Imagine you’re the executor of a horror writer’s estate. Everything is going to charity, except for his amazing summer house, which has been left to his ex-wife. The couple had a very messy divorce, but the ex-wife loved that home more than anything. The will says, “I hope this gift makes up for all the pain caused over the years.” Hmmmm…And oh yeah—the property is definitely haunted by the writer’s ghost. What would you do? Or more appropriately, who ya gonna call?
For today’s post let’s take a look at some popular Halloween movies and point out all the potential estate issues. Because it’s fun and on theme. Gather your colleagues, grab a flashlight, and ask building management to dim the lights.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – You thought multiple wills was complicated? Try multiple personalities. Assuming capacity wasn’t an issue and wishes didn’t conflict, could each distinct personality make his own will? What if changes were made to the will when the alternate personality was in control?
I personally think that if the medical designation doesn’t carry over to turn Mr. Hyde into “Dr. Hyde”, then he should be able to dictate where his personal assets go.
A real life example of what can happen is seen in Re Strittmater. In this case, the testator suffered from a split personality and left a part of her estate to a feminist organization. The court held that “it was her paranoic condition, especially her insane delusions about the male, that led her to leave her estate to the National Women’s Party.” The court found the gift to be invalid.
“Found Footage” Movies – In movie franchises like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, rules of thumb in scary situations include:
- Don’t go downstairs
- Never say “I’ll be right back”
- It’s never just the wind
- Even if you have a handheld camera, video wills are not valid wills. You just died intestate
It’s ALIIIIVE! – Sorry Frankenstein’s monster. You may be alive, but you’re also personal property of your creator’s estate
Wolfman – Avoid full moons. Once you turn, pets are personal property too, Wolfboy
The Sixth Sense – More useful than seeing dead people? Having a sixth sense for knowing when a will is going to get challenged
Zombies – What if zombies could pass a capacity assessment? Could they make a will? Does it matter that they’re technically dead? On a sidenote, you can remake any movie by adding “….and zombies” to the title:
- Forest Gump….and Zombies (run Forest!)
- Titanic….and Zombies
- Pride and Prejudice.….and Zombies (this one actually exists)
Worst job ever – Could you imagine being the executor for the estate of Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees? Just when you think they’re finally dead, they come back to life and ruin whatever administration you’ve already completed.
Child’s Play – In this movie, a toy doll is possessed by the soul of a serial killer. What if he still has capacity? What if he could communicate how he wants his assets dealt with? What if you had an older cousin who convinced you at the video rental store that this was a cool movie where toys come to life? And what if you couldn’t sleep for a month afterwards? Kinda glad you went out of business Blockbuster Video. Even lax age rental policies couldn’t save you.
The Wizarding World of Estate Litigation
Imagine being an estates lawyer in the wizarding world. How would that initial interview go?
- Prove to me that you aren’t on polyjuice potion right now
- What dangerous enchanted items do you want to gift to minors? Cause that’s totally allowed. Oh, you want to leave your son a vault full of gold that he can access at any time and age? Sure!
- Do you have muggle property? You’re gonna need two wills, and be careful not to mix up assets like your heirloom cloak
- You should not name a Hufflepuff as your executor
- Do you know Harry Potter? Yeah, you definitely need a will straight away
Dreaming of a Freddy Krueger comeback
After 35 years, the U.S. rights for A Nightmare on Elm Street have reverted to the estate of the late Wes Craven. That means no new Freddy movies without the estate giving the green light. You might be thinking that a horror franchise with 9 movies is enough. I respectfully disagree. There are so many avenues and streets that haven’t been explored yet:
- A Nightmare on Broadway: Freddy’s Falsetto
- A Nightmare on Bourbon Street – basically The Hangover, but with more sleeping
- A Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue – depending who you ask, this already exists
- The Man of your Dreams: Freddy joins Tinder
Happy Halloween Everyone!