“To Harry James Potter, I leave the Snitch he caught in his first Quidditch Match at Hogwarts, as a reminder of the rewards of perseverance and skill.”
“To Ronald Bilius Weasley, I leave my Deluminator, in the hope that he will remember me when he uses it.”
“To Miss Hermione Jean Granger, I leave my copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, in the hope that she will find it entertaining and instructive.” – The Last Will of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.)
Albus Dumbledore was the world’s greatest wizard. Even he should have reached out to a good estate planning advisor for advice instead of saving a few galleons by going to WizardsWills.com. We can learn a lot from Dumbledore’s mistakes.
By including these important items in his Will, Dumbledore raised questions about three otherwise ordinary looking items. The Minister of Magic who probated Dumbledore’s Will held on to these items for 31 days while allowing the rest of the estate to be gifted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry without any question.
It’s unlikely that you have magical items that you will be leaving to your heirs, especially ones that can help slay the Dark Lord. However, you certainly have sentimental and valuable items that you want to pass to certain people. By listing these in your will, you are doing three things:
Raising questions over whether these items are in fact valuable and should be subject to tax
Delaying putting these items into the hands of your beneficiaries
Ensuring that you have to go back to your lawyer when you realize that you forgot to leave something to Neville Longbottom
Rather than listing specific items in your will, instruct your Executor to distribute your tangible personal property in accordance with a memorandum that you leave with the will. Nothing is highlighted in the will and it can be changed whenever you (or Dumbledore) decides to put quill to parchment without paying legal expenses.
Harry, Ron and Hermione realized that there was something special about the items left to them, but they wasted a lot of time figure out the puzzle. Dumbledore never gave them a heads up. He left them in the dark. Naturally, they did not know what to do.
It may feel strange to talk with your beneficiaries about your estate plan, but it is really important. Let them know what your intentions are. Tell them where to find your will. Let them ask questions. Don’t be afraid of this conversation – it’s so important, can limit misunderstandings, and may even help solve the mysteries of the Deathly Hallows!
While there are so many wonderful lessons about friendship, loyalty, bravery, and more in the Harry Potter series, sadly a lesson in estate planning was missing.
Andy Gavrin, Esq. is an estate planning attorney. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Wharton School of Business, and Cornell University, he lives in Villanova with his three daughters, and serves as Vice President of the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners. Contact him about your estate plan at email@example.com or 484.416.5740. The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials are for general informational purposes only. Note that information may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information.