Where There's an Inheritance

The Liberal

Lawyer's New Book: Where There is a Will, There are Wild Stories

By Adam McLean

"This is where all the action happens," Les Kotzer explains as he rubs his hand across the surface of a dark sturdy desk, which often serves as the setting for the Thornhill lawyer's new book "Where There's An Inheritance....".

The strong, yet weathered desk in a small meeting room just downstairs from the lawyer's office has been soaked with tears, beaten upon with fists of rage, or slapped in moments of joy. Mr. Kotzer or his co-author Barry M. Fish have been present for each emotional exchange.

Mr. Kotzer's new book is part-documentation, part-confession from many clients and provides a long hard look at what he has heard and seen during his time as a wills and estate lawyer.

More than 80 stories, spanning 20 years of legal experience recount tales ranging from shocking displays of unthinkable deceit, all-out family war and relatives left with nothing as a result of outdated wills, to accounts of heartwarming goodwill and undying legacies of love between family and friends. Some will give the reader a hearty chuckle, others will leave them shaking their heads.

":Where There's An Inheritance..." skips the legal red tape and lawyer lingo to give the reader a front row seat to the emotional world of death, tradition, finance, greed and compassion through which Mr. Kotzer has helped guide clients since 1989."

I felt that I needed to get these stories out. These are stories about life involving everyday people and there is value and lessons to be learned from each instance.

"It can go from the darkest side of human nature to displays of unbridled kindness that gives me chills when I recall them. You see the best and the worst of people in this business and the book shares this," Mr. Kotzer explained.

Tales including an elderly woman who upon returning from a stay at the hospital found the underbellies of all her possessions marked with tape, claiming ownership among her nieces and nephews. An old man pretended to lose his hearing so he could gauge his family's motives before making his will. Another recollection from Mr. Kotzer tells the story of remarkable generosity amongst six siblings. After losing their devoted mother, four of the six children passed their share of money from the sale of the family home to the two siblings who had fallen on hard financial times.

These and the other extraordinary stories told by Mr. Kotzer have struck a chord with many across North America, as the Thornhill lawyer and resident has recently been featured in such publications as the New York Times, Associated Press and has also hosted and appeared on numerous New York television and radio shows discussing his book and the possible pitfalls and risks that can accompany an improperly crafted will.

Wills that are too vague, outdated, homemade or done with a will-kit are often recipes for disaster, leaving loved ones with nothing, Mr. Kotzer stresses.

For instance; a will made before you are legally married holds no water, as that will is revoked once you sign your marriage certificate.

Another example: if your will outlines a certain amount of your estate is to be divided among your children, this does not entitle your grandchildren to receive anything. If their parents (your child) dies, that money does not trickle down to the grandchildren if not specified. Rather, the money is re-dispersed to the remaining living children of the grandparents; the grandchildren are entitled to nothing.

Other warnings given by Mr. Kotzer include the importance of granting power of attorney, as well as revisiting your original will to suit your wishes and safeguard your growing family.

It can be a tangled web for many, but it is a maze the Thornhill resident helps his clients navigate and sometimes does so free of charge, offering complimentary will consultations.

"I don't know how people can sleep at night without having a will drafted by a professional will lawyer or failing to grant power of attorney," Mr. Kotzer said.

"If you were to die in a car crash and without a will, the government takes control of your estate and divides it accordingly. And if someone who hasn't appointed a family member or friend as power of attorney, is injured or are deemed not to be mentally competent by just one doctor; the government can take charge of your bank account, stocks, mail and health care.

"The issue is death and yes, it is an issue that no one likes to talk about, but it is an issue we all have to deal with. You never know," Mr. Kotzer added.

And through the pages of "Where There's An Inheritance..." - the issue is presented before the reader in bare-boned honesty, from Mr. Kotzer's end of the table.

He says he practices "emotional law" and though he never envisioned himself as a wills and estate lawyer, now, he would never do anything else.

"My mother used to say that her greatest gems were not locked in a safe, but were in the faces of her family. I live and work by her words and helping people and their families is what I try to do," Mr. Kotzer said.

"I have drawn up wills for people who only have months to live, others are young people or couples who want to protect their children, Sometimes people come into my office, but given their circumstances and their will, power of attorney or lack theirof; it is too late and I can't do anything for them. It can be heart breaking," he added.

To stem the tide of broken hearts and families, Mr Kotzer offers freewill consultations at his office and is also considering hosting will seminars at businesses.

"Too often the excuse people have is that they are too busy to make a will and they keep putting it off. This book is real story evidence that this is too serious a matter to just cast off. We all want to leave our family with safety and security. Too often I see burden and heartache," he added.

For more information regarding wills and estates or to order a copy of "Where There's An Inheritance..." call Fish and Associates at 905-881-1500 or visit www.willappointment.com


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