I want to thank you for your assistance in helping me decide which course of action to take in the matter I presented to you in the chat room and this message board. You provided me with answers in reference to the legal terminology (i.e., Renunciation of Letters of Administration and Waiver of Process) that I have been waiting for my brother's attorney to explain to me.
I called him over a week ago to ask him to explain the document to me, but I found myself talking to his voicemail, and he has not returned my call. Therefore, I found myself searching the Internet trying to teach myself in one to two weeks the aspects of law that I needed to know in order to make an informed decision. It would have been much less time-cosuming if the attorney would have returned my phone call and explained the document he sent to me to sign.
Since I do not have any cause to believe that he is less than a highly-qualified attorney, I can only assume that the reason he has not returned my phone call is because he has no client/attorney relationship with me, which means that he has no obligation to return my phone call. That is fine because I have no client/attorney relationship with him. I have no dispute with the attorney. He is merely doing his job, and it is clear that his job is to represent my brother, since my brother is the person who retained him as counsel.
In other words, it seems to me that there is an adversarial relationship between my brother and myself in terms of the probate of my father's estate. I am not sure that my brother was aware that he alienated himself from our other brother and myself when he decided to involve us in an estate settlement in which neither one of us thought we would be involved because neither one of us has seen our recently deceased father since we were in our early teens.
It feels very emotionally stressing to be suddenly thrust, after almost forty years, back into my father's life after he is dead. It feels very weird to be essentially arguing with a dead man over his worldly possessions, especially since I want no part in the dispute. It is strange how ghosts from the past can appear in the least expected place--Surrogate's Court. I have heard of the legal nightmares and family disputes that occur due to probate proceedings, but I never thought I would find myself in such a situation over the estate of a person, my father, whom I consider a total stranger. It also is strange how the legal process, which is meant to provide justice to people who has been underserved in that area, protects those who have been underserved, whether the undeserved want protection or not.
Basically, my brother should have left things alone and accepted the inheritance that was given to him in our father's will. By involving my other brother and myself without our knowledge or consent in a probate proceeding for reasons unknown to us, he has complicated an estate settlement that should have been quite simple. He should have taken the money and run. I would not have cared in the least. There was a will, and my brother, the sole beneficiary named in that will, is the person who chose to say the will was invalid. That leads me to believe something is not quite kosher. And, quite frankly, I do not sign my name to any document that invloves me in something that seems not quite right.
Immediately following this paragrah, I have inserted the text of the email that my brother sent to me as an explanation of why I should sign the document. It seems like a lot of double talk to me, especially since some of what he says is not true. For instance, he says he called my other brother and myself about this issue in November. My other brother and I both seem to have sudden cases of amnesia concerning a phone call related to this issue, or our brother is playing us;. I do not care to be played, and I am wary of anyone who makes an attempt to play me. It is a shame that my own brother seems to be the one who is playing me.
In my brother's own words, including his own grammar:
"I did not intend to offend you but simply was trying to understand your objection to [half-siblings] becoming administrators of Dads estate. I hired the lawyer to close dads’ affairs and am attempting to close the estate as inexpensively as possible. Dads’ estate amounts to property worth about $20,000, a bank account of $1,300 and an insurance policy of $10,000. To date funeral and lawyer cost have exceed $10,000 and property taxes of about $2,000 have been paid. Medical bills have yet to be paid and the hospital has not yet filed a claim against the estate. They will have 7 months from the time the estate is filed to place a lien. If we close the estate before they file they are prevented from filing a lien.
When we spoke in November you indicated that you had no objection to [half-siblings] receiving the estate. Dads’ will named me as beneficiary to his estate and as guardian for [half-siblings]. Since they are now both of legal age it was more cost effective to name them directly as administrators. By doing so they become responsible for all expenses associated with the estate. Prolonging the closure of the estate will double the legal fees and give creditors an opportunity to place a lien on the estate. If this happens the entire estate will be lost to creditors and there will be nothing left.
The form that was sent to you was to confirm our conversation of last November. It is simply a form that allows the estate to be transferred to [half-siblings] without implementing the will. If we must implement the will, Dads’ estate will be placed in my name and I will sign it over to [half-siblings]. The only one that will benefit are the lawyers and creditors.
Please reevaluate your decision to sign the renunciation form. There is no real value to this estate and it is in everyone’s best interest to close this as soon as possible."
There are many flaws in my brother's argument. For starters, his math is off or the property taxes for a very small house supposedly valued at $20,000 in the middle of nohwere in Upstate New York are exceedingly high. I recently got my own tax assessment for my very comfortable and spacious home here in Virginia, and my property taxes for this house are in the same ballpark as those of my father's small house in Upstate New York. Either I am getting a very good deal on my taxes or my father's house is not as small as my brother says it is. I have never seen it, and I do not even know the address in order to look it up on the publicly available tax assessment records.
Also, my brother claimed during a phone call that the attorney fees he has already paid are almost $6,000 and expects them to go higher. That seems to be an outrageous amount of money to pay an attorney for such a small estate settlement. I do not believe an attorney in good standing in the legal community would jeopardize his good standing by charging more than the going rate. I have no reason to believe the attorney is robbing the grave of a poor man. I have more reason to believe that he has charged a reasonable fee that correlates directly with the laws that govern atorney's fees in probate proceedings. He is too well established as an attorney to throw his career away for a client he does not know except through this probate issue. His bio is available on the Internet, and I find no reason to doubt his qualifications or ethics.
All in all, my brother is not able (or willing) to provide my other brother and myself consistent or logical information. "Something is rotten in Denmark" (Shakespeare). Please excuse the quote and the long-winded message. I am a former English professor and have a habit of doing both at times. It is disconcerting to know that I will be receiving a citation from the Surrogate's Court for not wanting to participate in something that smells rotten.
I have a strong feeling that I may need to retain an attorney of my own sometime in the near future because my brother just does not know when to leave things alone. He likes to get his way, and he has a history of using the legal community in his many failed attempts to get his way.
I, on the other hand, hold a United States Government Secret Security Clearance, which means that I undergo extensive background investigations routinely and successfully. My integrity is unquestionably outstanding, according to the Department of Defense. (Oh, besides being a former English professor, I am also a former Marine and DoD employee.)
My persistence in putting this seemingly small issue on the table for discussion with anyone who might be interested in a dialogue about this issue is due to my need to ensure that my integrity is not brought into question by the actions of my brother. I will lose a lot more than my Veterans Administration medical benefits. I will lose my security clearance, and any hope of being rehired for a DoD contractor position that I left recently in order to get some rest and medical care at the VA hospital. I do not want my brother to make trouble for me. He is short-sighted, and I have no idea what he is doing. I only know that he has gotten me involved in something that I question.
Now seems like a good time for me to be shopping for an attorney. I anticipate a need to counter sue a person, my brother, who has a history of suing people who resist him. I have no intention of taking the first legal step, but I also have no desire to be caught unprepared when or if he does take that first legal step against me for not signing that document.
If you read this message, I want to thank you for taking the time to do so.