Friday, June 17, 2016

Law directing 30 days to file a will makes a mockery of bereavement

I don't know which is more repulsive: a gang of greedy, sadistic slobs in the legislature, or a tail-tucked public that tolerates being fleeced and kicked around.

Talk about laws that help South Carolina probate attorneys fleece the bereaved. You must present a will to the probate court within 30 days of a decedent's death or be subject to a penalty..

Right. Ya wanna hit the bereaved as shortly as possible after the death of a loved one in order to get the maximum impact of all those complexities self-serving attorneys in the legislature have written into the probate process. Sure to send victims of South Carolina's probate racket scurrying off to a probate attorney, checkbook in hand. Then they can tell everyone about "the horrors of probate," and why folks should pay attorneys to set up trusts.

At first, I thought it was kinda strange that the law has been kept relatively quiet. Then I discovered that nobody has actually been penalized for violating the law, and I realized that the 30-day law is just another effort to make life as miserable as possible for anyone who dares to rely on wills and the taxpayer-funded probate process when they claim an inheritance. Surprising heirs with news that they're already in violation of a probate law has that element of shock value, so cleverly and sadistically applied by South Carolina "lawmakers." Someone needs to drive the point home to these self-serving slobs that bereavement is a permanent injury, has no time limits, and affects every person differently.

The probate/trust racket is what tyranny looks like, and it's one shameful state of affairs for South Carolina.

What YOU can do:

>  Spread the word about the probate/trust racket. Most folks don't find out about the attorney-generated horrors of probate until they are struggling through the bereavement process, and shock value is a key part of the effort to browbeat people into hiring a probate attorney.

>  If you need help with non-probate matters, avoid using attorneys who advertise that they specialize in probate. Many attorneys refuse to get involved in the probate racket, and one of them told me with a wink, "It's a 'highly specialized' area of law."

>  Refuse to be bullied by the attorney-generated horrors of probate into paying attorneys to set up trusts. Probate is financed with tax dollars, and should be an inexpensive, viable alternative to setting up trusts. Executors (now called Personal Representatives) shouldn't need a law degree to probate an inheritance.

>  Cut costs by downloading your own estate documents - especially wills - from the Internet. Paying probate attorneys outlandish fees to "draw up a will" is risky business, because attorney-legislators have a vested interest in nullifying wills.




Wednesday, June 8, 2016

For SC's probate racket, silence is golden

"...they cannot rescue themselves via the voting booth. In my opinion, the American people will remain serfs until they wake up to Revolution." - Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

It's been a hoot watching the charade of silence surrounding South Carolina's probate racket. From Governor Haley to mainstream media, the guideline is "keep it quiet," and news blackouts are in full swing, most notably, perhaps, by South Carolina's "News Leader," WIS-10. Even the SC Policy Council dares not address the issue. I've sent both of these "news" organizations links to this blog, and my Facebook message (with a link to this blog) to the local radio show, "Return to Joy," - which purports to help folks struggling through the process of bereavement - got no reply. 

A couple of months ago, I tuned in to another local radio spot, Frankie Griffin's "Success in Real Estate Show," and was treated to blabberings from a spokesperson for Caldwell, Inc., extolling the virtues of setting up trusts to avoid probate. How the taxpayer-funded nightmare of probate got started in South Carolina wasn't mentioned, and a "caller" chimed in with remarks about how simply having a will no longer offered any assurance that the probate process would be reasonably simple. Interesting that Caldwill, Inc. was founded shortly before the SC legislature turned the taxpayer-funded probate process into an attorney-serving nightmare for heirs. Realtor Frankie Griffin, incidentally, also promotes Homeowners' Associations (HOAs) - I call 'em neighborhood gangs - and he's quick to point out that HOAs have been granted police powers and can file liens and foreclose on properties. 

Ah, that orchestrated effort at brainwashing a gullible, cowardly public. The "Home of the Brave" is apparently scared to death of a gang of self-serving attorneys in the legislature, not to mention the American Bar Association. 

