Why are my family members acting crazy in our probate case?

Why are my family members acting crazy in our probate case?

August 24, 2023 Uncategorized 0

The death of a family member is difficult even under the best of circumstances. Add in the stress of dealing with the legal process, and it can quickly become a painful ordeal for your whole family. If you are involved in litigation or a lawsuit about a family member’s will or estate, you may find yourself asking why other family members or heirs are allowed to go to court and why they seem to want to make the process more difficult.

In New Mexico, any heir or beneficiary of a will, a prior will, or an estate (if there is or was no will) may have a right to file a claim or lawsuit against the estate. As a result, estate and will cases that ought to be simple can become complex. And frequently, they also become more emotional.

We try to address these issues with a holistic approach to litigation. We do not encourage pointless fighting; we strive to help our clients understand why your family members are going to court following the death of a loved one. When someone close to us dies, it is a reminder that we too will one day die -that is an anxiety provoking thought, often referred to as “death anxiety.”

A famous psychologist, William James, once wrote that the knowledge of our own mortality is the “worm at the core” of human existence. In our day-to-day experience—waking up, driving to work, smiling at a co-worker we don’t actually like, coming home, watching TV—we typically repress the idea that this particular day might be our last. When reality jolts us into the realization that our time is limited, people tend to act differently, not always in a positive way.

Studies suggest that people experiencing intense death anxiety become more greedy, more judgmental and look after the interests of their own family rather than the common good.1 This explains a lot of why family find themselves fighting. It often comes from repressed fear transformed into aggression. They try to steal assets. They might have caused, or unduly influenced, a sick relative to write in a will in their favor. When they committed to these actions, they may have felt such internal pressure from trying to repress death anxiety, that they lost the ability to think of other people and acted selfishly, even illegally.

A better approach is to face the fear of death is to live our life in a way that we can be proud of.2 Easier said than done, and for many of us it is a lifetime struggle. But it is an ideal we aim for, and we apply it to the way we handle litigation. We believe our services should be used to help the client feel good about how they handled an emotionally challenging environment and not to simply generate attorney fees. We may encourage you not to bow to unfair pressure or we may suggest taking the high road. Either way, we put together a holistic legal strategy by listening to our clients and not by talking at them.

Our firm can be a buffer between you and whoever is projecting their feelings onto you. We take a level- headed but firm approach to stop the madness. We cannot protect you from morality, but we can help empower you to live your life more intentionally.

If you are involved in a contested probate case and need an attorney who can help guide you through the complicated and emotional probate process, contact us for a no-obligation consultation.


1 Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life, by Solmon, Greenberg and Pyszcynsi (2015)
2 Existential Psychotherapy, by Irvin Yalom (1980)