TV Lessons in Estate Planning: All in the Family

by David A. Kubikian

Season 1, Episode 1

Background: All in the Family made its TV debut on CBS on January 12, 1971. It forever changed what the “line” was for television at the time, much like more modern shows such as NYPD Blue and The Sopranos. The show focused on the Bunkers (Archie and Edith) and their daughter, Gloria, who married Michael “Meathead” Stivic. The show broke ground for its insights into race and domestic relations and starred Carroll O’Connor as Archie, a WWII bigot living in Queens.

The Family Tree: Archie and Edith are a married couple with a daughter, Gloria, and son-in-law, “Meathead”.

Estate Planning Angles:

1. Meathead Gets What??? – Archie Bunker’s family tree was a relatively easy one. Spouse and grown child both still living. Despite its simplicity, Archie would likely roll in his grave if he knew how his estate could be distributed if he died intestate, that is, without a Last Will & Testament. Saying Archie Bunker was opinionated and rough around the edges is an understatement. He did not hold back his disdain for his son-in-law, “Meathead”.

If Archie died without a will, survived by Edith and Gloria, Edith would receive $50,000 + 1/2 of the probate property he owned. Gloria would receive the remaining probate property. If Edith predeceased Archie, 100% of the estate would pass to Gloria. Perhaps that is not a bad result. However, as Gloria’s spouse, upon Gloria’s untimely demise, Michael would receive a substantial portion, if not all of Gloria’s estate which would include what she inherited from her parents. In addition, even if Gloria did not pass away, depending on what she did with her inheritance, it could be considered a marital asset if Gloria and Michael got divorced.

Either way, with a simple will, Archie could have ensured that Edith would receive all of his assets at his death so she can be supported to the fullest extent during her lifetime, and could have provided for a testamentary trust which could hold any inheritance by Gloria in trust, protecting it from creditors, divorce and/or bankruptcy.
2. Those Were the Days – I can’t think about All in the Family without thinking of its theme song and Edith’s lovely voice. The Bunkers were up there in age and in 2015 would be stuck with modern Medicaid rules concerning nursing home eligibility. They would do well to set up Irrevocable Medicaid Trusts (IMTs) to protect their home in the event that the survivor of the two needed a nursing home. An IMT set up five years before the second of them needed a nursing home would protect their home from Medicaid liens and other creditors down the road. Prior to February 6, 2006 there was no five year look back period and planning would have been much easier.

Stay tuned next week for Episode 2 of the series: Growing Pains

The TV lessons in Estate Planning blog provides general information for educational (and entertainment) purposes only.  Due to the particulars of each person’s circumstances, this blog should not be considered legal advice applicable to your specific fact pattern.

One thought on “TV Lessons in Estate Planning: All in the Family

  1. Pingback: TV Lessons in Estate Planning: Gilligan’s Island | Herzog Herald

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