Meanwhile, Kenny Bingham's bill regarding time limits on wills never even got a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, and will have to be reintroduced next session. The effort at keeping things quiet regarding Chairman Bingham's watered-down bill - time limits on wills need to be abolished - have been incredibly successful, and as things unfolded, I realized just how determined South Carolina's corrupt power structure is to bury the issue. The realization prompted me to re-publish a post I had initially removed, along with a more detailed explanation of how the post came to be published in the first place.

In my open remarks to Senator Setzler, I asked what it will take for the taxpaying public to get some fundamental decency out of this government. But here's a better question:

How much longer will the taxpaying public sacrifice its time, money, and effort at the altar of a pervasively corrupt power structure?

Update 6/9/2016 - Dr. Paul Craig Roberts references a great article that discusses efforts to keep the public unaware of corrupt laws. South Carolina's probate racket epitomizes this sorry state of affairs.

Update 7/14/2016 - Caldwell, Inc. recently came up with a new radio ad. Their previous ad belted out "Probate is avoidable, peace of mind is attainable," but any reference to probate has now been removed. My, my, wonder why.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Maybe Senator Setzler didn't get my e-mail...

Update 5/25/2016 - Yesterday at 5:19 PM, I received the following e-mail from Senator Setzler:

Mr. Boyd,

Thank you for cantacting me with your support of H.5196 along with your more recent email regarding this same matter. The bill was just recently introduced in April and has not made it to the Senate for review. Any similar legislation along with this legislation will be reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which I am not a member. Upon receipt of your email from two weeks ago, I reviewed the language and have been in communication with others. We are in the last several weeks of this legislative session, and my email responses may be delayed relative to this issue. I am, however, inclined to support Representative Bingham's bill.

Nikki Setzler
______________________________________________________________________________

I'll say one thing about Nikki Setzler, the South Carolina state senator from my district who also happens to be a probate attorney: His law firm sure has a nice suite of offices. Plush carpeting, hardwood floors, the works. I was a bit put off when I first saw the note at the front door telling visitors to make sure they didn't have any grease on their shoes, but once I stepped inside...

I can understand a guy lookin' out for his interests.

Monday two weeks ago, I tried to send an e-mail to Senator Setzler, politely inquiring about what he's done, or plans to do, to simplify South Carolina's probate process. I pointed out that uncalled-for complexities have turned the process into a nightmare for anyone attempting to probate an inheritance, and that it takes an average of one year to complete. I also encouraged him to support Kenny Bingham's efforts to give probate courts discretion regarding when to apply South Carolina's 10 year limit on wills.

I didn't expect a very long list of efforts on his part to simplify the process, or even a willingness to support Kenny Bingham's bill. But I can't find any reply whatsoever.

Maybe Senator Setzler didn't get my e-mail.

Then again, probate attorneys in South Carolina must be incredibly busy these days, so maybe the senator simply doesn't have time to acknowledge e-mails. And if that's the case, Senator Setzler, I certainly understand:

Come to think of it, Senator, there are several other things I'd like to get your thoughts on.

When I spoke with an attorney who works in one of your fancy office suites, he implied that the funeral home should have informed me of South Carolina's 10 year limit on wills. Do you and the lawyers in your firm think that would be the appropriate time to discuss such matters?

As I mentioned in my e-mail, the probate process has become a nightmare. In fact, Senator, it has all the trappings of a racket, whereby people struggling through the process of bereavement are treated like dirt.

Tell me, Senator: What is it going to take for the taxpaying public to get some fundamental decency out of this government? Has the time come for massive displays of non-violent civil disobedience? In what sense do we have a democracy when a gang of so-called "legislators" look out for their own selfish interests instead of the legitimate interests of the people they are charged with representing?

I'll try again on the e-mail, with a link to this post, and I'll send a link to Governor Haley on Twitter. Hopefully, they'll both get the message.

