Wills of the Rich and Vengeful

The first Gunther was the sole inheritor of the estate of Countess Carlotta Liebenstein in 1992.

This was no sleeping crate — the 8,432-square-foot waterfront mansion once belonged to Madonna. His press handlers said at the time the $150 million price tag was burning a hole in his bank account.

The "moneyed mutt" also owns several homes in Italy and the Bahamas and put down a bid on Sylvester Stallone's mansion, according to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

An estimated 80 percent of Americans do not have wills, according to Schwartz. Wills are challenged only about 10 percent of the time and there is usually a "high burden of proof" if someone feels slighted, she said.


The so-called Godfather of Soul James Brown's death prompted numerous children to come forward with claims. And icon Ray Charles had a "woman way cross town who was good to me" who looked for a piece of his wealth.

The estate of Anna Nicole Smith continues to challenge the relatives of her geriatric husband, J. Howard Marshall.

One Florida woman had an unusual "entrepreneurial spirit" when she was left money to care for a dowager's cats.

"This woman had previously taken care of an older person," said Schwartz. "The woman who died said she could stay in the house with all expenses paid to take care of the cats as long as they were alive."

"She was there for years and apparently proved to the state she was taking care of the cats," Schwartz said. "As each cat would die, she replaced them with new cats. It was genius."

Another client — a "sweet old man" — had a nurse who had forged a "codicil" or amendment to his will that made her the beneficiary of $520,000. His estate was only worth $700,000, so family members were suspicious.

"After his death we discovered the amendment and went through extensive litigation," she said.

Lawyers used the same handwriting experts as those in the contested Gore-Bush election to analyze the nurse's forged signature.

"The woman ended up losing," she said. "She was so greedy that if she had just tried for $50,000, she probably would have gotten it."

Beware, too, the "chatty will," say probate attorneys.

"You always want to make the will as challenge-less as possible," said Schwartz. "If there is a situation where there's a sister you want to cut out of your will, don't say, 'I don't want to provide for her because she slept with my high school boyfriend.'"

"The sister can challenge that and say she was misinformed to the facts," she said.

Better to use an old-school line to stiff a relative: "I do not provide to her for reasons that are known to her."

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