Contract

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Mwhod
Contract

First I would like to say I appreciate what is happening here. I am grateful for the information from those of you who have been through the fire and are willing to help those of us who haven't but will have to. I am studying all I can to learn as much as I can about this process. I would like to ask two questions without injecting anything I think about it so that I might get the right understanding from those who know. Over the next two months I may need to ask more questions, hopefully that will be acceptable. I cannot put what has happened over a period of two years here, so I will address my concerns where we are right now.  My mothers estate is and has been in the process of settling over the last two years, there have been many conflicts created by the executor and upheld by the lawyers claiming to represent the estate. Soon we will get the final accounting, we have objected to numerous things which fell on deaf years and I understand why now. There was a hearing early on and two of the heirs sent a response to the court objecting to things concerning the executor, but they were never responded to and it appeared to be nothing more than a dog and pony show, with the lawyers and the court doing what they wanted.  I have two questions I would like help on right now if possible.

Are the heirs of an estate apart from the executor under any contract with the lawyers or court during this settling process?  

If we have to object to the final accounting does that in any way create a contract between lawyers, Commissioner of Accounts, or the court with us? and is there any particular way we should sign if there is a need to respond to correspondence sent to us from attorneys, or commissioner of accounts. 

I am new here, I am trying my best to learn. Its not going to be easy and I know that, there is a price to pay for all things and particularly freedom. I hope this topic is acceptable and possibly get a little guidance as this process comes to an end if needed. I appreciate any an all help.  Thank you.

Mwhod

Fortinbras
About the estate

The lawyers for the estate have a lawyer-client relationship with the estate, essentially a relationship with your mother or at least with her will.  The estate lawyers do NOT have a relationship, and this should be kept in mind, with any of the prospective heirs.  In other words, you, as a prospective heir or even as your mother's next of kin, cannot do much to order the lawyer around, except maybe try to nudge him if he seems a bit sluggish.  However, the lawyer is entitled to charge your mother's estate for all of his work, every minute he spends on handling the estate including whatever time he spends on letters and phone calls telling him to hurry up;  there are plenty of stories of estates being boiled away by the legal fees of the executors.

If, in the course of the settling of the estate, you (or other prospective heirs) have serious reason to object to the specific lawyer handling the estate and wish him replaced, your remedy is a motion with the probate court.  Unless it's a solid case against the lawyer it is unlikely the court will order his replacement.  BUT keep in mind, the lawyer you're complaining about will pay himself from the estate for the time he has to spend defending his work.

Pretty much the same applies to the final accounting, if you or another prospective heir wishes to dispute the distribution of the estate (or the lawyer's bill for his services), the procedure is a motion in probate court ... and, again, the lawyer can pay himself from the estate for the time he spends defending his work.

I haven't done much estate work, but some estate cases - even if not large in a monetary sense - are complicated because, among other things, (1) a lot of time has passed since the will was written so that persons named for bequests have wandered off and their current address or their own heirs have to be identified, (2) by the same token, various bits of property involved in bequests were completely replaced by other bits of property and it is necessary to calculate the equivalences, (3) it may be necessary to do some detective work to find all the bank accounts, all the real estate, all the stock portfolios, all the insurance policies, all the bills,  etc., especially in the case of some people who were inclined, for example, to hide assets from the IRS or creditors.

Not every lawyer is cut out for estate work.  They don't make movies about estate lawyers but it has some considerable challenges - writing wills for clients who are already a bit senile on one hand, and then dealing with 'grieving' survivors who are fighting each other for every dime on the other.

My own experience is that inheriting money from the death of a loved one is the worst possible way to get money.  And losing the rest of one's loved ones by fighting with them over mere money is terribly self-destructive.

Mwhod
contract

Thank you for your reply, so you will understand I will explain a little more, there were 5 wills, one destroyed, the original has places erased on it.  The executor has completely destroyed the family that was, by creating conflict between everyone.  She has taken money for things that no records were kept, and the attorney and the commissioner of accts has approved it and there are other instances of money she has taken that I question in which she lied to the commissioner of accts to get.  Everything has been done in secret by the executor, and near as I and two other heirs can tell she has never even attempted to fulfill her fiduciary duty to the family and heirs. She has lied on and to family members and heirs continually trying to destabilize  emotionally and mentally one member who is bipolar, she withheld information from the heirs concerning the sale of the house which she acquired under the objection of 4 of the heirs who objected to the appraisal. She has paid her husband to do work she wanted done, and i feel certain the money went into a joint account which included her,  The will plainly stated before she accepted the position that no compensation would be paid to the executor.  There have been many complaints about the executor to the attorneys, commissioner of accts, and even the judge who was over the first hearing all to no avail, not even a response. I am sickened by this whole affair, and this is why I am on this site, there has been no justice in the handling of my mothers estate, and you may ask, why didn't I get a lawyer, well to be honest, i could not afford to fight this, i spent 27 years of my life helping those who had no means of helping themselves and it left me in a position where i couldn't afford to fight this, I consider a lot of what has been done outright fraud against my mothers estate, and the other heirs of the estate, this has been the worst experience of my life, none of my family, or the people involved in this have any integrity, dignity or honor, but in the legal system i realize there is no place for such things.  We are waiting on the final accounting for review,  I agree with you this has been completely destructive to the entire family, (heirs) all because of the greed, selfishness, and self centered actions of one person the executor, who has actually expressed hate many times for some of the family. I have one question for you if you don't mind, should we reject the accounting, will that do anything for us, as so far all involved have done what they wanted to do much of which was against the will of half of the heirs. I appreciate your time in reading and the response you gave. All of this is a new experience for me but one that my children won't ever have to go through, I intend to see to that. Thanks again for your information.

