The Spooky Side of Probate Law
Death and money can bring out the worst in people. Probate Attorney Rachael Alexander of Tampa, Florida has seen it all when it comes to family infighting, greed, and the bizarre things people request in their wills.
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Controlling Relatives Attempt to Dictate Wills
Rachael sees many clients accompanied by relatives who try to influence or dictate inheritance decisions. In one case, a son insisted his mother disinherit him and his sibling.
The son kept interrupting until Rachael got him to leave the room. The mother then cried in relief and decided to leave a small amount to the son, simply because she loved him. This shows the importance of meeting with clients privately.
More Siblings = More Fighting
Rachael notes the potential for family fighting gets worse with more heirs involved. While two siblings may work things out civilly, disputes arise more often with three heirs.
With four or more heirs, things get really ugly. Rachel described a nightmare case with four sisters inheriting their parents’ estate. The youngest had taken over the family home, denying access to her siblings.
After finally regaining possession, the sisters found the house completely trashed. The case dragged on four years with three different judges. At one point the youngest sister shouted at a judge, nearly getting held in contempt.
Rachael believes unresolved family resentment boils over when parents die. Here, the “baby” of the family likely felt entitled to more.
Bizarre Requests: The “Haunting Clause”
One memorable case involved a “haunting clause” in a will. Rachael’s client worried her child would share the inheritance with an ex-husband.
The client requested a clause saying if that happened, she would “haunt” her child after death. Despite most attorneys finding this unenforceable, Rachael included it to honor the client’s wishes.
The Haunted History of Rachel’s Own Home
Intriguingly, Rachael believes her own Tampa home is haunted by a ghost nicknamed Clarice! Rachael hears unexplained noises and sees her dogs bark at nothing.
Given Tampa’s many famously haunted houses, it’s almost an occupational hazard.
Proper Planning Prevents Problems
While amusing, these real cases show the importance of proper estate planning. Rachael has seen families unravel firsthand when wills are unclear or invalid. That’s why Rachael makes it a priority to educate clients upfront on avoiding common pitfalls. Her varied background as a paralegal and attorney make her well-suited for this holistic approach.
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