As a little child, I grew up watching Disney’s and the story of Cinderella is one of my favourites. I remembered, at that time, I wished I grew up to be as pretty as Cinderella, be married to a charming prince, and live happily ever after.
Today, I did find my own prince charming and together we are blessed with two children. Lately, I was watching the newest version of the Cinderella movie with my daughter and both of us had a great time together. As I watched the start of the show, I began to reflect upon the movie as a mother and realised that there are wisdoms to learn to prevent our children from being the next ‘Cinderellas’.
What do I mean?
First, Let’s Recap the Story …
The story took place in France where Ella was the only daughter of Sir Tremaine and his wife. Sir Tremaine was a rich businessman, possibly a lord or baron, and they lived a happy and peaceful life in a chateau. But, their happiness was short lived as Ella’s birth mother passed on due to an illness.
Then, Sir Tremaine remarried his second wife, Lady Tremaine and she became a stepmother to Ella. She has two daughters, Drisella and Anastasia from her past marriage. As a result, Ella has two stepsisters and they all reside together in the chateau.
One day, Sir Tremaine died unexpectedly. Lady Tremaine took over all estates of Sir Tremaine, including his chateau. Then, she lived like a princess together with her two biological daughters. As for Ella, Lady Tremaine forced her to do chores and reduced her to servitude.
Ella got her nickname ‘Cinderella’ from her two stepsisters as they saw her face covered with cinders, resulting from her sleeping beside the fireplace.
How did Ella Become Cinderella?
In a glance, many have pointed fingers at Lady Tremaine and her two daughters for they portrayed evil characters in the story.
Personally, I would put some blame on Ella’s biological parents, especially on Sir Tremaine. This is because I believe he could have done much more to safeguard Ella’s livelihood and financial interest if he has knowledge on estate planning. In this article, I’ll act as Sir Tremaine’s estate planner and share how he could have prevented Ella, his only biological daughter from becoming Cinderella.
If You are Sir Tremaine …
and let’s say, you have a chateau and some money.
Here, the sake of our discussion, let’s assume that you as Sir Tremaine intend to leave behind your chateau to Ella and sell off your business for cash so that you could distribute your monies according to your wishes, which is 50% to Ella and the remaining 50% equally to Lady Tremaine and her two daughters.
Let’s Start with the Chateau
First, as Sir Tremaine’s estate planner, I would advise him to write a will to leave behind his chateau solely to Ella. But, Ella could not inherit his chateau because she is still a minor. As such, Sir Tremaine should appoint an executor and have it stated in his will.
This is important because if Sir Tremaine passes on, the chateau’s title deed will first be transferred to the executor, not Lady Tremaine. Then, his executor could then transfer the ownership of the chateau to Ella once she reaches adulthood. Thus, Sir Tremaine could successfully pass on the chateau to Ella, his only child.
But apparently, this is not the case for Sir Tremaine for Lady Tremaine has taken over the chateau. Perhaps, you may wonder, ‘Isn’t Ella the rightful owner of the chateau as she is the only biological child of Sir Tremaine?’.
Well, not exactly. If we apply the laws governing Malaysia, the ownership of the chateau will be distributed ⅔ to Ella and ⅓ to Lady Tremaine, his legal wife. Ella owns the majority stake of her father’s chateau but could not inherit it until she hits adulthood. Thus, her interest in the chateau would then first be transferred to her legal guardian.
Question: ‘Who is Ella’s Legal Guardian?’
What about Lady Tremaine as she is her stepmother?
‘Oh My God!’
And yes, that is how Lady Tremaine took over full control over the chateau. This is despite the fact that Ella owns ⅔ of her father’s property.
But, you may ask, ‘Should Lady Tremaine relinquish her ownership of the estate to Ella once Ella attains adulthood?’
Legally, the answer is yes. But, what if Lady Tremaine plays hardball and Ella has no knowledge or has no financial means of her own to challenge the ownership of her father’s property? That is just the first scenario.
Secondly, what if Lady Tremaine passes on before Ella reaches adulthood? Who do you think she will pass the full ownership (⅓ that she owns and ⅔ which has been entrusted to her for ‘safekeeping’) of the chateau to? Would it be Ella? Or, would it be to her two biological daughters, Drisella and Anastasia? Yikes!
What About the Money?
If Sir Tremaine passes on, his monies shall fall part of his estates. If he died with a will where he has appointed an executor and a legal guardian for Ella, his cash shall first be transferred to the executor. Then, Ella’s legal guardian would assist to collect Ella’s portion of cash from the executor as Ella is still a minor.
But, what if Sir Tremaine passes on intestate?
Similar to his chateau, Ella should possess ⅔ of his monies but regrettably, they will be transferred to Lady Tremaine for ‘safekeeping’. Just like in the story, Lady Tremaine could live a lavish lifestyle and just squander Ella’s rightful inheritance in a moment. It is tantamount to Ella inheriting nothing from her father.
Question: Will Your Children be the Next Cinderellas?
Or, could you be the next Sir Tremaine?
As much as Sir Tremaine loved his daughter, he failed to protect Ella’s livelihood and financial interest. It caused his only child to be in such a predicament and it can all be prevented if only Sir Tremaine has planned his estates accordingly.
Hence, as a parent, I like to encourage all to learn from the Cinderella story and to take action in making such preparations so that they would be given a safety net in their financial future when needed. To begin with, if you are exploring for more ideas, you may book yourself a short 30-minute consultation session with our estate planning consultant by filling up the details below: