Any writer knows that wills make for good drama: all that jockeying for position, the sycophancy, the threats of exclusion, the anticipation and, inevitably, the bitter fallout. But last year, truth surpassed fiction in two cases. Golda Bechal left her 10m fortune to Kim Sing Man and his wife, Bee Lian Man the owners of Ms Bechal's favourite Chinese restaurant, The Lian in Witham, Essex. And in New York, the US hotelier and property magnate Leona Helmsley left $12m to her pet Maltese dog, Trouble.
The relatives in both instances were not amused. Ms Bechal's five nephews and nieces challenged the will in the High Court, claiming that their aunt was suffering from dementia at the time she made her quixotic bequest. Apparently, this is part of a growing trend. There has been a significant increase in the number of wills being disputed by family members in Britain.
People are, naturally, entitled to use any legal avenue open to them to get what they believe is rightfully theirs. But they should perhaps first listen to the wisdom of the US industrialist Andrew Carnegie who once remarked: "I would as soon leave my son a curse as the almighty dollar."
If you think it hurts being cut out of a will, is it always so great to be on the receiving end?
Consider Ms Helmsley's pampered pooch. Since the bequest, the animal has received death threats, been sued by a housekeeper she once nipped and, it is now maliciously alleged, is in danger of being fed to death on rich food by Ms Helmsley's relatives, who want to run down the fund as quickly as possible. Carnegie was right: a fat inheritance really can be trouble.