Author: Amy Shue Isaacs, Probate & Estate Administration Attorney, The McIntosh Law Firm, P.C.
Lawyers help people. It’s what we do. But there are some things we can’t fix, like hurt feelings. As an estate/probate attorney I see LOTS of hurt feelings. Consider this scenario, which replays itself over and over:
Mary calls a lawyer and says “Mom didn’t name me as her executor! I always knew she liked Sally better!” Now Mary is fightin’ mad and ready to “lawyer up”. She asks the lawyer to monitor the estate to make sure Sally is doing her job. Lo and behold, Sally is doing everything by the book. The lawyer tells Mary this, thinking she’ll be relieved. Instead, Mary is angry with the lawyer. The lawyer simply told Mary her findings, which was not what she wanted to hear.
As it turns out, Mary is just plain hurt. And there is nothing the lawyer, or any court, can do to fix that. And Sally? She is just trying to do her job and wishes Mary had been named as Executor instead. She has put in countless hours gathering information, dealing with the probate court, cleaning out a house with DECADES worth of old mail, Tupperware containers, and ketchup packets, all while being on the receiving end of Mary’s resentment and misguided allegations. And by the way, Sally is getting paid nothing to do this!
Sadly, this story often ends the same way: the family is forever torn apart. Can this be avoided? Consider talking to your loved ones ahead of time. Let them know what your wishes are and your reasoning. Too awkward of a conversation? Consider a handwritten letter for your loved ones to accompany the Will when it’s time to be read. This simple act could help prevent a crisis down the road--one that no one, not even your lawyer, can fix.