Netflix’s new, Golden Globe-nominated movie I Care a Lot hits on most people’s worst fears regarding court-appointed fiduciaries: being wrapped up in an assembly line that takes away rights and that is impossible to escape.
The movie stars Rosamund Pike and Peter Dinklage. Pike is a professional guardian in cahoots with a doctor and care facility manager. The set-up portrayed in I Care a Lot hits home for probate professionals in that it actually seems like it could happen.
The doctor gets kickbacks for writing letters recommending emergency guardianship. Pike’s character is the court’s go-to professional guardian. She, in turn, places her wards in a care home that meticulously follows her directions regarding excluding family members and over-medicating patients. We learn all of this in the first 10 minutes, so no real spoilers there.
The fear level really ratchets up when the professional guardian successfully implements her scheme on a totally competent, very wealthy woman that the guardian believes is without family. Cue Peter Dinklage’s character, and we will leave it there to avoid any further spoilers.
The chain of events in the movie seems plausible, and probate professionals may have a few moments while watching that seems like a kick to the gut. We have seen these claims presented in court; but the respondents really were incompetent. Right?
If this movie does not give you the kick in the pants needed to create estate planning documents, little will. The victim of this story lacked two things that we can easily take care of: 1) a signed attorney/client agreement; and 2) a living will or other document nominating a guardian in the event of our incapacity
An attorney hired by Dinklage’s character did appear in court on behalf of the respondent to contest the proceedings, and his attempts were disregarded due to any record of the respondent retaining the attorney.
Second, because there were no available documents nominating a guardian, or even pointing to the existence of a close adult in the respondent’s life, the judge hearing the case truly believed that the respondent was without anybody to care for her and look out for her interests.
Even if you do not have anybody in your family or social circle that you want to nominate, you can form a relationship with a professional guardian or professional guardianship company and nominate them in your living will or other writing.
Professional guardians can make a record of your preferred facility or facility type for when the time comes, and also make note of any other wishes you may have regarding future living. Pre-selecting a professional (or non-professional) guardian also gives you the opportunity to vet them and ensure that they do not, like in the movie, own stock in the facility to which they plan to place you.
Fair warning, this movie does take a turn to the absurd in the latter half with explosions, unexpectedly intense action scenes, and outlandish schemes. Honestly, the break from the intensity was welcome. It’s much easier to drop the fear for ourselves when there are quippy fight scenes and remarkable action sequences from a villain that we also root for.
I Care a Lot manages to capitalize on many of our worst fears of aging: of becoming vulnerable; of others doubting our worth and ability to be independent; and of losing control of our lives. Fortunately, we have the ability protect our futures selves from all of these things, and it is much easier than committing to a vegan, green juice existence for the rest of our days.
This article is a service of Leslie V. Marenco, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.