Estate Planning Lessons from Star Wars

Yes, I am a Star Wars fan. Yes, my nickname (and license plate) is Chewy, which is short for Chewbacca. The latter being my college roommates fault because they couldn’t pronounce Cholewka when I got married. Although my six-year-old son isn’t quite ready to see the movies, I look forward to one day introducing him to the best space opera of all time.

So how is it possible to connect my love of Star Wars and my practice of law?

Show you I will.

Jedi Knight Aniken Skywalker married Senator Padme Amidala, formerly the Queen of Naboo. While pregnant with his children, Aniken turned to the dark side and became Darth Vader. Vader was told Padme died in childbirth along with his child as he was unaware his wife was carrying twins. Grand Jedi Master Yoda recommended their children, Luke and Leia, be hidden from their father in remote locations. Years later Vader learned Luke was his son and that Luke had a twin sister.

Why does this matter to estate planning?

Many people choose to plan to leave assets for their children. But what happens if you don’t know you have a kid? This typically only happens to men but may also apply to women.

In some cases, a man may not know he fathered a child who was born before he created his will. These children are legally called pretermitted children.

In other cases, a man may not know he fathered a child who is born after he created his will. These children are legally called omitted children.

Each state has different laws regarding these classes of children and whether they can receive an inheritance from their parents. In Arizona, an omitted child can potentially inherit money from their parent even though they aren’t mentioned in their parent’s will. Additionally in Arizona, if a person making a will does not provide for a child solely because they believe that child is dead—but are incorrect—that child is considered an omitted child.

So if Vader created a will and did not provide for Luke and Leia because he did know they were alive, they would still be entitled to their inheritance under Arizona law.

As to the rules in a galaxy far, far away? Not sure am I.

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