How a Great Estate Plan Would’ve Changed “Tiger King”

April 17, 2020

The recent Netflix hit Tiger King is mostly entertainment, but, believe it or not, there are some lessons we can learn from characters on the show (and one that didn’t make it on the show). Carole Baskin’s former husband, Don Lewis, disappeared in 1997 and was declared dead in 2002. Unfortunately, his final estate plan may not have accurately reflected his goals and wishes. What is included in a great estate plan, and how can you make sure your heirs get what they deserve?


Not everyone needs a complex will; for many who are younger that don’t have any children or many assets, a simple will may be enough to meet their needs. In some states handwritten and oral wills are valid, and there are several online legal services that offer will preparation at a low price. Once your estate has some level of complexity, you may want to seek out an estate attorney to prepare your will. No matter how simple or complex your will is, you need to make sure you understand exactly what your will says and how it works.

Wills typically don’t cost a lot of money, but not having a valid and up-to-date will can cost you a fortune. Dying without a will, or dying intestate, means that the laws of your state will determine how property is distributed upon your death. If you only have a small amount of assets, dying intestate may not be detrimental to your friends and family members. If you have a greater number of assets and children, dying without a will could leave a big mess for your survivors to clean up.

Beneficiary designations

Not all assets pass through a will; some assets, like bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies have beneficiary designations. It’s important to review beneficiary designations regularly and when any major life events occur. For example, if you have a child, you may want to add them as a contingent beneficiary. If you were to divorce and remarry, you would likely want to change your beneficiary from your ex-spouse to your current spouse.

Powers of attorney

There are several different types of power of attorney: medical power of attorney, financial power of attorney, and durable, limited, or springing power of attorney. A power of attorney is a person or organization that is allowed to manage certain affairs on your behalf. It’s very important to have a power of attorney in place as you age in case you become incapacitated and unable to handle your own affairs. A power of attorney can handle your estate, finances, and even medical decisions. In addition to a medical power of attorney, a healthcare directive helps explain the type of care you would like to receive in an emergency or end-of-life situation.

Term life insurance

Life insurance can be a valuable tool to protect your family in case of your early death. Term life insurance is pure life insurance without any investment options, and is consequently the least expensive form of life insurance. If you are looking for protection at a low cost and don’t want to mix your insurance with your investments, you may want to consider term life insurance.

Not everyone needs life insurance. If you don’t have family members that would be financially harmed by your death or are self-insured, you may not need life insurance. A common misconception is that only working spouses need life insurance. This is not necessarily true; childcare and maintaining the home have a monetary value, and can be expensive to replace. If you have debts that need to be repaid after your death, like a mortgage, or would need to leave money to provide for your family, you may want to consider purchasing life insurance.

The value of having a comprehensive estate plan isn’t the only thing you can learn from Tiger King. Watch our most recent show, “7 Financial Lessons You Should Learn From Tiger King!” for even more financial wisdom we gleaned from Tiger King.

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