What Do You Do When You Know an Attorney is Wrong?

Real Estate Agent with Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA VA License # 0225089470

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.



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Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
The House Kat

When dealing with your mother who has Alzheimer's, the last thing you need is an incompetent lawyer at your side. I'm glad you moved on to another who can handle your issues much easier.

I wish you and your family the best with Mom! 

Jan 08, 2018 03:36 AM #17
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

Nobody is perfect but in these situations a second opinion is always needed.

Jan 08, 2018 04:17 AM #18
Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

If that one attorney was trying to scam the system, can you imagine how many more are doing that? Disgusting. And he thought you weren't a good fit because you didn't want to go along with his scheme!

Jan 08, 2018 05:20 AM #19
Tim Maitski
Atlanta Communities Real Estate Brokerage - Atlanta, GA
Truth, Excellence and a Good Deal

Chris Ann,  Sorry to hear about your Mom.  It's tough but you do what you can do.  I wish you the best.

Your last line made me smile.

"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."

A lot of agents are trained on using scripts.  I think many times the wheels you see turning are them trying to find the right script to come back with.  That vacant stare is when they can't find a script that fits the situation.  Make sure you aren't getting a great script reader.  Many situations go off script. 

Jan 08, 2018 06:08 AM #20
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Prado Real Estate South - St. George, UT
So Utah Residential, Referral & Relocation REALTOR

Glad you found another attorney who had your mom's best interests in mind and actually listened to your concerns. Seems like there are those 'types' in all professions *sigh*. Wishing for the best outcome for your mom Chris, it's difficult to watch a loved one decline in health and mind. 

Jan 08, 2018 06:43 AM #21
Anthony Kirlew
Group 46:10 Network @ eXp Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Helping You Make Fiscally Sound Choices

So sorry to hear as it's the last thing you need when trying to deal with such an issue. We all need to be educated consumers and not just accept "professional advice" without questioning it. If the professional won't allow their advice to be questioned, then it's time to move on. 

Jan 08, 2018 07:11 AM #22
Curtis Van Carter
Better Homes & Gardens Wine Country Group - Yountville, CA
Your Napa Valley Broker Extraordinaire

Chris Ann

SUE SUE SUE, isn't that what they would do. :-))

Stopped by to say hello and hope your New Year is going well so far and it will be a great one, cheers cvc

Jan 08, 2018 09:32 AM #23
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%
RE/MAX Gold - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

Even a crappy attorney outranks the best real estate agent.

Really? Chris Ann? Is that crappy attorney better than you? I don't think so. Lawers put on their pants one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. They are not super heroes who leap into designer suits and charge off into the sunset. You get good and bad in the legal profession, just the same as you do in the real estate profession.

Also, I would report this yo-yo to the Bar. What he suggested to you is unethical and against the law.

Jan 08, 2018 11:03 AM #24
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Chris Ann- certainly something you don't need to be going through right now. It is so sad when we elevate certain professions just because of some letters behind their name. There are many very ethical and knowledgeable attorneys out there, so hopefully you'll find one that can help you with this. 

Jan 08, 2018 11:59 AM #25
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Oh I'll bet that attorney didn't like it at all when you pointed out what he didn't know!

It really is sickening to know that so many people are out to suck the country dry. We think that it's just welfare people who prefer living on the dole to working, but obviously, that's not the case.

I'm glad you have your brother working with you. So often we read of just one family member who is willing to help Mom or Dad.

Jan 08, 2018 12:51 PM #26
Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line

Glad you had enough knowledge to understand the difference and were able to make a good call. So often we are in positions of weakness and don't know what we don't know so trust those who offer advice.

Jan 08, 2018 01:10 PM #27
James (Jim) Lawson, DBA
DomainRealty.com LLC - Bonita Springs, FL
Broker Associate, RSPS, BPOR, HI & PE

So sorry you and your brother had to endure a FPs attorney. Unfortunately, among the approximately 1.35 million lawyers in the USA there are those who are incompetent and/or unethical and I too have suffered their wrath. However, one thing most attorneys are afraid of is being disciplined by their bar. Plus, if the charges against them are credible they lose the respect of their peers. Egotists find this particularly unbearable and I have yet to encounter a completely humble attorney and I know more than a few. 

