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Amy’s Will: Estate Planning in Little Women

A new movie version of the classic novel Little Women will be in theaters during the holiday season. The book’s author, Louisa May Alcott, wrote a book about young women that was suitable enough to sell but also included some of her own unconventional ideas in the text however she could and offered various illustrations of womanhood. She shows how wealth and financial planning can alter a woman’s life for the better.

Aunt March is not the woman who is most admired by the sisters in the book, she is one who influenced them and acted in ways that changed their lives. Aunt March is wealthy and has a sharp tongue but at the same time she tried to look out for her nieces.

While staying with Aunt March, Amy March learns about some of the contents of Aunt March’s will from a maid who signed the will as a witness. Being told of a possible inheritance influences Amy to attempt to improve her behavior. One of her acts of goodness was creating her own will: 

“In her first effort at being very, very good, she decided to make her will, as Aunt March had done, so that if she did fall ill and die, her possessions might be justly and generously divided. It cost her a pang even to think of giving up the little treasures which in her eyes were as precious as the old lady’s jewels.”

Young Amy wants to have a say in how her treasures are divided and she takes this responsibility seriously. Many adults want to avoid anything that reminds them of the possibility of death and so they avoid estate planning. Amy stayed with Aunt March because she needed to be quarantined while her sister Beth was ill. Amy creates her will after learning about Aunt March’s will, unaware that the ailing Beth has already divided her few possessions among the family.

For her part, Aunt March, who had no children, modeled estate planning for Amy. If you’ve read Little Women, then you know that Amy became a favorite of Aunt March and in some ways replaced  her sister Jo, who had been Aunt March’s companion. Even though Aunt March did not approve of Jo’s behavior and threatened to leave her nothing, in the end, Aunt March leaves property to Jo and this gives Jo a way to start a home-based business.