Law Office of Mark J. Albrechta

Practicing Preventative Law

Public Beware!

Impasse!

Many of the clients for whom I prepare wills ask me if they should appoint both of their children or 2 people as Personal Representatives of their estate. I always recommend against appointing an even number of Personal Representatives because of the potential deadlock that would occur if both of the Personal Representatives do not agree. I usually recommend appointing just one Personal Representative (PR) at a time, with alternates, because of the extra cost and expense required by having to contact multiple Personal Representatives and having obtain the permission or approval of the majority to act.

Recently, I was retained in a case where Mom had named her son and daughter as alternate Co-Personal Representatives (Co-PRs), and the original PR had refused to accept the appointment. Son and daughter did not get along very well, even before being appointed as Co-PRs. Matters got worse after their appointment. They had much difficulty agreeing on anything. Thus, almost any action required running to the court for a ruling from the judge. Each of them had to hire their own attorney to represent them, because they could not get along and could not agree. In just 6 weeks of handling the case, I spent over 44 hours handling matters in the case. This was a very expensive proposition. Both of them ended up incurring over $10,000.00 in attorney’s fees for their respective representations. Numerous court hearings had to be held to obtain resolutions of, in some instances, even routine matters.

Clients have expressed a desire to appoint multiple PRs, because they do not want to hurt the feelings of their children or other relatives. That is not a good reason to do it. I advise my clients to pick the one child or relative that they believe has the best business mind or is the most level-headed as the first PR. Then, name the next child or relative as the first alternate, the next child or relative as the second alternate, etc. Doing this will facilitate a quicker resolution of the estate and distribution of the property. Ultimately, it will reduce the cost of the probate administration that the estate will have to bear.

 

That Property is not yours.

Rick owned a piece of property. Rick died without a will. Sometime after Rick's death, his sister, Sue, believing that the property was hers, hired an attorney to prepare a Quit Claim Deed and sold the property to Allen. No title search was done at the time of the sale to Allen. When Rick died, he was survived by 6 brothers and sisters and his father and mother. Rick had never married and had no children. A few years after Rick died, his father died. Sometime after having "bought" the property, Allen then sought to re-finance the property. But, there were several problems with this situation which delayed the refinancing.

The major problem that Allen faced is that Sue did not own the property when she sold it to Allen. How Sue came to the conclusion that she owned the property and had the legal right to sell the property is a mystery.

Under Florida law, when Rick died without a will, without a spouse, and without children, the property became the asset of Rick's mom and dad in equal shares. The brothers and sisters would not become the owners of the property, unless both mom and dad had died before Rick died. And then all six of the brothers and sisters would own the property in equal shares.

Dad also died without a will and nothing was done with his estate. Now, because of the actions of Sue and the inaction of Rick's mom and dad, 2 estates need to be probated to clean up the mess Sue inadvertantly created with the title.

The first lesson is: consult a lawyer about your ownership and your rights before deeding property that you believe you have inherited.

The second lesson is: make sure you have prepared your will, and if you already have a will, it may be time to have it reviewed by an attorney.

 

Widow Scammed by Fake Bank Official

There are some very slick scam artists out there. Widow's husband had died a couple months before this incident. One day, Widow received a call from an individual who claimed to be a bank officer with a major bank. The Bank Officer advised Widow that they were investigating an inside job involving the theft of money in the accounts of other widows and needed Widow's help to catch the thieves. Widow was instructed to go to the bank, make a check out to "cash" in the amount of $6,800.00, speak to no one about it (because they may be a participant in the inside thefts), and then, meet the Bank Officer at a nearby grocery store parking lot to give him the cash. Widow was told that the money was needed to fund the investigation. The Bank Office insisted that Widow get the money and meet him in 10 minutes. The Bank Officer assured Widow that she would get her money back after the thieves were caught.

Widow then received a call from another person who claimed to be a Lieutenant with the local police department. The Lieutenant called to verify the information that Bank Officer had discussed with Widow and that Widow was going to meet Bank Officer with the cash.  Lieutenant also told Widow that he would not be present when the money was turned over, but was monitoring the situation.

Widow went to the bank, withdrew the cash as instructed, and met with Bank Officer as directed.

