The quote, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard,” has been attributed to actors throughout centuries. Comedy can help make the hard topic of death, funerals, and estate planning easier to discuss.
Lately, I’ve been screening a number of comedy films with scenes related to funerals or death. As I speak to groups on getting the funeral planning conversation started, I’ve started using clips from funny films and television programs to great effect. (I do have a license to do this, addressing that threat of a $250,000 fine and five years in prison you see in the FBI warning at the beginning of every home DVD.)
The Six Wives of Henry Lefay, a comedy released in 2009, could be a great tool for estate planning attorneys to help their clients get serious about their wills, trusts and other estate planning issues.
Audio-video salesman Henry Lefay (Tim Allen) disappears while parasailing in Mexico and is presumed dead. His daughter Barbie (Elisha Cuthbert) returns to her Upstate New York hometown for the funeral. Tensions mount into comedic explosions when Henry’s current wife, his five exes, and a mistress wage a fierce power struggle over the final arrangements.
Wife #1 is Kate (Andie MacDowell), Barbie’s mother. Wife #2 and #4 is Ophelia, an intensely passionate, if somewhat crazy, woman who Henry continues to “date” on a regular basis. Wife #3, Veronica, owns half of Henry’s successful business. Wife #5, Autumn, who’s Barbie’s age, thinks she’s in charge and will inherit everything since she’s the current wife.
None of them knows there was yet another wife before Kate, and the mistress Henry was with in Mexico expects to become wife #7. Things really get crazy after the body is returned to the U.S.
Wives #2 through #5 each have handwritten letters from Henry with different funeral arrangements. Veronica has side-by-side plots in Pleasant Meadows cemetery. Autumn has side-by-side plots in Shady Glen cemetery. And Ophelia has a letter saying he wants to be cremated and his ashes scattered in the ocean off a catamaran near the Bahamas.
Now, your clients probably don’t have as complicated a love life as Henry Lefay’s. You know issues of inheritance, business succession, trusts, funeral plans, and pre-nup agreements, especially after divorce(s) and remarriage(s) require detailed diligence and regular updating.
However, your clients might be like Henry Lefay in that they probably won’t sit still long enough to absorb much heavy information. You might consider investing in a copy of this DVD and loan it to your clients as a light-hearted lesson in the serious business of wills, trusts and estate planning.
Gail Rubin is the author of A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die (http://AGoodGoodbye.com), a finalist in the 2010 Book of the Year Awards, Family & Relationships Category, and The Family Plot Blog, http://TheFamilyPlot.wordpress.com. She’s “knocking them dead” with her Funny Films to Start Serious Conversations talks.
Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
6050 Santo Rd Ste 240
San Diego, CA 92124