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Author Topic: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems  (Read 1079 times)

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Arcadiac

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My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« on: March 15, 2005, 01:09:19 am »
Hi y'all, hoping to get some experienced advice about how to light a fire under the attorney who is in charge of probate for my mother's estate.  I know that you guys really don't know me but maybe there is someone here who has had a similar experience and could offer some suggestions.

Backstory: 
Mom died March 25, 2003, (Father 20 yrs. ago) leaving no will and living in a different state from me (PA).  4 heirs, myself, a brother and a sister, and my deceased sisters only daughter, a niece.
Unfortunately bickering began and my bro and sis, who live in PA,  stole stuff from my mom's house, even before funeral arrangements were made.
This led to me being estranged from them due to hurt and anger over their behavior, not just the stealing but other ugliness on their part.
Legal battle ensues, I find out that because I don't reside in PA, I am not eligible to be executor of her estate. 
My bro was given authority, he promptly moved into my mom's house, claiming that he was going to buy it. 
In the interim I have not heard anything except a demand from the court to take some records that mom wanted me to have to be appraised, $35 worth, I complied.
I wrote the lawyer last September (a year after bro was made executor) asking to be kept informed and up to date with the proceedings, got a reply in Oct., the case had been assigned another atty. because the original one had retired.

So here I am, approaching the second anniversary of my mom's death still not knowing what ever became of the estate.  I don't know what to do.  I can't afford an attorney in PA or here for that matter, so I feel that I have no one working for me.  Is there someone in PA that I could write to for help, the Attorney General or Bar Association or someone to get help?  Dialog with my bro is still out of the question.  I feel ready to write another letter to his attorney but I really want it to be effective.

It's not so much a matter of money now as it's a matter of principle and putting some closure on my Mom's death.  I feel that when all is settled I can either make a decision to just write off my bro and sis, or whatever, it won't heal as it is, it's an open wound.  I didn't just lose my Mom, effectively I lost my family.

You know how some things eat at you in the middle of the night when you can't sleep?  Well, this is the ghost that haunts me much too often. 

The anniversary of her death is soon.

It just F'n hurts.

And so it goes.

ARCADIAC!


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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2005, 02:27:08 am »
I know what you're going thru. My mom died in 1997 as the result of an auto accident (someone slammed into her car broadside). Then all the bickering started! My mom was dirt poor. The last several years of her life I was supporting her by giving her half my weekly salary for 15+ years. My sister and brother were arguing and stealing stuff. I stayed out of that, but then everyone and their brother started coming out of the woodwork all saying gimme gimme gimme. My mom had a life insurance and a car insurance policy and I got some money out of that. My sister and brother no longer even speak to each other.

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2005, 09:38:37 am »
I know how you feel about the bickering.  My great Grandmother, who I lived with for 10 years, died in 95.  But my family started arguing before she died.  I lived here in the house before she died and was also was left the house.  So I had everydody in the family coming over and saying she promised me that, or she promised me this.  I actually threw out some things just because too many people said it was supposed to be theirs.  Years later, no one talks about it, but because of their greed, I don't think anyone has forgotten.  I was also the executor, so everybody came to me.  You might not be getting what you deserve from what she left behind, but with family fighting, you are lucky to at least not be in the middle.  If you are the only one not being greedy, if you were the executor you would have everybody coming to you, begging, lying and threatening, and even the guilt trip.  I am truley sorry about what you are going through, as I said, I went through some of my family giving me a very hard time.  Some have brought it up to me over the years, just to let me know they haven't forgotten.  Which hurts, because I was doing exactly what I thought my Grandmother would have wanted.  I even gave some of what I was left away to other family members.  Sorry to be blabbing and seeming to pour my heart out here.  I just want you to see that if any selfish people are involved, you are alot better to not have to be the referee of the family.  As far as the law goes, I know here in NY I was allowed to use her money that was not left to anyone, to pay the house mortgage and bills for as long as was necessary,(the law states no specific amount of time).  Without delay, means nothing at all in court.  I know there is no executor in your case, but seeing you are a reletive, maybe "in the best interest of the estate" you can request a copy of any actions taken from the appointed attourney.  Since there was no will, I beleive all actions SHOULD be public records.  I mean come on, you can go to county offices and see how much is owed (leans) on someones mortgage and who is making the property tax payments (bank mortgage is in) and who is getting copies of the tax bills, for ANYONES address.  Unfortunately I have had ALOT of court experiences in my life, and I know that what is supposed to happen in court does not always.  MOST of the time the better lawyer wins, no matter what.  That's why innocent people go to jail, and guilty people go free, or get plea bargained to unrelated charges.  Again, I am just trying to show you that it  might be a good thing that you are not the center of all this.  And I am sorry for your loss.