Update 5/23/2016 - Many thanks to all those who signaled support as I picketed this afternoon in front of Nikki Setzler's law firm. The senator remains conveniently silent about South Carolina's probate racket.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Former attorney's e-mail shows the direction South Carolina's probate racket is headed

Recently, I got an e-mail from a retired attorney in Illinois. Here are a few excerpts (emphasis mine):

"For years the probate courts have been cesspools. I was not aware of there being a statute of limitations on the probate of testamentary documents, or even the need for one. I was aware that attempts to steal the proceeds of estates has been a national disgrace for a long time.

When I first became a lawyer, I heard a more seasoned lawyer tell his client, "If dad dies, before you call the undertaker, get into the safety deposit box and empty it."

When I asked the question, "why?" I was told that the undertaker put a death notice in the newspaper and the bank sealed the box - it could be reopened only after a representative of the State of Illinois visited the box. In the inspect of the box and inventory by the state in order for the inheritance tax to be assessed, value items usually disappeared. Of course the inspector denied that these items were ever in the box - as the state employee and maybe an assistant were the only ones allowed to examine the box it was their word against yours. You certainly could not search their brief cases.

I then made further inquiry and found that the seasoned lawyer was not the only one who gave that advice or experienced that problem. In fact the advice was quite common and even today most of the people I deal with or dealt with try to avoid keeping fungible items in the box.

No probate is necessary if everyone agrees to the terms of the will and all the legitimate expenses of the decedent are paid.

What is relevant to me is the fact that the probate courts are viewed with such suspicion and fear of fraud. The elder cleansing (guardianship) scandal is so rampant and so venal that people are afraid of the Court, its corruption, and the miscreants who inhabit the same. In a democracy such is intolerable as the Court system is the escape valve of society! We need it to address our legitimate concerns!"

It's way past time for Governor Haley, the SC Policy Council, and mainstream news media to inform the public about South Carolina's probate racket before it gets even worse than it already is.

What YOU can do:

>  Spread the word about the probate/trust racket. Most folks don't find out about the attorney-generated horrors of probate until they are struggling through the bereavement process, and shock value is a key part of the effort to browbeat people into hiring a probate attorney.

>  If you need help with non-probate matters, avoid using attorneys who advertise that they specialize in probate. Many attorneys refuse to get involved in the probate racket, and one of them told me with a wink, "It's a 'highly specialized' area of law."

>  Refuse to be bullied by the attorney-generated horrors of probate into paying attorneys to set up trusts. Probate is financed with tax dollars, and should be an inexpensive, viable alternative to setting up trusts. Executors (now called Personal Representatives) shouldn't need a law degree to probate an inheritance.

>  Cut costs by downloading your own estate documents - especially wills - from the Internet. Paying probate attorneys outlandish fees to "draw up a will" is risky business, because attorney-legislators have a vested interest in nullifying wills.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A closer look at Lexington County Probate Court

Self-serving slobs - er I mean attorneys - in the legislature have passed a law prohibiting probate court personnel from giving "legal advice." Kinda vague, but the message is clear: "Drum up as much business as possible for probate attorneys."

Summary of my situation

I initially telephoned Lexington County Probate Court and was told that my mother's will was no longer valid, and I would have to contact an attorney. I told them I wanted to act as my own attorney and was told that I couldn't do so.

I then contacted the attorney who drew up my mother's will. He no longer handled probate matters, and referred me to an attorney in Richland County who offered to resolve my mother's will for $1,800 and my dad's for an additional $700 (I should be able to probate my dad's will myself, but my mother's will has to be probated first). When asked, he said I could represent myself in resolving my mother's will, but he "wouldn't recommend it."

Next, I visited the probate court with my mother's will, explained that an attorney had told me I could represent myself, and was nonetheless again instructed to see an attorney, and I was given a couple of phone numbers for lawyer referral services. And... I was strongly advised to see an attorney in Lexington County.

Right. If yer gonna force folks to hire an attorney, it might as well be one in the county the court is located in.

