Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Senator Setzler can run, but he can't hide

You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Last year, I sent an email to the senator asking what he had done to simplify probate requirements, and I encouraged him to support Kenny Bingham's bill. After two weeks without a reply, I published a blog post, sent the senator a link to it, published the link on Twitter and Facebook, and made two appearances in front of the senator's law firm directing people to this blog. Almost immediately thereafter, I received the reply from Senator Setzler stating that he was "inclined to support Representative Bingham's bill."

Nice try at making it appear that you would like to help your constituents, Senator, but it was late in the 2016 legislative session, odds were overwhelmingly strong that Bingham's bill would never make it out of committee, and "Ethics" Chairman Bingham had announced his intention to retire. Bingham's bill was, as I noted in an update, too little too late, and of course Senator Setzler ignored those pesky questions I asked him in my blog post.

By the time Senator Setzler got around to replying to my email, the legislative gang's attitude toward victims of South Carolina's probate/trust racket had been underscored by the repulsive charade put on by "Ethics" Chairman Bingham and attorney Emma Dean of the House Judiciary Committee. Only the profoundest of clods would pull such a stunt.

The main interest in Bingham's bill seemed to be in making sure the bill was kept as quiet as possible.

This year, I decided to see just how sincere probate-attorney Setzler actually is about simplifying the probate code, and on 1/30/17 - over three weeks ago - I sent him an e-mail suggesting that he introduce a bill similar to Kenny Bingham's for the current legislative session. And wouldn't ya know it, just like last year, I have yet to find any replies from the senator.

Point is, nobody should have to prompt Senator Setzler to initiate efforts to clean up South Carolina's probate/trust racket. The senator - a career politician for 40 years - probably had a hand in initiating those attorney-serving complexities to the probate code, but regardless of his role at the time, Senator Setzler has had over 30 years to take action on behalf of the bereaved. I wonder if the senator ever saw fit to inform his constituents that the probate code had been turned into a money-making scheme for attorneys. It was a hoot the way the attorney I spoke with in Senator Setzler's law firm intimated that the 1986 revision to the probate code was done on behalf of the taxpaying public. Silence is indeed golden for the probate/trust racket.

Attorney-legislators must be dancing in the aisles now that the governorship has gone to one of their own. The state's new governor - Henry McMaster - is another career politician and former Attorney General who's already been embroiled in a scandal and who somehow forgot to mention the state's probate/trust racket in the much ballyhooed video he made upon taking office.

I understand this entire situation quite well, Senator Setzler. There you are a well-entrenched, career politician, and here I am, just a lowly constituent.

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.

3/14/2017 update: Interest in South Carolina's probate racket is increasing, and Senator Setzler's kind would never be elected if "news" organizations like WIS-10 did their job and informed the public about pertinent issues. Not a word from the "senator" re my 1/30/2017 e-mail.

3/10/2017 update: Twitter is blocking numerous tweets re Senator Setzler and the probate racket from appearing on my profile page, which tends to reduce the number of re-tweets. Please spread the word about Senator Setzler and the probate racket.

3/9/2017 update: Picketed across the street from Lexington County Probate Court for about 2 hrs starting around 12:30. FANTASTIC RESPONSE - THANKS A MILLION to everyone who signaled support. If you were one of quite a few that took a photo, it would be GREAT if you posted it on the Internet.

2/27/2017 update: Probate-attorney Setzler sure has gotten quiet about simplifying probate. How come, Tricky Nikki? The attorney I spoke with in your law firm certainly wasn't bashful about coming up with an exorbitant, open-ended fee ($1,500 up front plus $275 an hour) for services that never should have been required in the first place regarding my mother's will.

2/25/2017 update: Bicycling home yesterday, Sen. Setzler's law firm was on the way. Jus' COULDN'T RESIST standing in front of the joint for 15 mins protesting the probate racket.

2/24/2017 update: Another round of protesting in front of the State House as Senator Setzler clams up. MANY THANKS to all who signaled support and visited this blog. Today it was an ABC WOLO, "news" crew that drove by but declined to investigate. Never mind that their studio is directly across the street from the State House  Special interests have taken control of mainstream media. 

2/23/2017 update: Still no reply from Senator Setzler, and today I stood in front of the SC State House - where the senator is probably holed up - with a sign directing folks to this blog. Many thanks to all who signaled support, and it was a hoot watching an NBC WIS-10 "news" crew nonchalantly drive by, apparently knowing better than to investigate and submit a story.

2/21/2017 update: My pleasure to e-mail a link to this post to Senator Setzler and (via Twitter) to Governor McMaster.