Steve

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2005, 09:53:36 am »
Fist, I'm sorry to your loss of your Mother. I myself don't know how it feels to a lose a mother but I know that its the same hurt feeling when my Grandma/Aunt/Uncle passed away (or maybe even more worse). One thing I did learn thou is that, don't let this happen to your  family, I mean having no WILL. It is hard to talk to your parents/relatives about this matter but it is very important at the end.
After my Aunt passed away (2003), this was the time we woke up about making a WILL after talking with the lawyer about her estate. It gets very ugly if there is no WILL.
I wish the best and the only suggestion I can tell you after all your problems are solved is, make sure you have a very clear WILL of what to do with your state. It is already hard loosing a MOM and to put on top of it, loosing your BROTHER/SISTER ( family). Good luck.
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Arcadiac

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2005, 11:55:26 am »
Thanks for the replies, I too am sorry for your losses, I can relate.  maybe I wasn't very clear, I get that way when I'm emotional.

My brother is the executor of the estate.  All I want is to get information from the attorney he hired to help him administer the estate, I believe that as an heir I have the right to be kept informed.  I know that you "get more flies with honey than with vinegar" but I have reached out before, twice, seeking information from the attorney, last response being "the attorney representing your brother has retired, I will review the contents and status of the file and will respond sustantively to  your letter as soon as possible".  That was last Oct.
I think that I need to be more forceful in my next letter, but I don't want to let my feelings of anger and frustration take it too far.
That's why I mentioned the Bar Association or County Attorney, would threatening to refer this issue to them do any good?

In hindsight I am very grateful that I did not become executor of the estate, there is simply too much greed and hatefulness going on to have to be in the middle of it.  My bro and sis just behaved as everyone else expected them to, swooping in like the vultures they are to pick the bones.  And they probably will get away with it, I'm not very confident that anyone out of state's interests will be protected at all, leaving myself and my neice out of the picture.

But on the other hand, as small as her estate is, whether or not there is even anything left to distrubute after her debts were paid, The bottom line is that all of us have the right to be kept informed of the process and the results of the closing of the estate.  Its just wrong.

This whole process sucks and I just want it to be over so I can move on.

Thanks all for your input, keep it coming, I'm gonna put off writing that letter for a while until I feel a bit more rational, any help is appreciated.

ARCADIAC!

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2005, 01:36:19 pm »
I don't know how it works in PA, but here if someone passes without a will, the debts are paid first, then the taxman gets his, then everything is assigned a value and divided equally between the immediate family (in your case I *think* it would only be split 3-ways).  For someone to inhabit the house, they would have to make arrangements with the others to get/buy their "share".

I also believe there is a time limit on this stuff, so you may want to reconsider getting an attorney (I'd recommend getting one in PA).  No news is BAD news with stuff like this.  There's a reason they're not keeping you involved.

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2005, 11:32:52 am »
Why don't you call a few different attourneys.  They all give free consultations.  Even if you don't hire one, they will tell you what rights you have to know what's going on, and what rights you have to be included since there was no will.  Make sure you call more than one, in case some leave out different things.  Any decent attourney will also tell you exactly what  YOU can do on your own, without an attourney.  Since there was no will and the State is handling it, all actions should be public information.  Make sure you call attourneys that are local to where the estate is.  As for the Attourney General, I am sure they are all different.  But I emailed my office,  and mailed several different questions about rights, and laws with absolutely no returns whatsoever.  Except for the automated email reply that they received my email.

Good Luck!

Steve

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2005, 11:40:18 am »
Cooter you are probably right, unfortunately there is no money to hire a lawyer either in PA or here, I'm on disability and have little spare money.

