Paton native Darren Carlson’s first book aims to make estate planning entertaining.

Paton native sets down remote, writes first book

Darren Carlson uses classic TV to make point about estate planning


After reading “Your 1960’s TV Guide to Estate Planning,” the first book authored by Paton native Darren Carlson, it will be impossible to watch a rerun of “Gilligan’s Island” and not think, “That idiot Gilligan. His estate is totally going to end up in probate court.”

Now an Omaha lawyer, Carlson set out to do, quite possibly, the unthinkable — to write a book about wills and trusts that didn’t end up actually sending the reader into a coma.

“To get someone excited about estate planning is not easy,” Carlson, 52, confessed recently.

Amazon, for one, is chock-full of books about how to properly plan for the inevitable.

“They are all so dry, so generic,” Carlson said.

His new, 174-page book — available from Amazon — takes a totally offbeat approach to teach about inheritance and tax fundamentals by mashing up legal advice with half of MeTV’s programing schedule.

He ends up putting a handful of classic TV characters into various estate planning scenarios.

“It was just intuitive,” Carlson said. “There’s an example from a sitcom to fit every type of estate planning you’d need.”

A 1981 graduate of Paton-Churdan High School who eventually went on to study law at Creighton University, Carlson seems as well-versed in TV history as he does the legal system.

“Before we could go eat at the Redwood in Jefferson on Saturday night, we had to wait ’til ‘All in the Family’ was over,” he said, recalling his childhood on the outskirts of Paton.

Inside the book, he uses “Leave it to Beaver” to illustrate the need for parents with underage children to have a will.

He uses “Bonanza” to argue that a revocable trust is the way to go when transferring assets (particularly substantial real estate) to children old enough to manage their inheritance.

In real-life, as a partner in the Omaha firm of Carlson & Burnett, Carlson does a lot of farm and ranch estate planning.

So, he figured, why not use Ben Cartwright’s fictional, 600,000-acre Ponderosa Ranch to show the best and fastest way to avoid probate court proceedings?

Carlson calls on “The Brady Bunch” to illustrate estate planning for blended families, and he explores federal estate tax from the viewpoint of Thurston Howell III, the millionaire on “Gilligan’s Island.”

If your descendants are, to put it bluntly, idiots like Jethro Bodine and Elly May Clampett from “The Beverly Hillbillies,” it might be best to appoint a corporate trustee to avoid family in-fighting.

“I’ve had really good feedback,” Carlson said about the book.

Admittedly, Carlson is a guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously.

A series of cancer surgeries forces him to wear an eyepatch, but the smoking jacket and the ascot he sports on the back jacket of the book were completely optional.

“I told my son I needed a new smoking jacket. It’s the perfect attire for the back of a book,” Carlson explained. “He said, ‘You don’t have a smoking jacket.’ I also said I needed an ascot. He said, ‘What the hell’s that?’

“My kids don’t find anything I do amusing.”

The book doesn’t cover every scenario, though.

It doesn’t say what Lovey Howell, Thurston’s wife on “Gilligan’s Island,” can do if her husband were to secretly leave everything to Ginger.

Or if Wilbur were to leave everything to Mister Ed. (Carlson has had clients set up pet trusts.)

Still, like any number of those classic shows in their day, the timing could be right, too, for Carlson’s book.

“Those baby boomers are all getting near retirement age,” he said. “Estate planning is becoming a serious issue. The timing does work nice.”

Contact Us

Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161