Practicing in the area of probate law in Massachusetts exposes me to so many good people. Well, most all of my clients and their families are good. It’s their relatives that cause all the problems. Over several years of practice I have developed a set of baseline rules for dealing with people in probate cases; I like to call it the Gosselin Theory of Relativity. It boils down to this: "Friends for pleasure, strangers for business and relatives for no good reason at all." Let me share with you some true life stories (with the names changes to protect the innocent).
Many years back I had written the estate plan (will and trust) of a then elderly woman of substantial means in the area North of Boston. "Mrs. Jones" had two children. "Elsa" was a loving daughter. She visited Mrs. Jones often and was her confidante and companion as Mrs. Jones’ health had declined. Elsa was more or less the model daughter. "Aurelius" was a greedy, lying, conniving germ of a man that was born to Mrs. Jones but took a wrong turn on the way out of the nursery. Mrs. Jones only saw him when he was on the lam or looking for a "loan." She never turned him away, but had a plan for him at her death. You see, her estate planning made provisions for Elsa, Elsa’s children, even Aurelius’ children – but it left nothing to Aurelius. Mrs. Jones, as is common, asked me to keep her papers for safekeeping, only telling Elsa and Aurelius that should something happen to her that they should contact me.
Aurelius lived in a Mid-Atlantic state and drove through the night to reach my office at 8:30am. He was waiting with his car idling for me to come in to work. "Are you Mrs. Jones’ lawyer?" She died yesterday. She was my mother. I want to know what I’m getting in the will." I knew this day was coming. My instructions were clean from Mrs. Jones that I was to give Aurelius any and all notices required under the probate law of Massachusetts, but nothing more. "You must be Aurelius," I said like any good lawyer who only asks questions fully knowing the answer before they are spoken. "I am so sorry to hear about your mother, she was a kind and thoughtful woman. Your mother’s property was held entirely in a trust, her will is of no consequence, the trust is a private document and if there is any reason to contact you in the due course of its administration I will contact you, won’t you confirm the address?" I succinctly responded. After a variety of profanity, Aurelius stomped away.
Wouldn’t you know that when I called Elsa to inform her that I had met Aurelius her response to me was "Mr. Gosselin, why are you sorry about my mother? She is right here with me."