“basically the system tends to rape and pillage the estates of deceased persons for their own selfish uses and the families and beneficiaries end up with a very small amount of what was intended for them. It happens all the time.
Detroit Attorney Steven Cohen
I wanted to pick up on a few themes that we’ve previously discussed in this blog. The first is the importance of choosing your Executor, and the second is the fees charged by legal professionals. To illustrate these points, we are referencing the estate of Rosa Parks. The attorney representing the beneficiaries is currently suing the court appointed trustees for the whittling away of assets in legal fees.
What makes it interesting is that the judge presiding over the handling of the estate is being sued in his own courtroom as well as the judge’s friends (““I’ve known both of these gentlemen for close to the 37 years, I would trust them with my personal matters,”) who were appointed the trustees. Why? because the estate has allegedly paid these two attorneys a total of $595,000 for their work to wind up the estate, and the costs are ongoing. Furthermore, it seems that the judge is allegedly signing off on all of the expenses without any scrutiny whatsoever. According to the Attorney who is suing the judge and trustees, the accused were
“double, triple and quadruple billing practices to falsely inflate the administrative and attorney fees.It was nothing more than a concerted plan to raid and bankrupt the estate of a revered civil rights icon for improper and selfish financial interests,”
As always, there are lessons to be learned in this fiasco. If the accusations turn out to be true, it makes me very angry as I have personally dealt with lawyers who outrageously overcharged to administer an estate. Remember, according to a recent study, 19% of lawyers write themselves into a Will as the Executor. They know that doing this can be extremely lucrative. Often times the job of an Executor is not particularly time consuming or difficult (sometimes it is, but often it is not), so taking 5% of the value of the estate in fees is approaching thievery. We gave some recommendations in a previous article for selecting an Executor, and in most cases, to protect the value of an estate, we would suggest that you consider keeping the appointment within the family unless you have very complicated financial affairs.
The most important lesson though is to write your Will and name your Executor. We wrote in a previous article about how Bernie Madoff’s son died and had named his father as Executor of the estate. His father however, was not able to perform his duties as he was serving time in jail. There are many reasons why your first choice Executor may not be able to perform their duties, and if you do not have an alternate, then the courts will appoint one for you.
The most important message is that you should make every effort to protect your assets so that they end up in the hands of your family and loves ones and not enriching the members of the legal profession. You can do this quickly and easily by using one of the services at LegalWills.ca, USLegalWills.com and LegalWills.co.uk. Write your Will yourself, name a family member as your Executor, and all of your assets will stay in your family. One thing is for certain, if Rosa Park’s estate can be looted by judges and lawyers, yours can too.