Monday, May 23, 2016

Maybe Senator Setzler didn't get my email...

Update 4/25/2017 - The senator's CONFLICT OF INTEREST (he derives income from his probate-dealing law firm) has now been exposed.

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.

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.

>  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.

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.