Modern Families Need Modern Estate Plans

Are you familiar with the Pritchett family? The lovable family is the focus of the hit ABC sitcom Modern Family. A show that makes us laugh, tear up, and… think about estate planning.

The mockumentary revolves around Jay Pritchett and his children, who all live in the Los Angeles area. Jay is on his second marriage. His current wife, Gloria, is much younger than he is. They have a baby named Joe together, and are also raising Gloria’s son, Manny.

Jay’s kids from his first marriage are grown and have families of their own. Claire is married to Phil and they have three children. Mitchell is married to Cameron, and they have an adopted daughter.

The show’s lighthearted look at blended family relationships, adoption, the struggles of same-sex couples, and the terror that comes with raising teenagers, is like watching a funny version of your own life. We all deal with the issues brought up in the show, and most of us have step-relatives, adopted relatives, and same-sex couples in our family tree, which makes the honest but funny plot lines hit home.

One episode that particularly stood out to us was Season 8’s “Ringmaster Keifth.” While most of us don’t have an ex like Keifth, a former circus ringmaster turned concierge, the B-plot about estate planning was infinitely relatable. Jay and Gloria need to create an estate plan in order to appoint a guardian for Joe should anything happen to them. Gloria worries that having a plan in place will cause her to die faster, and once they do get planning, picking a guardian proves difficult.

Many of the clients we work with have the same fears abouts tempting fate and hastening death. And most of not all of our clients have a difficult time appointing a guardian. It is our job to help our clients work through these issues and focus on the fact that having a plan in place can put your mind at ease.

Something the show didn’t go into is the fact that Jay and Gloria’s estate plan would need to be pretty unique. Jay almost certainly wants to treat his stepson Manny like his own son. But it would probably not be a good idea to treat Manny, Claire, and Mitchell equally since they are different ages and at such different points in their lives. Careful planning is needed to ensure that Manny and Joe are taken care of without slighting Claire, Mitchell, and their families.

The distribution of Jay’s assets will also be complicated by the fact that Gloria is likely to outlive Jay since she is younger than him and women generally live longer than men. If all of Jay’s assets pass to Gloria, will Claire and Mitchell’s families eventually get something? Or will Gloria only pass assets on to her own children?

And thank goodness the laws are catching up with the real world, but some special drafting would be necessary if Cameron, or Mitchell and Cameron’s daughter, is to inherit anything.

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney

The Pritchett family has a lot going on it so the show’s scriptwriters have something to work with, but our own modern families are just as complex and unique. When it comes to estate planning, it is critical to work with an attorney who understands that no family is a copy of any other. All of our families have quirks that should be accounted for in our estate plans. Contact a strategic estate planning attorney today to find a plan that fits your needs.

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