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2005, 02:25:46 pm »
I can't offer any legal advice, but these stories remided me of when my grandfather passed. My grandparents lived their lives in a town in southwest Missouri. My grandfather's great-great grandfather founded an old mining town, but despite this legacy, they were not wealthy people. My grandfather was crushed by an unexploded shell on a destroyer while serving in the Pacific theatre during World War II, which permanantly disabled him. He lived the rest of his life selling used cars. They lived in the same prefab house for what's going on fifty five years.

Despite his disability and constant medical issues, he lived to a ripe 85 years. When he died, a family member sacked the house. He took antique shotguns, tools, glassware, knick knacks, photographs, and other valuables... while my grandmother was still alive and in the house.

My grandfather used to collect pennies for me, roll them, and keep them in his sock drawer until my next visit, a practice he did since the day I was born. The relative took those, too. My grandmother was so apologetic. "He took your pennies. I told him that they were yours, but he took them anyway". It was only about 15$ worth of pennies, so it didn't exactly put me in the poor house, but it just seemed so... smarmy and uncharacteristic of this family member.

Of late, my grandmother has been feeling ill. We have a different family member now "casing the joint" for stuff she can sell on Ebay. To say I am disgusted would be a gross understatement. It's not that I want to reap the financial benefits of my grandmother's pending demise (the only thing I want from her estate is one of the many small paintings she did after her retirement, which has no value to anyone outside of the family), it's (like you said) that greed and the vulture-like behavior of people you thought you knew is genuinely repulsive.

I made a promise to myself that I would never behave that way should I outlive my parents. "Things" just aren't worth it. I just figure that a time of loss is not a time to think about gain. How will I benefit from getting that cedar box full of silverware? That television set? It's merely baubles and trinkets. I can live without them, just as I have prior to my grandparent's death. A few hundred dollars worth of crap isn't worth the endless family hassles.

Of course, this is my own personal take on a similar situation, and I am not trying to condemn you or what you are trying to do with your mother's estate. This thread was merely a catalyst for my thoughts on some personal current events, nothing more.

Good luck to you on whatever decisions you make, and may the outcome be pleasant.

APf

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2005, 09:51:39 pm »
BTW, the court already authorized my bro's purchase of the house, the Catch-22 being that as executor he is paying himself for it.

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2005, 12:30:39 am »
I'm very sorry to hear about your mother.  I lost my mother some years back.  What you are describing is more common than you think.  The way the thing went down in my family made sore spots, but we all lived throught it.

In all of this I didn't read where you have called your brother or drove out to see him. What brought us together was that we talked about it.  We are from way different worlds now too, but we had one thing in common, we all loved our mother.

Maybe the time to appeal to your brother has come. You need to talk to them personally and have them tell you to your face what they plan instead of through some third party, especially some lawyer.  Go there. Get in your car and drive out and see them.  I can't cost that much to go.  It might be what's needed to bring you all together again.

If that doesn't work after you have put forth the effort your mother would want, then get into the phone book and call one of the lawyers in the local area and talk to them.  It might be worth your while to get one of local yolkels to do the work face to face.  It might take a week, but I'm sure it would be a better approach than trying to do it from remote control.
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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2005, 11:48:01 am »
Thanks again for your input.  I'm gonna try a combination of solutions.  First I'm gonna write a final request to the probate lawyer for information.  And make some calls to PA to see what help getting information is available.

Fredster , thanks for your suggestion, my brother cut off all chance of resolution by his horrific behavior before and after my Mom's death.  The things he did are unforgivable, withholding information about her health, dumping my mom in the nursing home to die (her worst fear, she lasted less than 2 weeks there), to cremating her against her wishes, no funeral service, and the topper, taking her remains from the funeral home on the day I was going there to bring her home to be interred next to my father.  It took six months and a court order to get her home for a funeral service, that they didn't bother to attend.  I have heard horror stories of how families treat each other, but never anything like this, the emotional damage has been great for everyone.  And keep in mind that this is the Reader's Digest version, more damage has been done than can be repaired.

I found out after her death that my brother had been mistreating her emotionally, Mom had cancer and was very frail the last couple of years of her life.  She had a couple of heart attacks, again no one told me.  When she would get sick he would accuse her of faking it to get attention.  The last time she fell ill before her death he wouldn't even go to her house to let the EMS in, he just told them to get the hidden key and let themselves in.  Despicable.

