Monday, April 18, 2016

Legal Aid? No, Mr. "Ethics" Chairman. What I need is a government with fundamental decency.

Update 6/3/2016 - On 4/20/16, bewildered by the strange sequence of events, I removed this post. I've decided to re-publish it, along with a detailed explanation of what happened. 

I first contacted Kenny Bingham on 2/25/16, and received the insulting "legal aid" e-mail from Emma Dean (copy to Kenny) on 3/15/16. I immediately replied that I didn't qualify for legal aid. On 3/29/16, I asked attorney Dean for the status of Rep. Bingham's bill, and got no reply. On 4/4/16, having heard nothing from attorney Dean, I published this blog, and on 4/5/16, I sent a blog link to attorney Dean (copy to Kenny Bingham). 

I heard nothing more from attorney Dean until 4/20/16, which was two days after this post was publicized on Blogger, Facebook, and Twitter, including links to Governor Haley, and the blog had received over 200 visits. On 4/20/16 at 8:37 AM, I received an e-mail from attorney Dean informing me that Kenny Bingham's bill had been submitted to the House Judiciary Committee on 4/12/16. Bewildered, but willing to give them the benefit of a doubt, I then removed this post and published a post thanking Chairman Bingham and attorney Dean for their efforts.

There seems to be a concerted effort - from the legislature to mainstream media - to "keep it quiet" regarding anything relevant to South Carolina's probate/trust racket. 

Before publishing this blog, 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. I mentioned that many states had no limits, and he asked 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.


Parris Boyd

The "ethics" chairman referred me to Emma Dean, an attorney (of course), and the two of them put on an award-winning "we'll-try-to- help" performance that would have made any politician proud. Their "encouraging" e-mails went on for about two and a half weeks, suddenly culminating in an absurd and insulting e-mail from attorney Dean (copy to Kenny) suggesting that I contact legal aid services to see if I qualified. This was followed by their refusal to reply to any of my subsequent e-mails.

Perhaps the "ethics" chairman and attorney Dean were offended that anyone would dare to address the nonsensical nature of placing time limits on wills, and the outlandish fees probate attorneys are raking in to "resolve" such matters.

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).

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.

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 an 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. Heirs 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.

>  Last - and what certainly shouldn't be least (but probably is) - send "your representatives" an e-mail expressing your sentiments about the probate/trust racket.