Lessons from S*Town

What can a podcast teach us about proper legal planning? A lot, actually!

The popular podcast S-Town, which was created by the producers of Serial and This American life, explores the unlikely friendship between narrator/reporter Brian Reed and Alabama horologist John B. McLemore.

McLemore originally contacted This American Life to request they investigate an alleged (and ultimately fabricated) murder in his hometown of Woodstock, Alabama. Reed, who was sent to investigate the story, eventually becomes more intrigued with McLemore, and begins to record their conversations for the podcast. During these conversations, McLemore tells Reed of his distrust in banks while indicating that he’s financially well off. He even implies that most of his assets are in gold and are hidden.

While the podcast is still in production, McLemore commits suicide—and he does so without leaving a Will or estate plan.

With no Will in place, McLemore’s estranged family—a group of people he did not want to associate with—ends up with his Estate. The close friends and associates he clearly intended to benefit were left with nothing and a fight over his belongings ensues.

Why was this allowed to happen? No one dies without an estate plan. If you die without a Will, the state legislature (in this case, Alabama) will write one for you, known as the laws of intestacy. In Alabama, the law of intestacy benefits the following individuals in the following order of priority:

  1. Spouse
  2. Children
  3. Grandchildren

If none of these people are alive or exist, the estate is distributed as follows:

  1. Parents
  2. Siblings
  3. Nieces & Nephews
  4. Cousins

For someone in McLemore’s situation, we can see how the above order of priority would be problematic. Unfortunately, many people in our country will face similar problems. 60% of Americans currently have no Will.

What Is Included In An Estate Plan?

There are multiple components to an estate plan, each with their own function. However, all of these deal with some level of decision making over your estate or your person. They include:

  • A Will
  • An advance directive or living will
  • Trusts
  • Power of Attorney

As long as you are breathing and conscious, it’s not too late to put your estate plan in place. Come sit down with the lawyers at Stanko, Senter & Michell and let them help you plan today!