After I persisted in requesting to represent myself, mention was made of a "Determination of Heirs," the fact that the court had no forms relevant to this, and that in addition to preparing legal documents, there was some sort of requirement that I run a few newspaper ads. Later, I telephoned the court and asked for a standard packet of forms. I noticed a place to explain facts justifying "Tardy Probate," so I went ahead and completed the first form - an application to be appointed personal representative of my mother's estate - had it notarized, and took it to the court...

But alas. The notarized application to be appointed personal representative of my mother's estate - which shouldn't have been necessary anyway since I was named Executor in her will - was refused. I was told that "an attorney will have to be involved," and when I asked court personnel to provide that in writing, my request was refused. Twice.

So I consulted an attorney in Lexington County. In fact, I consulted an attorney in the law offices of my district's senator - and probate attorney - Nikki Setzler. Not that Senator Setzler might conceivably have a conflict of interest when it comes to legislation aimed at simplifying the probate process, but his guy wanted $1,500 plus $275 per hour to probate my mother's estate.

Shortly thereafter, I contacted my district's House representative Kenny Bingham to see if any efforts were underway to eliminate South Carolina's time limit for probating wills, and that led to a bill giving probate courts discretion. The bill remains in committee, but at least it's a start in addressing the probate/trust racket in South Carolina.

Probate racketeering is taking place all across America, and it's the product of a brain-dead, cowardly public that tolerates anything special interests dish out. For anyone out there who still has a sense of fundamental decency and is willing to act on it, here are a few suggestions:

What YOU can do:

>  Spread the word about the probate/trust racket. Most folks don't find out about the attorney-generated horrors of probate until they are struggling through the bereavement process, and shock value is a key part of the effort to browbeat people into hiring a probate attorney.

>  If you need help with non-probate matters, avoid using attorneys who advertise that they specialize in probate. Many attorneys refuse to get involved in the probate racket, and one of them told me with a wink, "It's a 'highly specialized' area of law."

>  Refuse to be bullied by the attorney-generated horrors of probate into paying attorneys to set up trusts. Probate is financed with tax dollars, and should be an inexpensive, viable alternative to setting up trusts. Executors (now called Personal Representatives) shouldn't need a law degree to probate an inheritance.

>  Cut costs by downloading your own estate documents - especially wills - from the Internet. Paying probate attorneys outlandish fees to "draw up a will" is risky business, because attorney-legislators have a vested interest in nullifying wills.

Update 5/13/2016 - Monday of this week, I sent an e-mail to Senator Setzler, asking what he's done, or plans to do, to simplify South Carolina's probate process, and I encouraged him to support Kenny Bingham's efforts. I'm unaware of any response from Senator Setzler. Stay tuned.

Update 5/21/2016 - Still can't find any response from Senator Setzler. 'Course, I realize that probate attorneys in SC must be very busy these days...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bill to help victims of 10 yr limit on wills inexcusably delayed

Update 5/13/2016 - I inquired, and attorney Emma Dean says the bill remains in the Judiciary Committee - it's now been there over a month - and I "will be notified IF (emphasis mine) it receives a hearing." If the bill doesn't pass during the current legislative session, it will have to be reintroduced next session. Looks like a case of "too little, too late." 

It's not as though the bill makes any earthshaking changes. All it does is give probate courts discretion in deciding whether to apply South Carolina's 10 year limit on probating wills.

The bill was introduced in the House April 12, 2016, and continues to "reside" in the Judiciary Committee. I understand the procedure, and that it takes time for a committee to examine a bill. But this bill is as simple and straightforward as it gets, the current legislative session ends in early June, and any delay is inexcusable. If those involved had the best interests of South Carolinians at heart, the bill would have been passed posthaste.

Point is, there was never a need to have time limits on wills. Many other states don't have such limits, neither should South Carolina. Time limits on wills serve the interests of nobody other than probate attorneys, many of whom have wormed their way into the South Carolina legislature and have turned the probate process into nothing more than a money-making racket.

