However, I just received an email from a scam artist claiming he did. I hope that everyone knows that these types of email are always false and are always scams. Michael Jackson did not leave you money in his will, and the widow of the prince of Nigeria doesn’t need your help getting $10,000,000 out of the country. Also, in the event that someone has died and left you something, in all likelihood you will be contacted in a method other than email.
This message made it past my junk mail filter. I’m not sure why. Normally, I’d just delete these obvious scams and move on. But I have to say, as an attorney who practices in the area of trusts and estates, I was very amused.
First, the email is from “BARRISTER JOHN BRANCA [[redacted]@yahoo.com.hk]” Let’s ignore the fact that the email is from Hong Kong. The scammer made a major error here by calling himself “Barrister.” In many countries, the job of a lawyer is split into two professions — a barrister and a solicitor. Generally, the barrister is the lawyer that goes to court, and the solicitor is the lawyer that does everything but go to court (it’s more complicated than that).
However, in the United States, there is no such thing as a barrister or solicitor. All lawyers can be both or neither. So his use of the term “Barrister” shows that he knows absolutely nothing about the United States legal system. Not a good first step.
Here is the rest of the email in its entirety.
Hope you receive this message!!!
On behalf of the Trustees and Executor of the estate of Late Michael Jackson. I once again try to notify you as my earlier letter were returned undelivered. I wish to notify you that late King of Pop. Michael Jackson made you a beneficiary to his WILL. He left the sum of Five Million, Dollars (USD$5,000.000.00) to you in the Codicil and last testament to his WILL. This may sound strange and unbelievable to you, but it is real and true. Being widely entertainer, he must have been in contact with you in the past or simply you were nominated to him by one of his numerous fans abroad who wished you good. Late Michael Joseph Jackson until his death was a member “MJFC” The Michael Jackson Fan Club and the Institute of entertainer. Please if I reach you as I am hopeful, endeavor to get back to me as soon as possible to enable me conclude my job. You are advice to contact me with my personal email: [redacted]
Okay, I’m only pointing out some of the errors I see as a probate attorney.
- That should be “made you a beneficiary of ” his Will, not “to.”
- Not only that, as I have previously written, Michael Jackson did not leave anyone anything in his will. The Will is a “pourover” will, meaning that it leaves everything to a Trust, and the Trust makes dispositions of the assets. The Will is public; the trust is not.
- The email then says, “He left the sum of Five Million, Dollars (USD$5,000.000.00) to you in the Codicil and last testament to his WILL.” This sentence does not make any sense. It seems like the writer does not know what the term “Codicil” means, and hopes his recipient won’t either. Simply, a Codicil is an amendment to a Will. When a person wants to change their Will, sometimes instead of rewriting the entire Will, they will issue a Codicil, which would only amend a page or a paragraph, or a section or a sentence. Codicils were much more common in the days before computers and laser printer, when rewriting a 50 page Will could be a major undertaking.
The other errors of spelling and grammar and just general ridiculousness are easily spotted, whether or not you are an estate planning attorney. What’s sad, is that these emails actually work. There will be some poor fool out there who will be taken in, and will soon discover that in order to receive their inheritance, they will have to pay money to the scam artist.
But note to scam artist: Stick with Princes of Africa and not Kings of Pop — you’ll be more successful.