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BBC2 Takes on Wills with 'Can't Take it With You'

They do say that today will be the most depressing day of 2011.  Apparently, the lack of sunlight, amount of post-Christmas debt and the length of time until January pay day all combine to make this the most miserable Monday of the year!  If that’s the case, the whole weekend must have been something of a downer!

Would most of us, therefore, have chosen a Friday night discussion about death and wills to perk us up?  The BBC certainly thought so as they gave over their Friday night BBC2 9.00pm slot to just such a programme: “Can’t Take It with You”.

This was presented by Sir Gerry Robinson, the guru who has already lent his considerable experience to turning businesses round on television.  Now he focuses his attention on families and their wills.

This is a massive challenge.  As he makes clear in his preamble to the programme, around 70% of people die without leaving a Will.  Given that 30% of us do not appear to be interested in Wills, how is he going to make us all sit down and discuss them with our nearest and dearest?

We’ll have to see how the ratings pan out to find out just how popular this series will be.  There is clearly a general interest in this kind of thing – witness the popularity of the BBC’s “Heir Hunters”.  Sir Gerry has cannily pinpointed our general reluctance to think about and to discuss our deaths, how we leave our estates in good order and efficiently benefit our loved ones.  His mantra is: grasp the nettle and start working on the problem as soon as possible. 

Is Sir Gerry the right person to present a series about this?  For example, why did the BBC not ask me?!  Well, Sir Gerry knows better than most how important any successful business person’s exit strategy is.  He is rightly applying the same criteria to how we exit our lives.  I think most people would favour his style on lifetime exit strategy over the “You’re Fired” approach of Alan Sugar!

The footage that I have seen so far includes round table meetings of family members, some high emotion, one or two snapped tempers and the odd patriarch expressing the view that “…it’s his money and he’ll do what he likes with it”.

It might make good television.  However, whether such important decisions are best made and communicated at highly charged family summits, I am not entirely convinced.  Nevertheless, I am sure that it pays dividends to plan these issues carefully, get a professionally drafted Will in place and keep it under review.  They used to talk about the medical concept of having a “good death”.  Perhaps we should now talk about having a well-planned and dignified succession.