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'Knives Out' holds lessons on estate planning

You can be forgiven if you don't particularly find wills and estates that compelling -- but the 2019 sneaker-hit "Knives Out" may make you change your mind.

Estate planning and wills don't make it into the movies that much. Most of the time, when it's important to the plot, there's a "reading of the will" (something that doesn't usually happen in real life) and that's about all you hear. This movie, however, gives a captivating (and thrilling) look into what can happen when a wealthy person dies and leaves the vast bulk of an estate to someone unexpected.

Without spoiling the movie, here's one important takeaway from the movie that attorneys say you should note: Estate disputes are on the rise. Contesting a will used to be a relatively rare procedure -- and it's definitely not something to be undertaken lightly. However, as more people live longer into their golden years than ever and family units seem to have become looser due to the mobile nature of modern society, there are a lot more opportunities for someone to unduly influence a testator's choices.

In addition to the possibility that someone is digging their financial hooks into a testator and influencing their final will, there are fewer social mores against disputing a will than there once were. Heirs are more conscious of their rights -- and may simply be more willing to fight for them when they suspect a problem.

You can't contest a will simply because you're unhappy with its terms -- but if you suspect that a will was crafted under dubious circumstances, you may want to find out more about your legal options.

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