Recently I wrote about comparing estate planning in Maryland and in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Estate planning is a crucial step to preparing for your future and ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your passing. In the world of Harry Potter, even the great wizard Dumbledore recognized the importance of estate planning when he left behind a unique and mysterious Will. Let’s compare estate planning laws in Maryland to Dumbledore’s Will in the wizarding world. Surprisingly enough, Dumbledore’s Will is something that could be drafted in the “muggle” world, yet it is the process for administering the Will that is different.
In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Albus Dumbledore, the wise and powerful headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, left behind a will that was full of what estate planning attorneys call “specific distributions”: Dumbledore bequeathed specific magical objects to individuals, each with unique properties and significance. A few key features of Dumbledore’s Will:
- Personal Messages: The Will included personal messages and clues that guided the recipients in their quests and life journeys. These messages were meant to impart wisdom and provide guidance, a way for Dumbledore to pass on life lessons and values.
- Specific Distributions: Dumbledore made specific distributions of tangible personal property to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. We also learn that he seemed charitably inclined (assuming Hogwarts is run as a non-profit) and left the bulk of his possessions to the school.
Upon first glance, Dumbledore’s estate plan appears as though it could have been drafted in the muggle world. However, the administration appears quite different. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are visited by the Minister of Magic himself (akin to the President or Prime Minister) to receive their specific bequests. This certainly does not happen in the muggle world. The personal representative or executor, of the Will, is tasked with administering a Will under the supervision of the probate court. In the wizarding world, we learn the Ministry of Magic seized certain items of Dumbledore’s for inspection to determine if they contained dark magic. In the muggle world, assets are not seized by anyone. The retitling and distribution are carried out independently but with court supervision.
While it is always entertaining to see how estate planning and administration are displayed in movies and literature, as estate planning attorneys we must ensure that the documents we put into place for clients are sound and legal in the real, muggle world.