Tuesday, April 26, 2016

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

Update 1/20/2017 - Rep. Bingham has retired, and I've heard nothing further about the bill he introduced.

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).

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 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.

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.

Update 1/20/2017 - All for naught. Chairman Bingham retired last year, and I've heard nothing further about the bill he introduced.

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.

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 more 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 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. I then 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.

Sincerely,

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.

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.

Monday, April 4, 2016

10 year limit for probating wills is one of many horrors facing heirs

"In most areas of this country, the probate process is a scandal, a form of tribute levied by the legal profession upon the estates of its victims both living and dead." - editorial by Norman F. Dacey, author of How to Avoid Probate. (Updated in 1984 and 1990)

It's been kept remarkably quiet - everyone I've mentioned it to is shocked and dismayed - but South Carolina has a 10 year limit - beginning on a decedent's date of death - for probating a will. The law allows no exceptions and was passed in 1986, the year the legislature ushered in a slew of lawyer-serving complexities - effective 7/1/87 - for anyone attempting to claim an inheritance. Enter a sadistic little "gotcha" game, whereby unsuspecting heirs are told that a decedent's will is no longer valid, "Deeming" a decedent to have died without a will opens up a lawyer's smorgasbord of legal complexities, including court appearances, court fees, intricate filing requirements (ever tried filing a lis pendens with a circuit court?), and the preparation of documents you won't find on the Internet. The matter - petitioning the Court for a Determination of Heirs - is suddenly beyond the expertise of most folks, and attorney fees to settle the simplest of such situations are in the $2,000 range. After considering what's involved - make a mistake and the entire process starts over again - if you still dare to attempt to exercise your right to represent yourself, don't be surprised if you're pressured by court personnel to hire an attorney.

The 10-year scam - many states (including Florida, Oregon, and Virginia) have no time limits for probating wills, and Pennsylvania has a limit of 21 years - is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to legislation promoting the interests of attorneys. Lexington County affords a good example. People attempting to probate estates - even if there's a will - are immediately clobbered with thick packets of multi-colored forms that are written in legalese, demand mind-boggling detail (the "Inventory and Appraisement" form, for example, is a product of the SC Tax Commission) and each form has to be notarized. You may be hit with additional forms depending on your situation. Miss any filing deadlines, and an Executor (now called a Personal Representative) is subject to paying penalties. A person must even file a written, notarized application to be appointed Personal Representative regardless of whether or not the person is named Executor or Personal Representative in a will. Here again, if you make an error on any of the forms, the entire form must be filled out again and notarized. The "message," of course, is to hire an attorney, and to drive the point home, each form has a place for an attorney's signature. If you go that route, even for the simplest of cases, prepare to shell out in the vicinity of $700.

Don't think you'll escape the probate nightmare simply because the names of heirs are listed on a real estate deed. A Supreme Court decision closed that threat to the probate process. If your deed doesn't include the phrase "with right of survivorship" or similar language, you're out of luck. J. Kristi Hood, author of Probate Pirates, sums things up in her title to chapter one: "It's all about the money all of the time."

In past years, probating an inheritance in South Carolina was relatively simple, but now the process averages an entire year. Some estates have allegedly been tied up in probate for 10 years and are still unresolvedAs for trusts, they've been turned into yet another money-making scheme for lawyers offering to "protect" consumers from the "horrors of probate." Talk about a racket. In his book, "Of the Sharks, By the Sharks, For the Sharks - The Death of Justice," Paul Sharp offers an apt summary regarding Trusts. As things now stand in South Carolina, the "probate pirates" have "gotcha" one way or the other.

Meanwhile, Ashley Landess, president of the South Carolina Policy Council bemoans the "cozy relationship" between legislators and judges, calling South Carolina "the most corrupt state in the country," and allegations of public corruption in the SC General Assembly are making headlines.

Remember: YOUR TAX DOLLARS pay for probate, and it should be an inexpensive, viable alternative to setting up trusts.

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 4/5/2016 - A million thanks to the many folks who signaled their support as I picketed in front of Lexington County Probate Court yesterday afternoon. Probate rackets exploit the vulnerabilities of people struggling through the bereavement process, which is why these scams usually fly "under the radar" of public scrutiny.

Update 4/8/2016 - Thanks to everyone who offered support as I picketed again yesterday.