TV Lessons in Estate Planning: Beverly Hills, 90210

by David A. Kubikian

Season 2, Episode 3

Background: Beverly Hills, 90210 made its television debut on October 4, 1990 on Fox and had an initial run of 10 years. The teenage soap opera revolved around a group of friends attending the posh West Beverly Hills High School and then followed them through the trials and tribulations of college and “real” life.

The Family Tree: Lots of family trees in play. Here are the highlights: Brandon (Jason Priestley) and Brenda (Shannen Doherty) are the twin children of Jim and Cindy Walsh. They moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles and it’s their assimilation to the SoCal life that is the basic premise of the show. Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) was the step-sister of David Silver (Brian Austin Green) after her mom and his dad got together. This was a soap opera so there are lots of different love triangles, deaths, drug issues and the like. Dylan McKay (Luke Perry) and Steve Sanders (Ian Ziering) had their issues, as did Donna Martin (Tori Spelling).

Fun Facts: West Beverly Hills High School does not exist. However, Beverly Hills High School does exist and there are, as you would expect, a lot of high profile alumni who were the offspring of people involved in Hollywood. The alumni include Angelina Jolie, Slash, Alicia Silverstone, Nicholas Cage, Betty White, Lenny Kravitz, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rob Reiner, Nora Ephron, Scott Caan, Richard Dreyfuss, and (ironically) Tori Spelling.

Estate Planning Angles:

1. “Donna Martin Graduates” – I will be honest with you – I never did watch the show all that much after their high school years, but I do remember the slogan “Donna Martin Graduates.” Picture it: Donna Martin gets a little too crazy at prom and puts on such an alcohol-induced scene that the principal of the school bans her from graduating. What an atrocity. Fear not though, Brandon, Brenda, Steve, Dylan, Kelly and David rally to her side and get the entire student body to protest the punishment. Brilliantly, they repeat “Donna Martin Graduates” until the principal’s ears bleed* and the punishment is removed. The slogan becomes a cult TV shirt you see every now and then. (*Actually, the principal, after seeing the large turn out and support changes her mind. No ears were hurt in the making of the scene.)

How does “Donna Martin Graduates” possibly have an estate planning angle? Well, it has been mentioned before about how you can have all sorts of strings on your money after you pass away. Those strings can be tied to lots of different milestones for your beneficiaries, such as reaching a certain age. In general, the restrictions can also be tied to enrolling in college, obtaining degrees, getting married, and so on. The only restriction is that those milestones cannot be illegal or against public policy (Ex. No money if you marry a particular race). If Donna Martin was the beneficiary of a trust and there were strings on getting her money, like graduating from high school, Donna should truly thank the student body for their support.

2. The Peach Pit – The Peach Pit is the local hang out where Brandon works and his friends tend to congregate in. It’s no “The Max” ( a la Saved by the Bell), but the Peach Pit does just fine thank you very much. In the eyes of an estate planner, the Peach Pit is a small business that is the heart and soul of its owner, Nat Bussichio. Businesses like these may not have value independent of their owners. In other words, if there is no Nat, what is the value of the business? Maybe there is a lease on the property. Maybe he owns the property. Maybe there is a large following and value to the business independent of Nat. Maybe. Maybe not. What is certain though is that whatever value there is in the Peach Pit, Nat’s incapacity (due to accident or old age), absent a Power of Attorney, will mean its premature demise. A Power of Attorney is so important because it avoids the need for a costly and lengthy guardianship proceeding if Nat loses his capacity. It means that someone will have the authority to continue to run the Peach Pit and if they do not have experience in that area, hire a manager to run the business. If you, family, or friends have a small business you need to make sure you are prepared for all sorts of contingencies and that means: 1. Power of Attorney and 2. Business Succession Planning.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode: Happy Days

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.

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