And then there is the survivors guilt, because of my inability to be there for her, he was able to assume practical power of attorney over her before she died, he simply lived closer, 5 miles to my five hundred.  I wish I could have done more, she deserved better.  Dealing with my and my son's disabilities and little income made it difficult to go visit her (last time we were able to go was July 2002, some friends collected money to help us get there upon learning of Mom's cancer diagnosis) and moving nearer was impossible.

I suppose that all these years that people were trying to tell me how downright dirty and greedy and mean my brother and sister were, I was in denial, I didn't want to believe that my big bro and sis could possibly be that way.  Now I know it's true.

So mostly I want the probate over, those held accountable for stealing from her, and be finished with my brother and sister, I want nothing more to do with them because I too deserve better.

Gotta go get some sleep, had another of those sleepless nights, thanks all for your empathy, suggestions and support, it really does help and I appreciate you all.
ARCADIAC!

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2005, 12:53:00 pm »
<Insert story just like everyone elses>

money will destroy people, families, everything.

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2005, 02:07:01 pm »
Two things, the second being important.  First of all, since he has been declared the executor, he is entitled to be paid from the estate for doing so.  Second, since he was not left the house and is BUYING it, he is buying it from the estate.  That means it should be sold at market value, or at least close to.  The money he pays is supposed to go into the estate, which will then be split between the heirs. (Or described as buying out the other heirs.)  I am pretty sure you and your brother and sister will be declared the only required heirs as you are the only immediate family.  Though some states I beleive don't give the same "rights" to "out of state" relatives.  I am not a lawyer, but has to go through alot of crap when my Grandmother passed away.  She had a will, that named me executor, but some of the vultures (at least one that I know of) questioned it.

Again, I wish you the best of luck, getting this finished as quickly and fairly as possibly.

Steve

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2005, 03:33:18 pm »
He should be paying rent to the estate while he resides in the house.

You sould contact the court directly.  Here in NY it is Surrogate's court, in PA it is probably probate court or something else.  If you can give them the file number they should be able to tell you the status of the estate and give you some idea of your rights.

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2005, 10:31:50 pm »
Thanks Dag2000 and everyone else.  I got the phone numbers for the county courthouse, I'm gonna make some calls tomorrow and find out what I can. 
From the internet research I did today there should have been way more action in the last 18 months than there has been, check this out:

http://evans-legal.com/dan/easched.html

This should have been completely settled by now.  And laws may well have been broken by not notifying us other heirs of the progress.  More will be revealed, I'll post what I find out later tomorrow, gonna put off that letter until I see what has happened at the courthouse.  A road trip may well be in order.

Thanks all, ARCADIAC!

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #16 on: March 18, 2005, 07:55:33 pm »
OK I called the courthouse today and got some information, a lot more than what I had. 

Last April the taxes filed claimed insolvency, supposedly she owed out $12,000 more than the estate was worth.  However when I asked how much had actually been listed as claimed against the account, the total was only around $13,000.  Leaving tens of thousands unaccounted for, at least in these documents at the register of wills.  And the estate hasn't been closed as of yet. 
Something fishy there no doubt.

So I'm getting a full copy of her file so I can look it over myself and have it in hand if I decide to consult a lawyer.  Also got a number for legal help out of NW PA, so progress is being made, at least as much as I could get done this week.  Gonna give it a rest for the weekend, at least now I know how to get started and get some results.  I feel a bit more hopeful.

Thanks again for your help and support, it really helped me get motivated and keep moving.  Any more ideas/suggestions, keep 'em coming.

ARCADIAC!

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #17 on: March 18, 2005, 08:30:45 pm »
I am real glad you are finally getting some information.  Don't give up.  Once the estate is closed, it's almost impossible to change.

Steve

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #18 on: March 25, 2005, 12:38:37 pm »
Hi y'all just a small update, today is the second anniversary of my Mom's death so I'm feeling it a lot, I'll try to be brief.

I got the paperwork yesterday from the Register of Wills.  It appears that according to the tax form filed for last year that there really were more debts to the estate than assets.  All were listed, with account numbers so I can only assume that they are legit.  And all the proper steps were taken for my bro the buy the house, except we never received notice of the hearing to approve.

