Trust the courts?? Do yourself a favor, hire a probate attorney today!
Recently, an audit of a probate court in one state uncovered an unprecedented, shocking discovery of the court's failure to lawfully enact on policies that are necessary to regulate laws regarding many matters of probate, guardianship and conservatorship. No one was exempt from the faulty, incompetent, management that occurred in that state, as adults as well as children were all among those left unprotected as a result of the neglectful incompetence.
Reports that were analyzed indicates that the underlying fundamental issue at hand was that the court's negligence or inability to notify the individuals deemed as guardians or conservators of essential information and their legal responsibilities required of them was the problem. Therefore, there was virtually no way for them to know that the assets and wellbeing of those who entrusted their financial livelihoods to them were now of their responsibility. For example, one man was not notified of his guardianship responsibilities for a decade, simply because the probate courts in his state never reached out to contact him. Another case showcased the courts' failures by exposing the fact that a deceased person's death in 2003 went completely unnoticed until auditors reached out to the court to request information about the lack of financial reports on this file regarding the case.
In these examples, all aspects of the estates, finances and assets of the individuals were left unnoticed, unprotected and didn’t exist because that states’ court officials failed to live up to their duties and the responsibilities of their job.
Here’s the question: How many more instances of this type of lapse have gone undocumented?
The answer to that question can be somewhat surmised by a random audit that was done. Out of 55 different cases, state officials discovered examples as shocking as that of a conservator who spent more than 400% of a person's financial plan estimations. In another case, one individual spent almost $1,000 of the amount estimated in a "protected" individual's financial plan at several retail stores without so much as the blink of an eye. More evidence arose to shed light on the damage that can be done when courts do not live up to their expected job duties.
The outlandish results of the audit only becomes more overwhelming when you hear about state courts' practice of occasionally choosing to forego the required background checks that are supposed to be conducted on a potential conservator or guardian. In one instance, over $2 million was stolen from the estate of one individual who entrusted the wellbeing of their finances to a person whom they believed the courts had pre-approved the individual as responsible and trustworthy. Their trust was misplaced on many levels, for not only were they betrayed by a person on whom they believed they could rely, they were further betrayed by a state legal system meant to provide security and unquestionable trust you should be able to rely on.
Probate courts are meant by design to appoint and monitor conservators and guardians to those unable to do so themselves. This may apply to young children, sickly adults or the elderly, but no matter what the need for legal intervention may be, people expect that it is being done properly and reliably. They entrust in the court to do their job.
In the case of this of the examples spoken of, this could not be further from the truth.
More cases that were documented shed light on just how much damage can be done by lack of attention and/or disregard of mandatory reporting and follow-up requirements. However, they are hardly necessary when the message has already come across loud and clear: In some cases, probate courts cannot be trusted.
For individuals who have recently lost a loved one, there is nothing more important than finding a qualified and reputable probate attorney to attend to the legal matters that follow the passing of an individual. Just as Divorce counselors practice family law, probate lawyers specialize in this area. Most importantly, they have the experience and knowledge to assist you with every step of this process that often can be overwhelming. While it might feel as if the last thing you want to do is further explore the depths of what this passing means for you and your family, if left unattended there is no telling what the courts will – or won’t – do on your behalf. Taking action to ensure that probate defense is on your side is one the most important responsibilities after a death and one that can clearly be handled much more professionally and responsibly than some courts. Contact a probate lawyer in your area from our directory today!
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.