As estate litigators, there are many times we see a case which would not exist if the parties involved had received independent counsel and had planned ahead. Sadly, such a case was recently highlighted in the Chicago Tribune.
The article opens with the following: "When prominent East Dundee businessman Thomas McNamee died of cancer, an obituary noted that he was a peacemaker who "welcomed people of all walks of life into his heart and brought them together." But in the two years since his death, a legal fight has erupted over his multimillion-dollar estate. The latest volley took place recently when McNamee's widow sued her deceased husband's business partners and an Elgin attorney. Earlier, she had contested the validity of a trust McNamee established."
The reporter later notes the following: "[The decedent's widow] also alleges that [the defendant, an attorney] furnished a lawyer to represent her, but that the lawyer was a friend of [the decedent's] and didn't provide her with unbiased counsel. [The widow] claims the two lawyers pressured her to sign the document minutes before the wedding. "While approximately 40 guests waited, [the widow] was given the ultimatum to either sign the April prenup … or call off the wedding," the suit said. [Defense counsel] disputed [the widow's] version, saying no one pressured her into doing anything."
It is likely safe to assume that, prior to his diagnosis of cancer, the decedent would never have imagined that his estate was going to be used up in attorney's fees, as is likely to happen here. Had he put an estate plan in place prior to his diagnosis - and received advice from independent attorneys with experience in such complicated situations - it is likely that none of the alleged pre-death or post-death shenanigans would have occurred.