July 12, 2017

Estate Planning: Seven Kingdoms Edition – Episode One

Any die-hard fan of the Game of Thrones has almost certainly come to realize, death is inescapable.  Even the story’s most beloved characters have met their demise, many leaving only a lifetime of suffering and misery to their families.  Imagine if they had properly planned their estates – would there have been a war between the north and the south?  Would Danerys still want to conquer Westeros?  Would Sansa have been sold to the Bolton’s, or Arya forced to beg on the streets?  The Seven Kingdoms might not have become quite as legendary a place, but imagine the fate of your favorite character in a few of these hypothetical scenarios, where the concept of estate planning had been introduced.

King Aerys II Targaryen – AKA “The Mad King” – AKA Father of Danerys Targaryen

King Aerys II Targaryen is the first king in the tale of Game of Thrones, and was killed during Robert Baratheon’s rebellion.  He left behind a wife, two sons, a daughter, and two grandchildren.  Shortly after his death, his wife, eldest son, and two grandchildren were also killed, leaving his son, Viserys, and daughter, Danerys, (both minors) as sole heirs to his estate.

Estate planning may not have reversed an overthrown monarchy, but it could have helped Viserys and Danerys find a new home by providing them with financial stability.  If King Aerys II had prepared a will, he would have named a guardian to care for his minor children.  He would have also established separate testamentary trusts for each child, and assigned his selected guardian as trustee of those trusts.  The children would have then had someone to care for them and money to fund their needs.

The estate planning alternate ending:  Viserys and Danerys are well cared for by a guardian and loyal ally to the family.  They have the resources needed to construct their ships, build a robust army, and return to Westeros to reclaim their family’s throne.

King Robert Baratheon

Robert Baratheon became the king of Westeros after the death of King Aerys II Targaryen. As king, he marries Cersei of the House Lannister, heir to one of the wealthiest, most powerful families in the kingdom of Westeros.  The marriage, arranged by Cersei’s father, Lord Tywin Lannister, was not a happy one.  King Robert still pined for his one true love, Lyanna Stark, who died mysteriously during his own rebellion.  Cersai continued an incestuous affair with her twin brother, Jamie, with whom she had two sons and a daughter – claiming King Robert the father of all three.

King Robert, while out hunting one day, is mortally wounded by a hog.  As he is dying, he asks his dear friend Ned Stark, brother of Lyanna Stark, to write his will.  Knowing that none of King Robert’s alleged children share his DNA, Ned intentionally replaces the phrase “my son” with “my rightful heir.”

Estate planning 101 – a “Deathbed Will” is not a good idea.  If there is reason to believe the deceased was incapacitated at the time a will was made, the will can be challenged in court.  In King Robert’s case, his brother Stannis Baratheon could have easily argued that Robert lacked the mental capacity to create his will, and that he – his rightful heir – should have been declared King.

The estate planning alternate ending:   Prior to his marriage to Cersei, King Robert hires an attorney who assists him in creating his will, as well as an irrevocable living trust.  King Robert appoints his loyal companion, Ned Stark, as Trustee and names only his brothers, Stannis and Renly Baratheon as beneficiaries of the trust (of course, any good lawyer would encourage King Robert to keep his estate plan updated; likely suggesting provisions to the will and trust document to include future children and spouse as additional beneficiaries).  During his life, King Robert is unable to squander his family’s royal assets, leaving Stannis and Renly with plenty of riches, and a newfound desire for traveling.  The Baratheon brothers decide to flee the Seven Kingdoms and pursue their passion of exploring exotic foreign lands.  With Joffrey, King Robert and Cersei Lannister’s alleged son, left with nothing, Ned Stark is declared King and is able to move back to Winterfell with his family, without being labeled a traitor (and losing a head).

This ends Episode One of Estate Planning: Seven Kingdoms Edition. Join us tomorrow to discover what could have happened to Ned Stark and Tywin Lannister….click here.