Jan 08, 2018 01:19 PM #28
Karen Feltman
Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, IA KW Legacy Group - Cedar Rapids, IA
Relocation Specialist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

First, I cannot imagine what you are going through with your mother.  She is very lucky to be able to afford to receive proper care AND that she has you and your brother to keep up with her care even when she doesn't know it.  Second, I also cannot fathom an attorney that would behave that way.  I would agree that you were not a good fit and find someone that you could trust to handle things the way that you wanted.  Best of luck to you in your continued efforts to keep your mother safe.

Jan 09, 2018 02:56 PM #29
Jerry Lucas
ABC Legal Docs LLC - Colorado Springs, CO
Mobile Notary Colorado Springs, CO Notary Training

As a notary for 10 years, I have met a number of local attorneys. I am a state-approved notary training instructor, and do notary training for banks, so I know notary laws. Many attorneys do not know notary laws. It is not taught in law school.

I often see documents prepared by "professionals" that do not comply with notary laws. Documents from estate planning attorneys, real estate attorneys, business attorneys, court forms, federal forms, state forms, bank forms, insurance forms, investment forms, etc. Defects everywhere.

Rather than argue, I keep a copy of the notary laws with me, and just show them the law. The true professionals say thank you for sharing the information. They learn and make the necessary correction.

Educated consumers are smart consumers. Many consumers are not educated on legal and financial topics and are at the mercy of incompetent and unethical advisors.

Jan 09, 2018 08:53 PM #30
Eileen Burns
Trans State Commercial RE Ft. Lauderdale/Miami/Palm Beach - Fort Lauderdale, FL
FL Probate Agent, Hotel & Land Specialist

Chris Ann Cleland so sad for this encounter when you are focused on Mom and her best interests vs her money.  I became a Certified Probate Real Estate Agent because it took me 3 years to get my Mom to update her will.  My Mom did not suffer memory issues and did live a good long 89 year life.

Mom was always apprehensive that she would outlive her money.  Happily I was in a position to guide her into living in the moment and taking lots of short trips for f u n.  Mom passed away at Thanksgiving and I am so very sad and happy she was able to enjoy nthe last five years of her life....even evacuating Florida during Hurricane Irma. 

We drove to the mountains of North Carolina and made the best of all her limitations to enjoy our time together.

When I contacted my Probate Attorney he told me I am in good shape and do not have to go through the process as we prepared in advance.

When we are younger, we do not always think about how to approach this subject and are always blind sided and surprised when life becomes surreal and you still have to function.  Encountering such advice from and "esteemed" attorney gives us more than pause and compounds our stress.

Good to hear you did change lanes swiftly to achieve the outcome necessary to go to the next step.  I feel your tears.


Jan 10, 2018 06:01 AM #31
Dörte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Chris Ann,

People who want to do shady things for you may also want to do shady things against you. I would have run too.

Jan 10, 2018 04:24 PM #32
John Wiley
Right Move Real Estate Group- EXP Realty - Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

I work with a lot of Senior Adults and find myself needing to refer them to an attorney. It is hard as you have experienced.

I try to have a pool of resources that I have met and talked to others about before making a referral. 

There is so much Elder Abuse and it can be heartbreaking.

Thanks for sharing out of a personal experience.

Jan 12, 2018 11:11 AM #33
Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Chris Ann Cleland So glad that Mom has you and your brother doing the right things to protect her. My mom also had Altzheimers and it is a lot to handle.


In Maryland an attorney can sit for the licensing exam and become a Broker.

Maybe Brokers should be allowed to sit for the bar and become a lawyer. Just a thought.


Just because they are a member of the bar does not make them competent!

Jan 25, 2018 08:01 PM #34
Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Chris Ann Cleland I am wondering just how long does one have to be mentored?  Maybe brokers could get this kind of apprenticeship in lieu of law school.

Don't think there is a snowballs chance that this would ever happen ...do you?

Jan 26, 2018 10:24 AM #35
Curtis Van Carter
Better Homes & Gardens Wine Country Group - Yountville, CA
Your Napa Valley Broker Extraordinaire

Chris Ann

Have to admit, I forgot I read this but upon rereading I realize I missed some open first doing so. I love Margaret's idea about agents being an attorney then we could sue quack like your Mr Fancy Pants. I wonder if this isn't something the state bar would be interested in. Probably not worth it for no doubt, he would sue the pants off you. cheers cvc

Feb 18, 2018 08:03 AM #36
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Chris Ann Cleland

Associate Broker, Bristow, VA
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