I admit it. I watch the Channel 10 television drama Offspring. Sad as it may be, it is one of the very few things I watch on tv and I watch it with my wife most weeks. Last week Offspring delivered one of the most reported moments in recent Australian TV history, and if you haven’t heard what that moment was: Patrick died after being hit by a car in an accident that on face value appeared to be very minor.
Patrick was the emotionally grounding partner of the ever erratic main character Nina. He was an anaesthetist in his mid-30s, fit, healthy and expecting a child with Nina: circumstances that made his sudden death so sudden and all the more dramatic. The episode sparked a huge response online via Facebook and Twitter with many posts including pictures of Patrick and “RIP”.
Patrick's sudden death left many viewers upset, asking “why did Channel 10 do that to my favourite character?” but also asking questions about what this will mean for the next season. Questions that come up maybe “what will happen to Nina?”, “how on earth will she cope being a single mother?” and “who is going to help Nina?”. Without Patrick Nina’s future is very uncertain.
So what does the death of this popular tv character have to do with law? Well, it emphasizes that not everyone gets to live to see their children grow up or simply experience the many gifts of life that come with growing old.
My thoughts when watching Patrick die, albeit unashamedly legalistic, were: “I wonder if he has a Will and whether that is going to be an issue?”, “will there be an Inheritance Act claim that creates family conflict?” “Is his will out of date and will his ex be an executor?”, “What if he appointed his sister as the testamentary Guardian of his infant children?” “will the executor of his estate assumes some financial power over Nina and how would that play out?”. The list of potential story lines is almost endless.
These thoughts obviously come from a lawyer involved in drafting Wills, providing estate planning and acting for parties seeking to get more from a Will in an inheritance claim. But, like it or not, they are issues that affect everyone’s estate planning and if they are not attended to anyone’s estate can turn into a tv drama.
If you have not given any thought to your Will, Enduring Power of Attorney or Guardian then maybe the death of this fictional character can spring you into action. The aftermath of Patrick’s death will unfold tomorrow night in Offspring’s last episode of the season. Only time will tell whether the writers will include some of these issues to do with the administration of Patrick’s estate. But regardless of whether they do or not, are you going to be the one client who needs a personal real life example in order to finally get onto organising your estate?