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Michigan Bar Journal Review of Trial & Heirs

The State Bar of Michigan's montly journal has recently reviewed our book, Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!.  Here are some of the highlights:

After reading Trial & Heirs, I am convinced that I need an estate plan. It’s time to get serious about, you know, death.  Danielle and Andrew Mayoras, Michigan estate-planning attorneys who are married to each other, have written a lighthearted book. But a reader can’t miss what they’re really talking about: the dreaded D-word. Isn’t the whole point of estate planning to plan for your own inevitable death? Luckily, the Mayorases probably agree with Bugs Bunny: “Don’t take life too seriously; no one gets out alive.”


The whole point of estate planning is to control your property from the beyond. Or, if the decedent (legalese for dead person) is a bit more altruistic, to lessen the pain of death, taxes, and unnecessary disputes for survivors. And most disputes are avoidable.

In fact, “Avoid a family fight!,” a sidebar in every chapter, is one of the more important features of this book. We all know nice people from loving families who, after the death of a parent, suddenly became greeneyed monsters. These sidebars discuss, very briefly, how to slay the monster—or, better yet, avoid the monster’s appearance altogether. The authors offer tips, some obvious and others not, for avoiding disputes. In one sidebar, for example, the tip is to avoid fighting because of the legal fees the estate will incur (and this from two lawyers!). The authors give two examples: the Johnson & Johnson legacy, which took 210 lawyers, 22 law firms, and $24 million in fees (the wife, a former chambermaid, took $300 million); and the Leona Helmsley estate, which was settled between her grandchildren and her dog (Trouble, the dog, took $2 million).

Mere mortals like you and me needn’t worry about estates of that size, but everyone should be concerned about the emotional costs of family fights. And family fights result from poor estate planning. Where there is uncertainty in a will or estate plan, there will be unrest. Where there are gaps, there will be greed. And where there are mistakes, there will be fights.

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If you are an estate-planning lawyer, you shouldn’t read this book. Do read, however, the “official disclaimer” on the first page; it’s clever. But consider buying the book in bulk as gifts for your clients or as a marketing tool. You’ll have to accept the overuse of exclamation points, the overdone design, and the celebrity caricatures that are not all recognizable.  But remember that an informed client is a better client, and a client who understands some of your language is one who is easier to talk to. I bet you can get a quantity discount from the publisher.

What do they mean too many exclamation points?!?!  How dare they?!!!!  We would never! ever! use . . . well, you get the point.

Seriously, if you'd like to read the whole review, here it is.

Posted by: Andrew W. Mayoras and Danielle B. Mayoras, co-authors of Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founders of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law. Andrew and Danielle are husband and wife attorneys, professional speakers and consultants across the country.

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