Celebrity Probate Cases: Voyeuristic Thrill or Cautionary Tales?

watching tvDanielle and Andy Mayoras are a married couple, and both are probate lawyers. The Mayoras couple is based in Michigan, where they run a practice that deals with probate, elder law, and estate planning, among other issues.

The couple wrote a book entitled Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!… and What You Can Learn from Celebrity Errors, which is now in its second edition. The book details the deaths of several famous people, and the probate battles which ensued after they died.

The cable network REELZ has created a “documentary television show” based on this concept, called Fortune Fights. Andy and Danielle Mayoras are executive producers on the show, as well as hosts and legal commentators.

And while the show has its salacious charms – of course, it is morbidly fascinating to learn how Robin Williams structured his Will after his second divorce, or to watch Casey Kasem’s daughter and wife accuse each other of causing the 82-year-old radio veteran’s death – it has the potential to leave one with an odd feeling.

Should we know these details? Would the deceased have wanted their legal details aired in public like this?

The authors present these stories as cautionary tales at times. “Here is why you need to clarify this detail in your estate plans.” And while it is important to understand these fine points of probate law, it is also important to take this vaguely voyeuristic show with several grains of salt.

Being famous has its downsides, certainly. One, as it is turning out, is that your legal protections and estate plans may be discussed long after you are able to speak on your own behalf.