From the desk of Darlynn Morgan, Orange County Probate Lawyer

In a bizarre estate battle out of Florida, Brett Carr, the only surviving child of Heiress Gail Posner claims his mother’s staff manipulated her to leave millions of dollars and a lavish mansion to her pet dogs and the people who continue to care for them following her death in March.

Carr on the other hand was only left with $1 Million—a tiny fraction of Posner’s overall estate.

Here’s a snippet of the story from the TODAY show website:

“The bizarre will Posner left behind when she succumbed to cancer at age 67 in March is front and center in a lawsuit Carr filed against the estate, claiming his mother’s staff drugged and brainwashed her into signing over the biggest chunk of her holdings to them and her pets.

‘They saw a frail woman who was vulnerable, who had a delusional ego; she thought she was a movie star,’ Carr told Matt Lauer on TODAY Monday.

Slowly, they got into her world. And they saw, ‘OK, it’s working and it’s growing,’ and they completely took advantage.

(You can continue reading the full story here.)

Carr further offers home videos showing his mother’s aides in action and an admission from the heiress herself regarding the aide’s “control” over her affairs as proof that she was manipulated into giving the majority of her estate to her dogs and the staff would continue to care for them following her death.

And despite whatever proof or knowledge of his mom’s “real” wishes he may claim to have, Carr will be stuck battling this out in court for months, or even YEARS until a judge can determine if that is indeed what the heiress wanted done with her estate.

That is why as an Orange County Probate Lawyer, I can’t stress enough the importance of children staying involved with (and even helping them coordinate) their parent’s end-of-life care and estate planning needs so these surprising and unexpected consequences are avoided at their time of death.

And I want to make it clear that these ‘surprises’ are not limited to the ultra-rich either!  If you don’t keep your documents updated as your life (and the law) changes through the years, your estate (or that of your parents) could end up going outright to an ex-spouse, a child with a serious addiction or money problems or even someone you named YEARS ago but forgot to remove after you fell out of relationship with him or her.

So moral of the story?

Have your documents reviewed often and make sure the estate planning process stays a family affair.  Do what you can to ensure there are no postmortem surprises and that your will, trust and other estate planning documents will work exactly as you want them to should the unexpected occur.

Of course if it’s been awhile since your estate planning documents (or those of your parents) have been reviewed, call me, your neighborhood Orange County Probate Lawyer, at 949-260-1400 and schedule a Free Family Wealth Planning Session (normally $750) with the mention of this article.  However, these appointments are limited to 10 per month so call today!