Michael

Fortinbras
About the executor...

I will readily admit that not all executors are saints, or terribly efficient.  It is entirely possible that, from your point of view, things are happening in a particular way, which,  if explained in detail, turn out to be entirely proper - sometimes required by law, or necessitated by banking or business practices, and so forth.

I cannot say if raising a fuss will actually do you any good.  I suggest you find yourself a lawyer with a track record in wills and estates and pay him to evaluate the executor.  Yes, this will cost you money, and you must decide if the amounts involved justify this expense.  I have seen instances of people spending fortunes fighting over smaller sums, supposedly for the principle of the thing but really about their own ego - in any case, a net loss.

I was a very uncomfortable eyewitness to a friend who persisted in fighting with her two sisters over their mother's estate.  The two sisters had been named in the will as the executors and my friend was very bitter about being left out of that tedious task. (My friend took this as evidence that mother didn't love her as much. Thinking clearly, the sisters had been named because they lived near the mother, visited her daily, knew her house and belongings, and so forth, but my friend had moved a thousand miles away to another state many years ago.)  She then raised a fuss about every little thing.  She made a point of accusing her sisters of needlessly (or dishonestly) running up their expenses, etc.  She couldn't even pay lawyers for doing this and kept jumping from one lawyer to another, being dropped by each in turn when she stopped paying them.  Her constant bickering kept the estate from settling for about a decade and when it finally did there was hardly anything left - the two sisters had (rightfully) drawn upon the estate to pay the legal expenses of defending their work as executors - so various lawyers shared 90% of the money and my friend didn't get enough back to pay herself 5¢ a hour on the time she spent making trouble for her sisters. The sisters also got nearly nothing for themselves.  In addition to getting nearly nothing from her mother's estate, her entire family now hated her with a passion.  A story worth remembering.

I'll add from my own family.  My father provided his mother with a cottage of her own, in the back of our house, for about ten years near the end of her life.  In the last two or three years she was moved to a nursing home near other relations in another state. She died without leaving a will, but she had told everyone, for several years, that she wanted "everything" to go to my father in gratitude for that cottage.  However, an uncle (one of my father's brothers) made a fuss that, without a will, her estate MUST be distributed arithmetically according to the intestacy laws.  If all of it had gone to my father he would have gotten an interesting sum, but divided up according to the intestacy laws each share would have been good for a nice suit of clothes and not much more.  Most of the relatives (I am told) sided with my father,  but my uncle got his way (and presumably a new suit of clothes), and there was a lot of permanent unpleasantness.

Mwhod
executor

thank you for your response and the time and effort you took to do it.

Michael

IreneGrider
Nice informative post. Laws

Nice informative post. Laws vary from state-to-state and change from time-to-time. The lawyer does not only work on cases but also provides counseling. In case of legal obligation, the job of a lawyer is to offer legal support. My friend browsed around here http://fr.linkedin.com/in/bechara-tarabay-550b7929 to gather the info about estate lawyers.

Irene Grider

M. R. Hamilton M. R. Hamilton's picture
Laws do not vary at all

Law do not vary from state to state. We are guaranteed the common law by the Constitution for the United States of America. Under common law, there are no statutes, so advertising for an attorney is not appropriate on this site. Attorneys do not know law at all. They know statutes and code. That is not law. Do not fall for scams from attorneys. We have yet to meet one who could overcome our arguments in court.

M. R. Hamilton
No Lawyer? No Problem?

AmericanQueen AmericanQueen's picture
 An attorney's first

 An attorney's first allegiance is to the court, not his clients. I would bring a Karl Lentz style claim, and this will take some study. I prefer Karl Lentz' common law over Bill Thornton any day. Go on YouTube and type in "Karl Lentz restore property" and audios will pop up. This will take some intense note-taking and study, yet it's so simple, it's scary! lol

"It is easier to fool people than it is to convince people they've been fooled." ~ Mark Twain

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