“The Descendants,” a family drama set in Hawaii, won the Golden Globe on Sunday night for best drama. George Clooney, who stars in the film as a father coming to grips with his wife’s impending death, won for lead actor in a drama.
Since our review published in November, our fans told us this is the best trust film ever released. The central theme is about a family trust and its trustee-advisor — played by George Clooney, no less – found their way to the silver screen last November in Alexander Payne’s film, “The Descendants.”
This is The Trust Advisor’s favorite film of the season, a depiction of what the trust industry is all about. This is a MUST see for anyone in the trust world.
Every multi-generational trust is a balancing act between the living and the dead, with the trustee in the precarious position of having to weigh the wishes of vanished grantors against the priorities of their heirs.
The film “The Descendants,” by the director of “About Schmidt” and “Sideways,” frames that balancing act against the lush landscape of Kauai, where the fictional King family have lived for decades on acreage held in trust.
The land is not only their home but their birthright, so when the heirs decide to sell the property to generate income, the trustee (played brilliantly by George Clooney who rightfully deserved the Golden Globe for best lead actor in a drama) has to do plenty of soul searching.
As a beneficiary and heir of the grantors himself, his position is almost impossibly complicated. He is torn between succumbing to the pressure of the cash strapped beneficiaries and the original intent of the family to preserve the land for generations to come.
He gets a lot of things wrong along the way — nobody said playing referee for a fractious family is easy, especially when there are billions of dollars at stake and the heirs are your cousins.
But at the end, he does the best he can, and Payne (who co-wrote the screenplay from a book by Kaui Hart Hemmings) even gives him a little peace after the hard decisions have played out.
Clooney’s Acceptance Speech
Ripped from the headlines
In fact, the situation he has to face reflects the real-life decisions the trustees made a few years ago on behalf of the beneficiaries of Hawaii’s billion-dollar Campbell Estate.
The 107-year-old Campbell Estate had to dissolve in January of 2007, 20 years after the last of the heirs who was alive when the trust was created passed away.
A few of the remaining beneficiaries — grandchildren of the original grantor — took a large cash disbursement and paid the tax accruing.
But most simply rolled their interests into a new national real estate corporation, the San Francisco-based James Campbell Co. LLC.
In its new corporate identity, the former estate had to distribute its estate tax liabilities as well as its assets to the beneficiaries.
But where the acreage in “The Descendants” ends up sold off to outside developers, the Campbell family still controls several thousand acres of their family legacy in Hawaii, as well as an empire of projects on the mainland
Other details are drawn from the story of other family trusts in Hawaii that have faced this same situation in the last few years.
Related Story: , The Trust Advisor, November 27th 2011 by Scott Martin