About Us

Estate Planning At The Movies®, developed by Keith Schiller, links complex issues in estate planning, including estate taxation, to motion pictures, making challenging topics more accessible and communicable. Presentations of Estate Planning At The Movies® serve both estate planning practitioners and the general public. Estate Planning At The Movies® — Art of the Estate Tax Return, written for professionals, offers comprehensive guidance on preparing and filing effective estate tax returns for clients.
Movies often reveal our desires and passions, fears and anxieties, agitations, regrets, or elations. Great movies portray human nature whether at its finest or most despicable. Likewise, estate planning can reveal much about people, cultures, and the psychology of humankind. Estate Planning At The Movies® applies apt references to scenes and themes of classic and modern movies to evoke powerful connections to lessons in estate planning and return preparation for both the estate planner and the client.


Mission Statements for:
Estate Planning At The Movies ®

For Estate Planning Practitioners

  • Prepare more effective estate tax returns for clients
  • Assist professionals in communicating sensitive estate planning issues to clients
  • Ease clients’ tensions and promotes their understanding and willingness to address stressful or difficult tax and non-tax concerns
  • Increase the effectiveness of tax professionals, estate planners, fiduciaries, and appraisers through transformational connections of motion picture experiences to significant tax laws, tax-return preparation strategies, and the representation of clients from planning to tax defense of the estate or retirement plan

For the General Public

  • Promote greater awareness of estate planning issues and a willingness to develop an estate plan responsive to each individual’s concerns and objectives
  • Ease the stresses that may otherwise accompany estate planning through the identification of concerns and desires shared by humankind as experienced through motion pictures
  • Make estate planning a lot more fun and easier to understand

The Ah Ha! Moment

The idea for Estate Planning At The Movies® began in January 2008 during a luncheon for estate planning attorneys in Marin County, California. Keith Schiller was requested to address estate planning in an age of economic uncertainty. A film aficionado, Keith had long considered using motion pictures to illustrate legal concepts and estate planning lessons, though he had never applied the connection in public. Early in the presentation, he asked the audience, “Why is the public so concerned about estate tax while the tax arises in few estates?” One of the attorneys present replied, “Because they are told to.” He was right.

ChairKeith immediately connected his remark to a favorite film example from The Shawshank Redemption. In a key scene, a brutal prison guard bemoans the estate tax on a small inheritance. Because the IRS imposed the estate tax on very small estates during the 1940s setting of the film, the tax had much greater impact than it currently retains. Nevertheless, American culture continues to instill fear regarding the estate tax.

The visible reaction of the audience — smiles and nods — reflected a strong tie between the film and the attitudes toward estate tax. Keith realized he was on to something — the “Eureka" moment. Shortly after starting the drive back to his office in Orinda, California, Keith pulled over to take some notes. What other films connect with estate planning issues? Keith started a list. King Lear, The Godfather, Zorba the Greek, Body Heat; the list was compelling. Keith was eager to see how far it could develop. Ironically, San Quentin prison was off in the distance from where Keith was parked. What a connection to Shawshank!

Thus began the journey and growth of Estate Planning At The Movies®. Initial articles were published in BNA’s Estates, Gifts and Trusts Journal and the Leimberg Information Services®, Inc. Newsletter (LISI). Soon thereafter, requests for presentations arose. From the initial presentations and screenings of Estate Planning At The Movies®, additional themes for programs arose and the idea took root for the ultimate textbook assisting tax professionals with estate tax return preparation.

Presentations are made by the Schiller Law Group, a Professional Law Corporation. Narration for each presentation is by Keith Schiller. Innovative Estate Planning Productions, a California corporation, publishes Estate Planning At The Movies® – Art of the Estate Tax Return.