial planning. Drafting a will and estate planning, or the lack thereof, are a significant part of the show. Financial planners and elder lawyers see some common threads in the series that do not differ much from the daily lives of many of their clients.

In the first episode of Season 4 that aired in January, one of the main characters, Matthew Crawley, died in a car accident but did not have a will, although he was the heir to a large estate. One lawyer referred to that incident and the whole show as a powerful example of what not to do when it comes time for estate planning. In another case, the head of the family puts almost all of his wife's money into one investment. The company ends up filing for bankruptcy, showing people the need to diversify an investment portfolio.

In another example, the family does everything in its power to keep its castle and the accompanying property. However, a better option may be to sell the home, especially if it is older and needs repairs, some estate planners believe. Parents might mistakenly think that children are attached to their home, but generally, they realize the wisdom of putting the home on the market in favor of liquidity. Planners also advise placing a family inheritance in a trust in order to protect the money. Finally, establishing a medical end-of-life document that outlines a person's wishes is often a good idea.

Preparing for retirement might seem like a daunting task, but it is necessary to protect a person's assets. An attorney might be able to help clients with the needed paperwork to establish a trust.

Source: MSN, "3 retirement lessons from 'Downton Abbey'", January 06, 2014

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