Case Study: When There’s a Will, There’s a Way

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About a year ago, I was contacted by a woman who needed help finding a will in her cousin’s apartment. Unfortunately, her cousin had died alone and was found only after the neighbors smelled an odor and called the police. My new client, who we’ll call Sandy, was in the midst of a conflict with the Queens County public administrator. Apparently, once a person dies alone, the public administrator gets involved when there is no known next of kin or will. In Sandy’s case, the Queens public administrator insisted there was no will and began the process of managing her cousin’s estate. But Sandy knew a will existed because she remembered it being mentioned by both her cousin and father and although, her cousin would not allow visits to her apartment, Sandy stayed connected via phone calls.

While her lawyer petitioned for permission to search the apartment, Sandy asked me to meet the representatives from the public administrator’s office whenever anyone needed to enter. The first time, I met the investigator (who had originally searched the apartment for a will) and the estate liquidators he had contacted to get bids on the apartment’s contents. The second time, I met with the same investigator and junk removers, to get quotes for the cost of removal of the apartment’s contents. Every time I met with the investigator, he repeatedly told me that he and his partner had searched the apartment and there couldn’t be a will because they hadn’t found one. I would just smile and nod.

Soon after my second visit to the apartment, Sandy secured permission to do her own two-day search. I assembled a four-person team wearing masks and gloves to methodically search in pairs; all while being observed by the investigator who I knew would continue insisting, “there is no will.” On the appointed day, New York was enveloped in its first heat wave of the Summer. I was worried that the lack of air conditioning, the state of the apartment and the smug naysaying of the investigator would take a toll on my team, so I instructed them to take frequent breaks, stay hydrated and ignore the investigator’s negative remarks. Then I left Sandy, her sister, my team and the investigator to attend a client meeting. I expected them all to have a very long day.

And an hour and a half later, I received a text from a member of my team saying, “Give us a call. I found it!!!!” I felt exhilarated, pride in my team, and relief that they wouldn’t have to spend 2 days in a sweltering, dirty apartment.

Of course, Sandy and her sister were thrilled that we accomplished our mission, especially so quickly, but I never doubted we would succeed. Despite the resistance of the office of the public administrator and the arduous task, I believed in the conviction of my client and the diligence of my team members. I often see this kind of struggle played out in the work I do, but mostly it is an individual fighting against internal resistance. If you are having trouble staying true to your convictions because of an external or internal naysayer, I suggest you smile, nod and methodically reach for your goals.

If you are struggling with a seemingly insurmountable goal, let us know. Our stellar team has the will to help you find a way to achieve it.