As Freeform (formerly ABC Family) is wont to do, a Harry Potter marathon aired this week, and I got to thinking. The last installment of the Harry Potter films was released a six years ago this month – which I can remember raised an interesting dinner conversation that that film’s debut sparked between me, my wife and our three daughters. “What do you think,” I began, “about the fact that an immense amount of value and wealth was created by a welfare mom who hand-wrote a manuscript on a subway as she headed to work?”
My kids didn’t know what I meant by “value” so I explained further. “Value is created when someone appreciates something – be it a good meal, a good book, a movie – or even when someone might have a better job or other exciting adventure due to something that was created. Here, because J.K. Rowling’s imagination created the world of Harry Potter in written form – it spawned the books, of course – but also the movies and all sorts of things. And true value is eventually what spawns wealth.”
My daughters got excited by the idea – and caught on quickly. They identified all sorts of value that would not have otherwise been possible but for the imagination of J.K. Rowling. Daniel Radcliffe (who played Harry Potter in the feature films), for example, may not have ever become an actor. All sorts of people – from the rest of the movie cast, to publishers, to screen writers, to movie production staff – all had interesting jobs that may never have been possible but for the Harry Potter books – and Rowling’s imagination.
The new film series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, that takes place in the same universe as Harry Potter, as well as many new books and websites are constantly cropping up. Each stems from the imagination of this now famous author, raking in thousands of dollars every day.
Universal studios even built a replica of Hogwarts inside of its Islands of Adventure, which was recently followed by a recreation of Diagon Alley in its Universal Studios – allowing all sorts of people who visit Orlando to have an enjoyable experience, notwithstanding creating jobs for architects, builders and craftsmen. So there was likely billions of dollars created out of one divorced woman’s imagination.
My daughters started to think about others’ imaginations that had similar impact. The list goes on and on. Aside from entertainment you have those who work in technology to medicine to transportation. And, by the way – that’s why America is one of the greatest nations on earth– because our culture fosters and encourages imagination. We don’t care about how things were done under the “old way”. We are always looking for the new, improved version of things.
So how does all of this relate to estate planning? I think it does in many ways. One’s estate and financial plan could be a stamped out carbon copy of many others – or it could have an imaginative outlook that instead fosters the values, hopes and dreams of its creator.
The man who owns and runs the family business has any number of ways that he can leverage that knowledge, wealth and expertise for the next generation aside from just turning over the keys. The retiree who has the wonderful beach cottage could create a family compound that is enjoyed and valued by future generations. The man who slowly built family wealth through shrewd investment management can impart those skills with those that he loves with the use of imaginative trust provisions.
When thinking about your own planning – I would suggest that you not think about your death so much as your life. What are your hopes and dreams for yourself and your spouse? In the next three years, what do you hope to do and to accomplish? What obstacles might stand in the way of those hopes and dreams? What opportunities exist that can help you overcome those obstacles? What are your existing resources that you can capitalize on but haven’t yet?
If you were to sit down and honestly answer those questions – I would suspect that you might become excited about the future. The future would look like it harbors all sorts of possibilities – as opposed to the same old stuff you’ve been caught in over the last several years.
After you’ve done that exercise for yourself – use your imagination to the benefit of your children or if you have them – grandchildren. What are your hopes and dreams for them? What do you hope that they would accomplish? What obstacles do they have in accomplishing their dreams? What resources are at their disposal and how might you compliment those resources?
When I speak of resources, by the way, I’m not necessarily talking about financial assets or wealth. The kid who has the drive and energy to put himself through college by earning good grades, getting scholarships, working part time jobs and supplementing all of that with student loans is a kid who has used all of the available resources that he has at his disposal.
I bet that you and your family have untold value locked up in your imaginations. I hope that you can have fun tapping it sometime.
The Sheppard Law Firm has its main in Fort Myers and also in Naples by appointment.
© 2017 Craig R. Hersch. Originally published in the Sanibel Island Sun.