SEPTEMBER 19, 1994 VOLUME 2, NUMBER 11
Wall Street Journal, Sept. 14, 1994
“A federal grand jury returned a 197-count felony indictment charging a Philadelphia telemarketing operation with costing the Medicare system $3.4 million by inducing more than 5,000 elderly Medicare beneficiaries to buy unneeded medical equipment.
The indictment charges John Cocivera of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., Diane Rooney of Philadelphia and their six companies with running “boiler-room” operations that sold heating pads, walkers, canes and other equipment to the elderly through “cold-call” telephoning.
The indictment says the companies made fraudulent claims for government reimbursement for the equipment. If convicted on all counts, Mr. Cocivera and Ms. Rooney each face 100 years in jail and tens of millions of dollars in fines.”
Where There’s a Will…
Writing a Last Will is usually a serious undertaking, but not always. In the course of recent research, we have come across a collection of eccentric and entertaining documents.
One testator is said to have left his entire estate to three women “to whom I owe all my happiness”–each had turned down a marriage proposal. A Dr. Dunlop (from Canada, if that explains anything) left a bequest to one of his sisters “to console her for marrying a man she is obliged to henpeck;” to another sister he left money “because no one is likely to marry her.” Dr. Dunlop also left a punch bowl to his brother-in-law “because he will do credit to it.”
A more malicious testator left $1,000 as a fund to hire lawyers to represent anyone who wanted to sue his son-in-law, to assist in the criminal prosecution of the same son-in-law and, if possible, to help get him hanged. Another, convinced that he was required to leave something to his wife and eight children but wishing to disinherit them, left the dining room table to his wife and one chair from the set to each child.
Prominent probate lawyer Serjeant Maynard left a will purposely worded in difficult and obscure terms, hoping that the ensuing litigation would resolve several legal questions that he had long wondered about. The case was settled without litigation, thus frustrating the testator’s intent.
Laypersons who prepare their own wills sometimes go to extremes. In one case, a three-word will (“Everything is Lou’s”) was ruled invalid. In another, a 148-page (on 10″ x 18″ paper, and “closely written”) was also ruled invalid, though probably because the entire estate was left for construction of a mausoleum for the testator and his dog.
Chief Justice Edward Douglas White wrote a 51-word will leaving all to his widow; the will was later published in books of the day. One layman clipped out Justice White’s will, added the words “My wishes are the same as Justice White’s” and signed the document. The only question was whether he intended to benefit his own widow or Mrs. White.
One scholar left to his nephew “ten thousand, which he will find in a package in my safe.” The package contained 10,000 chess problems, along with a note explaining that they would improve the nephew’s mind. But perhaps not his sense of humor.