After she turned over the money and returned home, Widow received another call from Bank Officer. Bank Officer indicated that a mistake had been made about the branch that was involved in the theft investigation, that more money was needed, and Widow needed to meet him, again, with more cash. At this point, Widow became suspicious and afraid and called the police.

Widow lost the cash. Fortunately, that is all she lost.

The lessons as I see it:

First, bank officials would not be calling customers to assist with internal investigations like this. Their security officials would be working directly with law enforcement officials. Undercover officers would be used. Customers would not be involved. Law Enforcement sources tell me that Bankers will never involve a customer in ANY INVESTIGATION. That's law enforcement's job. Law Enforcement does these investigations all the time. Law Enforcement NEVER involve or use a customer to try to catch the thief. That's what plain clothes law enforcement officers are for. Immediately, call law enforcement to report the contact.

Second, DO NOT do what the caller asks. My Law Enforcement sources indicate that the customer should NEVER make a check or make a withdrawal for anyone the customer doesn't know or to whom the customer owes money.

Third, be suspicious of unusual requests, like "speak to no one about this matter." Law Enforcement sources state that the direction to "speak to no one" is what they call a CLUE or a FLAG that indcates it is a scam.

Fourth, if you receive a call like this, try to get as much information about the caller as you can.  Tell them that you will cooperate. Law Enforcement sources caution, however, that phone calls and business cards do NOT identify anyone! You should keep a log if you have caller ID of phone calls and numbers of suspicious calls to assist law enforcement. The only good information that you'll probably get is the phone number the call came from, if you have caller ID. Call law enforcement immediately! Law enforcement will take over from there and possibly go to make the "drop" themselves to make contact with the caller.

Fifth, do not volunteer any information about yourself or your situation. End the call as quickly as you can, and then, immediately call law enforcement to report the contact. Give them all the information you have obtained.

According to some of my Law Enforcement sources, doing anything else may tip off the caller.

Once tipped off, they may never show up, especially if they think law enforcement has been contacted. Just call law enforcement and they'll take over the rest.

After you have called done the above, there are some other things you could do.

Take names. Insist upon names, and other identifying information about the persons calling. If they are legitimate, they will provide that information. For the bank officer, ask for his full name, his direct phone number, his supervisor's name and the supervisor's direct phone number. For the law enforcement officer, ask for his full name, his badge number, his division, his direct phone number, and his supervisor's name and direct phone number. Immediately call law enforcement to report the contact and give them all the information you have been able to obtain.

Finally, you need to be cautious. It is highly likely that these people have been following and tracking you to get information to convince you to get involved in this scam. Thus, they know where you live. They may know some of you daily habits. They may know where you go to shop, etc. They have probably seen the funeral announcement in the newspaper. So, if they are deperate or brazen, they may show up at your door, hoping to convince you to give them the money. If someone shows at the door who you do not know, do not let them in, and call 911, immediately.

 

Jury Duty Scam

This is quoted from an article at Snopes.com.

Here's a new twist scammers are using to commit identity theft: the jury duty scam. Here's how it works:

The scammer calls claiming to work for the local court and claims you've failed to report for jury duty. He tells you that a warrant has been issued for your arrest. The victim will often rightly claim they never received the jury duty notification. The scammer then asks the victim for confidential information for "verification" purposes.

Specifically, the scammer asks for the victim's Social Security number, birth date, and sometimes even for credit card numbers and other private information — exactly what the scammer needs to commit identity theft.

So far, this jury duty scam has been reported in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington state.

It's easy to see why this works. The victim is clearly caught off guard, and is understandably upset at the prospect of a warrant being issued for his or her arrest. So, the victim is much less likely to be vigilant about protecting their confidential information.

In reality, court workers will never call you to ask for social security numbers and other private information. In fact, most courts follow up via snail mail and rarely, if ever, call prospective jurors.

Action: Never give out your Social Security number, credit card numbers or other personal confidential information when you receive a telephone call.

This jury duty scam is the latest in a series of identity theft scams where scammers use the phone to try to get people to reveal their Social Security number, credit card numbers or other personal confidential information.

It doesn't matter *why* they are calling — all the reasons are just different variants of the same scam.

Protecting yourself is simple: Never give this info out when you receive a phone call.