Season 1, Episode 2
Background: Growing Pains made its TV debut on ABC on September 24, 1985 and centered around the Seavers, an upper/middle class family living in Long Island. Alan Thicke played Dr. Jason Seaver, a psychiatrist who worked out of the house and raised the Seaver kids while Maggie Malone Seaver, a TV reporter, had recently returned to work.
The Family Tree: Dr. Jason Seaver and Maggie Malone Seaver are the parents of Michael, Carol, Ben and Chrissy Seaver.
Fun Fact: “Just the Ten of Us” was a spinoff of Growing Pains centering around Michael’s gym teacher.
Estate Planning Angles:
1. A Minor Problem – As we all know, if you die in New York without a Last Will & Testament, there is a statutory scheme for how your estate is to be divided. If you die with a spouse and kids, $50,00.00 + 1/2 of the probate assets go to your surviving spouse with your children splitting the remaining non-probate assets. For the Seavers, Dr. Seaver’s demise would result in Maggie receiving roughly 1/2 of the estate and the kids each splitting the remaining 1/2 for 1/8 a piece. For the majority of the show, all of the Seaver kids were minors, meaning that there could be a substantial sum of money going to four children instead of it all being used to help Maggie raise her family. Maggie, who is the legal guardian of the kids would need to become guardian of the kids’ property. She would not be able to access any of those funds as freely as she would her own assets. This is only one part of the problem. When each of the children turn 18, they are no longer minors and they will be able to access all of their inheritance. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t exactly spend wisely when I was 18 years old. A will alleviates these issues by containing a provision that states everything to your spouse and a second provision providing for money to be held in trust for children (if spouse predeceases) with a much more reasonable schedule for inheritance. Perhaps 25% at age 22, 25% at age 25 and the balance at age 30 would be the right move.
2. What About Leo? – Those of you who are astute Growing Pains fans will remember that Leonardo DiCaprio made his TV debut as Luke Bower, a homeless student of Michael Seaver (after Michael became a teacher). Luke ended up living with the Seavers before reuniting with his father. If the Seavers had decided to adopt Luke, Luke would have become the equivalent of a child by blood and would have shared in the estate just as Michael, Carol, Ben and Chrissy. That would simultaneously mean that Luke could no longer be a distribute of his biological parents. If the Seavers did not want to adopt Luke, but wanted to give him some form of inheritance, it would need to be via will instead of New York’s laws of intestacy.
Stay tuned for next week’s episode: Full House
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.