What Do You Do When You Know an Attorney is Wrong?
Working as a real estate agent in Bristow, VA since 2005, I have learned so much more than how to market a home and get it under contract; or operate a lockbox, show a home and write up an offer. That's the tip of the iceberg stuff. The real nitty gritty of real estate is in the details. Those details are often times legal in nature. When you refer a client to an attorney you trust, and they find another and get advice contrary to what you know the attorney you referred them to would say, you have to keep your mouth shut. Even a crappy attorney outranks the best real estate agent.
When it came to my own legal issues with my mother, I was able to finally able to speak up when I met one that didn't know his a** from a hole in the ground. My brother and I sought "expert" legal advice from an elder care attorney. We did the best we could to find a reputable one. We reached out to professionals we trust that are peripheral to elder care and they suggested an attorney in Fairfax. He was top rated and the reviews about the guy were incredible.
At the time that we were seeking his advice, our mother had just moved into a continuing care retirement community at our urging and was raging. She has Alzheimer's and is going to be in need of assisted living or memory care one day, probably sooner than later. We reviewed the finances and based on her projected life span, she wasn't going to be able to afford a decade of care at $7,000- $10,000/month. So we found Ashby Ponds, a CCRC that has a benevolence fund. You buy into the independent living (if you qualify) and as you move up in care, if you can't afford it, they cover you. It was piece of mind for my brother and I, who had researched all kinds of facilities. This was by far the nicest.
The problem was that while we had mom's power of attorney and a letter of incapacitation, her bank was still unable to shut her out of her account. And raging as she was, we had legitimate concerns she would cash out all her money and leave Ashby Ponds fugitive style. We were there to consult with Mr. Fancy Pants attorney about a conservatorship.
Upon first meeting us, Mr. Fancy Pants suggested we move mom immediately. My brother and I panicked. Had we moved mom into a horrible place? No. Mr. Fancy Pants wanted us to set this up so we could hide her assets so that Ashby Ponds would have to rely on more government money in caring for mom and we could have more when she died. Talk about a turn off. Our mother was going to outlive her money. We weren't interested in sucking out every dime we could for our own personal gain when she died. And we certainly weren't going to inflict more emotional harm by moving her yet again, then moving her back in. Mr. Fancy Pants had a different objective than ours. His objective was to protect mom's money for us. Our objective was to protect mom's money from her, for her own use. Even telling him what we wanted, he couldn't comprehend how to help us. His only thought process is figuring out ways to dole out medicare for those who could afford their own care and protect personal wealth. On a personal level, this type of thinking turns me off. If you don't need government assistance, don't figure out a way to lie, cheat and steal to get it.
When I specifically asked about the conservatorship, I knew Mr. Fancy Pants was a hack. He said we didn't need one if we had power of attorney. They are the same. If a client had come to me telling me an attorney advised of this, I would gingerly suggest they get a second opinion, but would have to defer to the legal advice they have sought because I am not an attorney and can't advise them. When I know more than the attorney telling ME something wrong, I called bulls**t immediately.
"A power of attorney is a parallel power. My brother and I have the same powers our mother does. She can take all of her money and flee. We need a conservatorship to keep her from doing that because she is not in her right mind any longer. A conservatorship is absolute power, appointed by the courts, and I shouldn't have to tell you that."
Needless to say, Mr. Fancy Pants determined that we weren't a good fit for each other. That was the only thing he said during our consult that I agreed with. Sadly, there are plenty of attorneys out there with glowing reviews that are clueless. They are one trick ponies. This guy's trick is to hide money for heirs and suck off medicare. If something comes up off that path, he can't figure out the best path to help a client. That's not a brilliant attorney in my mind. A professional in any field that involves advising people should be able to navigate situations based on changing circumstances and needs. That's the true sign that you have struck gold, be it a real estate agent or a lawyer. Someone who can think on their feet and you can practically see the wheels turning in their head is what you want. Not a vacant stare when things go off script.