I'll reiterate what I previously wrote:

It is becoming obvious that we now live in an oligarchy run by special interests. In South Carolina, we are confronted not only by the probate/trust racket, but also by a gang of "legislators" who won't repair the roads, waste tax dollars on roundabouts, and have turned a deaf ear to widespread public outrage over homeowners associations (HOAs).

Insofar as the probate/trust racket is concerned, here's what I think people should do:

>  Spread the word about the probate/trust racket. Most folks don't find out about the attorney-generated horrors of probate until they are struggling through the bereavement process, and shock value is a key part of the effort to browbeat people into hiring a probate attorney.

>  If you need help with non-probate matters, avoid using attorneys who advertise that they specialize in probate. Many attorneys refuse to get involved in the probate racket, and one of them told me with a wink, "It's a 'highly specialized' area of law."

>  Refuse to be bullied by the attorney-generated horrors of probate into paying attorneys to set up trusts. Probate is financed with tax dollars, and should be an inexpensive, viable alternative to setting up trusts. Executors (now called Personal Representatives) shouldn't need a law degree to probate an inheritance.

>  Cut costs by downloading your own estate documents - especially wills - from the Internet. Paying probate attorneys outlandish fees to "draw up a will" is risky business, because attorney-legislators have a vested interest in nullifying wills.

One thing's for sure:

Only a gang of subhuman monsters would line their own pockets by leveraging tax dollars to torment people struggling through the process of bereavement.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

THANK YOU, Ethics Chairman Kenny Bingham, for your bill regarding South Carolina's time limit on wills.

Update 6/3/2016 - I've decided to re-publish a previous post regarding events leading up to the publication of this post.

I e-mailed Kenneth A. "Kenny" Bingham (House Representative for my district, and chairman of the Ethics Committee), asking if any efforts were underway to eliminate placing time limits on wills, and I mentioned that many states had no limits. He e-mailed back immediately, asking for specifics regarding my situation. Here's a copy of my reply:

Dear Mr. Bingham,

Many thanks for your interest and your efforts.

I'm an only child, sole heir, age 70, and have lived in South Carolina most of my life. My mother died in 2002 at age 86, a year after my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The property deed is in all three of our names (we each purchased a third), and each of us had wills leaving our share to each other and naming each other as executors. We all three lived at the residence since purchasing it in the late 70s, and all financial accounts were joint with right of survivorship.

When my mother died, I was devastated, but I was honored to accept full-time-care-giving-duties for my dad. I was totally unfamiliar with the probate process - all relatives are in distant states out west - and I could discern no immediate reason to have my mother's will probated. To the best of my knowledge, the matter involved no time limits and could be resolved by little more than taking death certificates to the Register of Deeds. In 2010, my dad died at home at age 92.

Several years after my dad died, I contacted Lexington County Probate Court and was told that my mother's will was no longer valid and I would have to hire a lawyer. I was told that I could not represent myself in the matter - something I now know is technically incorrect, but intestate requirements (Determination of Heirs) are indeed beyond the expertise of most folks. Attorney fees to resolve my situation are in the $2,000 range, and as you may imagine, I have been in quite a quandary regarding how to proceed.

I think my situation demonstrates that each case is unique. This is no doubt why other states - including Florida, Virginia, and Oregon - have no time limits, and why Pennsylvania has a limit of 21 years. Everyone I've spoken with is unaware of South Carolina's current 10-year limit and is shocked and dismayed to learn of it. I don't think South Carolina had any such limits prior to 1986.

Any assistance you can offer will be deeply appreciated.

Sincerely,

Parris Boyd

Chairman Bingham referred me to Emma Dean, an attorney who works with the House Judiciary Committee, and the two of them prepared a bill aimed at helping me, and people in situations similar to mine. Chairman Binghams's bill has now been submitted to the Judiciary Committee.

Saying that I appreciate the efforts of Chairman Bingham and attorney Dean is certainly an understatement. I hope the South Carolina legislature will pass Chairman Bingham's bill without delay.