Since the cast of Albert Square’s award winning soap EastEnders hit our screens in 1985 (admittedly before I was born) viewers have been hooked on its plots and individual story lines.

Over the years we’ve seen characters come and go, some of which we’ve loved and some like ‘Nasty Nick’ that we’ve come together to hate.

One thing we could all agree on is that these episodes create good live examples of why estate planning is so incredibly important.

Take the macho male Phil Mitchell for example played by Steve McFadden. Phil is a long standing character on the well-loved show following his introduction in 1990. Steve’s character has had his fair share of attention grabbing story lines all of which could quite easily be related to estate planning in some capacity.

His battle with alcohol is a topic which touches many and something that Phil’s on screen mother Peggy may well have considered when planning the succession of her estate. She may have considered a discretionary trusts of which Phil could have been made a beneficiary of. This would have allowed the trustees the power to drip-feed money to Phil to prevent any inheritance being squandered.

Then there was the famous ‘whodunit’ storyline ‘who shot Phil?’. This brings about the obvious need for a Will to avoid intestacy or the need to review ones Will to prevent gifts or property going to former partners. Grant-ed (excuse the EastEnders pun), very few of us are so hated that any number of people could have been responsible for shooting us in the back but it does bring us to the subject of exclusions when planning our Will. It is unlikely that Phil would have wanted to give any of his estate to (spoiler alert) his former partner Lisa Fowler (played by Lucy Benjamin), responsible for the near fatal shot.

Then there is Ian Beale, one character that everyone loves to hate (not my words) but seemingly one that collects wives. His history of spouses and girlfriends brings about the obvious need for estate planning. 4 wives, adopted children, his own children etc. An obvious need to consider guardianship, practical planning to avoid sideways disinheritance for those wives that have moved on and with regular story lines about his varied business interests there will probably be some planning needed there.

Dorothy ‘Dot’ Cotton opitimises the saying that ‘you can choose your friends but your can’t choose your family’.  A lot of people will choose their children to be their executor but with children like ‘Nasty Nick’ the option to choose a professional executor to ensure that your wishes are carried out may prove to be a sensible one.

This is obviously a light hearted, fun poking and unquestionably tenuous link between Estate Planning and the subject no-one likes to talk about – EastEnders (I might have got these the wrong way around), but worth thinking about and an easy way to introduce the subject to clients.

Apologies for those who don’t like EastEnders puns, EastEnders itself or my article…

Until the next one!

Thomas Stansfield

The Society of Will Writers

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