Father dies, mom remarries dead husband’s brother.
Accordingly, in this case, the usual second marriage issues are compounded by the interfamily issues and, making matters worse (actually much worse) was the fact that father’s death was at the hand of uncle – and with mother’s complicity.
Hamlet is a happy-go-lucky college kid at the time this all goes down, but becomes understandably whacked out by the whole scenario. The Uncle’s efforts to make Hamlet feel secure about his place in the hierarchy don’t go over well, and things around the house just keep getting more tense until, as is somewhat common in Shakespeare plays, everyone ends up dead.
Suffice it to say the family dynamics in this case are bad – real bad. And, lesson number one for any estate planning attorney is that family dynamics play a BIG role in whether the plan is going to work or not. All of the baggage comes out when mom and/or dad die (and often when they become demented).
Lesson number 2: Second marriage planning is as hard as it gets. Second marriages are often great for the people who are married – but rarely, if ever, good for the kids from the first marriage. I tell clients: “Let’s accept the proposition that your children don’t like your second spouse, and if you die first, they will be mean to him/her after you’re gone. Feel free to prove me wrong, but my experience suggests I’m right on this.”
Interesting Side Note: American law currently precludes a person from inheriting property from someone they killed. So-called “slayer statutes” make sure you don’t profit from your bad acts. Apparently that wasn’t the case in Hamlet’s day, or more likely, no one had the nerve to raise the issue.