I was in probate court the other day, waiting for my turn in front of the judge, The waiting was nothing new. For those of you who do not go to court on a regular basis, there is a lot of waiting. I usually bring something to work on (legal documents not cross stitching, although I have been tempted).
On that particular day, the judge I was supposed to be in front of was on vacation, and a different judge was filling in for her. This judge was determined to use the time when we were all waiting to deliver a message. Think of it this way, he had about thirty attorneys and some other people all sitting quietly with their cell phones turned off. Talk about your captive audiences!
For reasons only known to him, he decided to use his time to give us advice. And boy, did he have a lot of advice to give. I was only there for about 45 minutes, maybe an hour But, I received a lot of advice. He told us to spread the word and get the advice out to out friends, relatives and clients. So here it is, straight from the Probate bench to you:
- Write a will and be clear: Don’t assume that your family will agree, will understand or will work things out. If you want to avoid expenses and give a gift to your family, have a will in place. If you decide not to bother with a will, your loved ones will jam the courts with random issues and make attorneys wealthy.
- Avoid Probate: The courts are booked solid, the judges are overworked. The time, expense and frustration of Probate is almost always avoidable. Do yourself and your family a favor and get a plan in place that avoids probate. The money you spend avoiding probate, is a fraction of the money spent in probate.
- Don’t fight with your siblings: After the death of parents, it is almost inevitable that one or more of the kids will bicker. If families can get along it will save heartache, time, money and will keep the courts from being so clogged up with cases, motions and pleas. Build a consensus and get the agreement in writing.
- Be reasonable: Don’t let your emotions get away with you. It is hard after you lose someone you love. That does not give you an excuse to have bad manners or be hard to work with. A little self control can go a long way.
- Assume nothing: Your turn may be next. Probate court is also guardianship court. The judge told us a story of a 37 year old man who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. If you think it could not be you. think again. If you decide not to plan, the only thing you can plan on is trouble.
After I finished with my client matter I had to leave. If the judge had more advice, and I’m sure he did, I did not hear it. But I can add one more piece of advice to his. Wear low heel shoes to Probate Court. You may be standing for some time.
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