Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
Thank you so much for using JustAnswer.com. I truly aim to please you as a customer, but please keep in mind that I do not know what you already know or don't know, or with what you need help, unless you tell me. If I did not answer the question you thought you were asking, please respond with the specific question you wanted answered. PLEASE use REPLY to EXPERT if you would like more information or if you feel something was not included in your answer.
Kindly remember the ONLY WAY experts receive any credit at all for spending time with customers is if you click on OK, GOOD or EXCELLENT SERVICE even though you have made a deposit or are a subscription customer. YOU MUST COMPLETE THE RATING FOR THE EXPERT TO XXXXX CREDIT, if not the site keeps your money on deposit.
Also remember, sometimes the law does not support what we want it to support, but that is not the fault of the person answering the question, so please be courteous.
We are wondering whether the lawyer has given him/herslf extraordinary powers when she prepared the will with my brother and sister in law (brother died in Dec 2012, sister in law inApril 2013). We wonder whether these are standard clauses in the will. Could we forward a copy of the will of the sister in law, and a letter from the lawyer to review? What might that cost?
I can upload docs to a password protected site.
I am not clear on the procedure for billing etc. Should I take out the justanswer service for a month and ask the question in that context, or would this go beyond that and require separate billing?
OK, I took out a subscription, but have had some difficulty setting a username etc. I contacted the service via e-mail. In the meantime, I want to go ahead and upload the docs etc. Is it OK that they have specific names etc in them or should those be deleted?
Ok I have taken out the subscription, but understand that additional charges might be appropriate cf the clause "Use of this service does not create any attorney client relationship. Information provided is not the practice of law but intended to direct you in finding an attorney in your locale." I guess we proceed with you in Trust both ways for now.
I have extracted key clauses from the will and copied them below, with two questions. Basically we want to get some sense whether The Lawyer who is acting as executor is taking unusual liberties in her role as executor and paid lawyer.
THE CONTEXT: The Lawyer was made executor of the estate and wrote the will which my brother and my sister in law (XXX) signed. They were both quite old at the time and did not understand English well. My brother died in Dec., my sister in law in April.
The estate was left by XXX to two beneficiaries, myself and a niece of XXX.
There is some suspicion that some valuables were stolen from the estate in the days after XXX died, and The Lawyer has told us in a letter that she is pursuing that issue.
While we concur that some valuables may have been stolen, we are concerned that The Lawyer is using that issue as a way to charge a lot of $ to the estate and potentially considerably more than the valuables themselves might be worth if they were recovered, which we think unlikely. (The Lawyer does not mention reporting the matter to the police.) The Lawyer has told us verbally that she is in complete charge of managing how the estate is sold, our access to it etc.
In a letter (the only one) the lawyer wrote to us: "....As you are aware, I have been appointed Special Personal Representative of the Estate of XXXX in accordance with her wishes, as expressed in her duly executed Will.... It is my job to marshal her assets, pay her debts and the expenses of the estate and then distribute the assets of her estate in accordance with the provisions of her Will in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."
In the same letter she tells us that she is billing the estate $325.00 per hour "which is my customary and usual rate, in keeping with the rates of other attorneys in my area with my level of experience".. but gives no indication of chgarges to date and has not responded to a written request to tell us that, also to consult us ahead of time in matters where we might have some say in how the estate is dealt with. The Lawyer has been very difficult to contact, (We live in canada, the other benefiuciary lives in the U.S.)
Below are two clauses in the will of XXX.
OUR QUESTION #1, Are standard sorts of clauses or do they give the lawyer, as executor, unusual powers? (Might they be interpreted as Conflict of Interest in the event The Lawyer bills excessively and we appeal The Lawyer's role as executor?)
THIRD: I appoint my Husband, YYY, of TOWN, Massachusetts, to serve as executor of this will. If he fails or ceases to serve, I appoint ATTORNEY XXX to serve as executor in his place. I request that any executor be appointed temporary executor upon application therefore. I direct that the above-named and any other person appointed to serve as executor hereof or adlninistrator of my estate shall be exempt from giving any bond, or, if required to give bond, shall be exempt from furnishing any surety. References in this will to "executor" shall include any person or corporation administering my estate under this will.
In addition to all powers conferred by law or by other provisions of this will, my executor shall have the following powers without order or license of court: to retain for any period any property I may own at Iny death and to invest or reinvest in any property, even if any or all of the property retained or acquired is of a character or amount which would not ordinarily be considered suitable for fiduciary investment, and for reasonable periods to hold cash uninvested; to sell, exchange, lease and nlake contracts concelning real or personal property for such consideration and upon such terms as to credit or otherwise as my executor deen is advisable, which leases and contracts may extend beyond the term of the settllement of my estate; to give options, to execute and deliver any appropriate instrumentd; to discharge mortgages of record; to settle by compromise or arbitration or otherwise any claim or matter in dispute, and to concede or abandon any my executor does not consider worth pursuing; and, to tbe extent permitted by law applicable to my estate, to distribute any property payable to a minor beneficiary to the minor or any other person deemed suitable by the executor, and the receipt of any such distributee shall be sufficient evidence of the satisfaction of my executor's obligation.
The final page of the will is reproduced below with specific details generic.
THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF XXX
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
Town, ss January 25, 2010
On this the 25th day ofJanuary, 2010, before me the undersigned notary public, personally appeared XXX, the testator, and the witnesses respectively, and they all proved to me through satisfactory evidence of identification, which was my personal knowledge of them, to be the persons whose names are signed on the preceding or attached document, and acknowledged to me that each signed it voluntarily for its stated purpose.
Lawyer's name - Notary Public
My Comission Expires: Oct XXX, 2011
OUR QUESTION#2 - is there anything unusual in one lawyer drafting the will, being named as executor, and serving as the Notary Public for it?
DISCLAIMER: Answers from Experts on JustAnswer are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. JustAnswer is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Expert above is not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction to which your question pertains.
The responses above are from individual Experts, not JustAnswer. The site and services are provided “as is”. To view the verified credential of an Expert, click on the “Verified” symbol in the Expert’s profile. This site is not for emergency questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals. Please carefully read the Terms of Service (last updated February 8, 2012).