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'The Good Wife': Good Law? - Season 5, Episode 10

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

The holidays are here, and "The Good Wife" is celebrating with some good ol' fashioned legal issues over contested wills.

Prepare for some festive cheer -- and steely gazes -- as we dive into the early Christmas/on-time Hanukkah present that is "The Decision Tree."

Episode Recap (Spoiler Alert!):

This episode really presents two different shows. And one of them is about Kalinda's sexy dangerous life as a speedy, devil-may-care private investigator who tails sketchy guys with Irish accents and has hot girl-on-girl pillow talk about guns. Titillating. Then there's the other show, the one about Alicia and Will's past relationship affecting their present professional lives, awkward invites to holiday parties, and occasionally, tidbits about estate planning.

The Good Wife: Good Law?

Season 5, Episode 10
"The Decision Tree"

Legal References:

More Legal Analysis of CBS' "The Good Wife":

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The main conflict revolves around a will that a former Lockhart & Gardner client had stashed in a safety deposit box, leaving Alicia $12 million. Strangely, Alicia gets Florrick/Agos to represent her against the client's relatives, who of course claim that the recently uncovered will is invalid. And as the matter goes to probate court, Alicia and Will get a chance to subtly hash out old romantic issues and bore holes in the other's heads with eye lasers.

Rich and powerful figures almost always have their estates tied up in legal in-fighting between friends and relatives, so there's nothing particularly unique about the case presented in "The Decision Tree."

Aside from the regular drama of "The Decision Tree," there is a glaring issue of conflict of interest in having either Florrick/Agos or Lockhart & Gardner litigating this case. Not only does the case involve Alicia as a former employee, but there are so many issues with her and Will that the best course of action would have been to hire counsel from a completely unrelated and distant firm. Maybe someone from the moon.

Any time there are two wills that contradict each other, there is bound to be a legal battle over which will is valid. And this episode covers just about every way a will can be challenged:

  • Written in magic marker. Handwritten or holographic wills are valid in most states, even if written with a crayon.
  • Invalid witness. So long as there is no issue of potentially getting a chunk of the estate or payment for being a witness, even the most bubbly prostitutes can be legal witnesses to a will.
  • Undue influence. Yes, even Alicia's chilly form of flirtation could be considered undue influence, especially coming from an attorney.

It's also worth noting that Eli was right to worry about Christmas decorations in the Governor's office.

Incapacity. There is a difference between eccentric billionaires and ones who are legally incapable of making valid wills. It's a pretty fine line though.

The Verdict:

This episode had some watered-down bits on wills, but was mostly an excuse to have Will fantasize about grilling Alicia on the stand.

What did you think of this week's episode of "The Good Wife"? Is the show guilty of making any legal mistakes? Check back here for more legal recaps of "The Good Wife," and send us a tweet at @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #TheGoodWife.

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