Yesterday, when I opened the mail, I found another bill from my attorney—the attorney I never planned on, and the attorney I never wanted. I feel like I am caught in a sticky spider’s web with no way to extricate myself. To say that I am upset puts it mildly. In fact, I am at my wit’s end.
Last winter, when I finally made the heart-rending decision to request legal guardianship and conservatorship for my younger sister, I had no idea what I was getting into. I had agonized for months over what to do, while my sister’s illness became progressively and noticeably worse.
She absolutely refused to surrender power of attorney to anyone. The stack of legal forms glared at me from my desk every time I entered the room. Finally, I gave up. I had prayed diligently about the situation until it seemed that the court was the only solution to our dilemma. So I filed the papers and this weary process began.
The court appointed an attorney for my sister. Her interests must be protected. I understood that. However, I didn’t hire an attorney. I didn’t need one. She’s my sister. I just wanted to take care of her. Her doctor had attested to her illness, and it would be obvious to any investigator. Wouldn’t it?
I received a letter from my sister’s attorney stating that his fee was $375.00 per hour. What? I foolishly thought that had to do with working hours. I didn’t know it included every second in the car, waiting for red lights and stopping for gas, every moment on the phone, every e-mail written and read, every stamp licked, and waiting for tardy judges.
Then he called me. Being the nitwit that I am, laughing, I asked if I could fire him. He immediately took offense. We were enemies from the get-go.
“No,” he said. “I am Mary’s attorney. I am here to protect her.” HA!
Armed with the investigator’s report and the doctor’s letter attesting to my sister’s illness, I went confidently to court assured that my request would be granted. How naïve!
The attorney told the judge that I wanted to fire him because I didn’t want to spend any money on the case. My sister told the judge that she did not want me to be her guardian. The judge continued the case for another month and appointed a Guardian ad Litem. He only charges $325.00 per hour. The legal fees began to mount.
I was in over my head. I had to hire myself an attorney. Through my church, I found a good and kind man. He only charges $350.00 per hour, and his paralegal $160.00. I think I’m in the wrong business.
Mary’s attorney insisted that her house be put in reserve. I couldn’t sell it without court approval. One more complication! More hours to bill!
My attorney was a likable man, easy to talk to. When we met together, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t there to chitchat. The clock was ticking and the fee was mounting.
The court was so overscheduled that it was never on time. If our fifteen-minute session was set for 9:30, we waited at least an hour or more. I was paying for that wasted time.
On March 10, I finally became my sister’s legal guardian, but this thing was far from over. Though I had a good cash offer on the house, everything had to be approved by the attorneys. One final, fifteen minute, court hearing, the end of August, brought the judge’s approval. I paid my attorney over $900.00 for that hearing. The judge was late again.
Yesterday, I received, what I hope is, the final bill from my lawyer. In the last nine months, my sister and I have paid in excess of $25,000.00 in legal fees. I have decided that judges and lawyers are not really interested in the welfare of their clients as much as they are interested in red tape and a fat wallet. When I first met my attorney, he warned me that probate lawyers are known to put their clients in the poor house, before they are finished. I believe him.
This afternoon I e-mailed my paralegal, and said, “Please don’t do anymore work for me unless or until I ask you.
During this process, I have discovered that hundreds of thousands of families face this same heartbreaking situation.
You cannot believe T.V. commercials that portray all Alzheimer’s or Dementia victims as sweet, docile, vague little people. I have read hundreds of stories on the internet from families who are struggling with the same problems I have faced this year. That loved one is uncooperative and at times combative.
“We don’t know what to do,” is the common refrain.
Let me tell you, “As much as I have hated it—as hard and as expensive as it has been, I believe I did the best and only thing I could do.” As reluctant as you may be, going to court may be your only alternative. For the good of your loved one, prop up your courage and make the move. It won’t be easy, but it will insure his safety and well being.
It is a comfort to know that I have not been alone during this arduous journey. I have taken King Solomon’s advice recorded in Proverbs 3:5-6.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”
Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” WHAT MARVELOUS ASSURANCE!
Remember the sun will come out tomorrow!