Now if I wanted to I could hire a lawyer to look into the fact that when my mom's house was sold, the estate's atty. didn't bother to send us heirs notice of the hearing, and a couple of other notices that were required.
But at this point, I wonder if any more of a battle towards resolving the estate is worth it, particularly since it apparently is insolvent.  What good would come of it?

This has been a long emotional process for me and I gotta say when I read that tax form and the rest of the court paperwork and got a reality check I said "It's over.  That's all."

And it feels over, like a bit of letting go has happened.

So maybe it's time to let it be. 

For my peace of mind and spirit.

Hanging on to try to force someone else behave the way I think that they should behave never has gotten me anywhere.
So life goes on, my bro and sis will have to live with themselves for their greed and hatefulness, I got no desire to try to reconcile with them, too much pain and insanity going on there.
I've lost my Mom, brother and sister all at once and maybe it's just time for acceptance of the way things really are, not the way I'd like for them to be.

I got the things that were really important to me, family photos and some records that Mom used to listen to when I was young, of no monetary value to the greedos, so they didn't want them.

Lesson learned, you will die someday and no matter how much you might like to believe that your heirs would behave in a civilized manner, they probably won't, so MAKE A WILL.

So if I can get myself moving, I'm gonna get to the cemetary today, or at least this weekend and put out some flowers for Mom and Dad.
It helps to believe that somewhere, somehow they will know that someone remembers, honors and misses them.

Thanks to all who responded, your help and support is appreciated.
ARCADIAC! 

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #19 on: March 25, 2005, 01:25:20 pm »
Making a WILL is VERY important for more then one reason.

The main one in my mind is to keep family close.  When its a free for all you find brothers and sisters not talking again ever.  And you don't have the heads of the family dragging them back together once a year to have them get over stuff.  So its just like they are gone forever.

But even then, you can still see fights.  My step grandfather and his brothers ended up sueing each other over his mothers will.  It got so nasty (over land) that one of the brothers rented the land to a strip miner who destroyed it litterally forever. 

Too bad that the family got to the point where you couldn't just call up and ask. 

One thing to remember.  It wasn't your money or your brothers or your sisters...  If you end up getting something its nice.  But I believe that inheritences should be for the grandchildren to go out and do something fun and think of the grandparnets.  By the time your direct parents pass... hopefully you should have your own financial situation set (in whateve way it is)... Otherwise you get people relying on inheratance to make it through their own retirement... And that doesn't really work out.

Good luck... .And call your brother and have a conversation with him NOT about the house and your mom... but about what hes doing.   Then do the same for your sister.  Hopefully one day this will be the norm..

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Re: My Mom's Estate----Attorney problems
« Reply #20 on: March 25, 2005, 11:55:12 pm »
Thanks for the reply Lilwolf, I really do appreciate it, but those calls just won't be happening, I'm just not there.  Not just by my choice but by theirs also.  On my part too many totally despicable, unforgivable actions on their parts before and after Mom's death. 

The day my Mom died and I told my bro that I was on my way up there, he told me that there was no point, that I really wasn't needed.  I told him that it wasn't his call to make, that she was my Mom too and that I would be on my way.  He asked me after arriving if there was any way he could "divorce" me as a brother.  My niece and my cousin heard that and were flabbergasted.
I sat in the car, speechless.  And seeing him a day or two later he dismissed me as though I weren't even there. 
And my sis, upon the realization that no one trusted her to administer Mom's estate because of her past greed and thievery, shut me out too. 
I wish things were different sometimes but that's the way it is

So I'm done.  They got their "divorce".  Life is too short to hang around abusive, nasty people, relatives or not.  Moving on is a good thing.  I deserve better.

I'll cherish the family that I have left and the "family" that I choose, my friends, and it will be OK, really it already is.

I will share the photos etc. with anyone in my family who really care about Mom and our family and let the others be where they need to be.

So I'll get started on my will, I'm not married and have only got 1 son, but seeing as he is disabled I could foresee someone trying to take advantage of the situation if I died without the will.

Thanks all for looking in, hope things are well with you, I'm just glad this day is almost over, time to move on.

ARCADIAC!