Estate Planning Lessons from Rain Man

The 1988 film Rain Man was directed by Barry Levinson and is cited by many people as a favorite film. Rain Man tells the story of Charles Babbitt (Tom Cruise) who finds out that his estranged father has passed away and left all of his large estate and its associated assets to the other son, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), who is an autistic savant. Only after the father passes away does Charles Babbitt learn of Raymond’s existence. Rain Man shines some interesting issues in regards to estate planning and many people have questions about how the movie would play out in real life. 

In the real world, Sanford Babbit would likely meet with his estate planning attorney before his death. Sanford would likely inform his lawyer that he has two children at this point. Sanford would also likely tell the lawyer that he had placed his autistic son in a private care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Sanford would also likely express a legitimate concern about Raymond and his desire to make sure that his son can always live at this facility and remain protected. 

A knowledgeable attorney would likely recommend that Sanford establish a revocable trust. Following Sanford’s death, the trust would continue for the benefit of Raymond, while also potentially making annual distributions to Charlie. Following Raymond’s death, the trust would then be distributed to Charlie. Sanford would also likely execute a no-content clause stating that if Charlie seeks to argue or place aside the trust or Sanford’s will or disrupt Raymond’s situation, annual distributions to Charlie would be discontinued and the trust is passed from Charlie to the facility when Raymond passes away. 

Advice to Follow When Creating a Revocable Trust

Creating a revocable trust is full of challenges. Some of the helpful advice you should follow when creating a revocable trust though includes the following:

  • If you own property in multiple states, placing the assets in a revocable trust can avoid your loved ones having to open an estate in various states after you pass away. This can save your loved ones a great deal of time and money.
  • While the trust creator is alive, that individual will act as trustee of the trust. This way, the individual keeps control over assets in the trust. After this individual passes away, another appointed person will be tasked with distributing and managing the trust assets.
  • A person can utilize a living trust to avoid having to establish a separate conservatorship or guardianship. A person can indicate that a successor trustee will take over in case you end up incapacitated and list rules regarding your care if this situation happens.
  • Many accounts have a payable-on-death provision, which means these assets automatically pass to your beneficiaries after you pass away. There is no requirement to go through the trouble of moving these assets into your trust.

Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney Today

If you or a loved one needs the assistance of an estate planning lawyer, you should not hesitate to contact Ettinger Law Firm today to schedule a free case evaluation.

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