The good Lord knows that there’s a need for folks like domestic attorneys, real estate attorneys, tax attorneys and the like because I wouldn’t touch that stuff with a 1,000-foot pole. Mind you, it’s not that I feel that those areas of practice are beneath me, but the intricate skill and INFINITE PATIENCE required to be an attorney in those forums would have be picking people off with a shotgun from a bell tower less than half a day into trying.
There’s also one little plus in favor of being a general practitioner over a sole practitioner: You don’t have to miss all the fun.
Yes, I am a criminal defense attorney and I see plenty of...um...interesting things in that line of work, but I get to work in other areas of the law that present different and very, very, very unique challenges. What in the great wide world am I talking about?
The Last Will and Testament
Bless Your Heart
Ah yes, Wills. The crazy shit people want to do when they go on to the Hereafter. Folka blow me away with their post-mortem preferences.
For those of you who have yet to enter into this “Final Contract,” allow me to assure you that your signature on said contract will neither cause nor speed up the process of your death. I get an alarming number of quite distraught folks coming in to sign their Wills—seriously, we’re talking a 5-10 Kleenex situation. I guess it’s the thought of their death that gets them in such a froth, but why should they give a shit? They’ll be dead for crap’s sake! They’re going to die after they sign at the same time that they’re going to die before they sign. (My paralegal suggested that I not use the aforementioned argument as a tool of comfort for crying clients.)
Bequests are always interesting. The husband leaving everything to the wife and vice versa is always nice and one or two specific bequests (Cousin Tom gets my shotgun) aren’t that big a deal either. It’s when you get the client who wants to inventory their entire house right down to the dust bunnies and leave every single thing to a different person that makes one’s eye start that nervous twitch. I’ve done Wills 80+ pages long that looked like lists for garage sales. You get the:
Random: The doilies on the red armchair to the left of the fireplace in the front sitting room go to Sister Gladys at the church.
Bequests that lower value: One of the pair of antique silver candlesticks on the dining room table goes to Cousin Hilda and the other candlestick goes to Cousin Martha.
Bequests that make no damn sense whatsoever: The size XXL red and black checked flannel shirt with three of the buttons missing goes to Uncle Ned.
A particularly fun characteristic of folks who draw Wills with 4,342 bequests is that they constantly want to change who gets what. They also need to update their Wills frequently when they acquire new items. Whatever floats their boat, God bless ‘em.
Another interesting aspect of Will preparation is the passive aggressive Testator/Testatrix. This is an individual who will put up with someone that they despise for their entire lives in order to give them the ultimate post-mortem middle finger in what they view as their final manifesto, i.e., their Will.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times folks have come in wanting to leave out a child or their brother or sister. What’s more, it wasn’t enough to just leave them out—the Testator/Testatrix wanted to tell them why: “In case George is wondering why he’s not getting any of my earthly belongings, I know he’s the one who got drunk and messed up my pig cooker and he was too cowardly to tell me and too cheap to replace it.” I usually manage to convince them that leaving So-and-So out of the will is more than enough of a slap in the face.
Still, I had one gentleman go completely crestfallen at the news that he wasn’t legally allowed to disown his wife. A legally married spouse is automatically entitled to 1/3 of their spouse’s estate in North Carolina and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. While she was going about her business at home, he wanted it put in his Will that he was forced to leave her a portion of his Estate and he didn’t want to leave her anything because she’d kept him miserable for 47 years. According to Darling Hubby, she never let him go to the Moose/Elk/Buffalo/Whatever Animal Lodge, she made him go to church, be nice to the neighbors, she kept him constipated and he actually wanted to marry her sister and carried a torch for her all his life. I couldn’t even get him to tone it down, so I sent him to another attorney.
What’s the craziest request? Lord have mercy—Cocoa Puffs the cat. No, this isn’t one of those urban myth deals where kitty inherits a massive fortune and everyone suddenly has to be nice to the little bastard. To this day, I will never understand if Cocoa Puffs was a beloved pet or a reviled pet, but he sure to hell was unlucky.
Cocoa Puff’s owner wanted it in her Will that, upon her demise, the gardener was to report to her house, whack Cocoa Puffs with a shovel—yes, she was specific about whacking the cat with a shovel—and bury the carcass of the less than dearly departed Cocoa Puffs between the pool house and the shed. One of the very many things that gave me pause about this highly questionable plan was that she didn’t even want Cocoa Puffs buried with her, so it wasn’t like the owner was desirous of having her feline companion with her for all eternity. I have no idea whether or not the gardener was on board for this plan, but I have the distinct feeling that Cocoa Puffs was most decidedly not. I hate cats, but I wasn’t on board either.
Believe it or not, one constant truth in this legal universe is that something even crazier is guaranteed to walk through the door just when you think you’ve seen it all. If it trumps whacking Cocoa Puffs the Cat, you might just have to visit me in that padded room we all know I’m destined for sooner than later.