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Estate/Independent Admin Final Accounting Error
Old 10-28-2010, 06:43 PM   #1
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Estate/Independent Admin Final Accounting Error

I've been the Independent Administrator (like Executor) of an estate for the last 3 years, it's been a long and nasty battle. After settling all kinds of allegations of wrongdoing, I was cleared and got through final accounting. Now, I just made the payouts (last 2 yesterday), I come to find an accounting error for the payouts (everyone was overpaid about $500 each and I got shorted $3300). One of the distributees didn't collect theirs (in court) and it had to be deposited with the county treasurer. I've notified 2 of the other 3 parties to hold off on cashing the checks. Last payout went to a guardian of the person (a bank). I'm still waiting to hear back from the atty. I found a double payment error, which would cause an overdraft on the bank account. The error occurred when the atty reduced an expense by $3300 and added the same amount into the final distribution assets. I decided to redeposit my check ($3700) back into the estate account in case someone decides to cash their check and possibily cause an overdraft situation.

Has anyone ever had this happen to them and would I have to pay my attorney for the accounting error that he caused? I don't feel this is an error in my part, other than signing the final accounting statement, he did the funky math. This passed thru 4 seperate legal firms and the judge...and I'm the one who caught the error!
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Old 10-28-2010, 10:09 PM   #2
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IMHO the attorney should stand behind his/her math. Call it to his/her attention and request that s/he resolve this.
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Old 10-28-2010, 10:51 PM   #3
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He's still looking into it. I highlighted where the problems were. I guess he needs time to figure it out. I find it ironic that he charges by the hour, I get the privilege of finding the discrepancies and having to pay the bill!
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Old 10-29-2010, 08:59 AM   #4
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The lawyer should not be charging for investigating and then fixing his error.
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Old 10-29-2010, 09:17 AM   #5
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The lawyer should not be charging for investigating and then fixing his error.


Agreed.... and I also think that he should be the one to front the money that was overpaid and go after the people..


I can tell you that on one trust that I was trustee (at mega)... one of the previous trustees overpaid... mega had to front the money and I had to spend time getting it back... it took me 1 1/2 years to get it all back, but I did... then again, it was not a final payout so I did have some leverage...
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Old 10-29-2010, 12:29 PM   #6
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I appreciate your opinions about who's responsible for having to pay for this. I'm sure petitions to the court would need to be filed to recoup the money and to amend the final accounting. I'm sure it will be an embarassment to this firm than an error was made, this judge doesn't like mistakes, he likes to scold lawyers who piss him off. I'm hoping it won't be too hard to fix this issue, the final payouts were only $2100+ each. It looks to me that each party was overpaid about $600 each, but my share, including admin fee should've netted me around $3700.
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Old 10-29-2010, 02:28 PM   #7
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My approach is to always give the person who made the error an opportunity to fix it without the involvement of others. It saves them face and, assuming you are correct, won't add to their financial liability. Let them know your expectations (don't bill me for your error) and provide a reasonable time for its resolution. Put this in writing. If it isn't resolved you can always petition the court.

FYI, I am not a lawyer but have worked with many.
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Old 10-29-2010, 06:36 PM   #8
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My approach is to always give the person who made the error an opportunity to fix it without the involvement of others. It saves them face and, assuming you are correct, won't add to their financial liability. Let them know your expectations (don't bill me for your error) and provide a reasonable time for its resolution. Put this in writing. If it isn't resolved you can always petition the court.
I'm in this phase right now, it's been 1.5 days now and haven't had any contact from him (he wanted time to find the issue). You'd think it wouldn't take that long to isolate the problem since I pointed out specifically where the double reduction took place. Maybe he wants the weekend to try to figure it out. I think ego may play a big part in it, since I'm not an accountant, but I've found several previous errors in his financial accounting and he's made it a point to highlight how I always seem to find them. He insinuated that "how could there be an error" response when I first emailed him about this issue. I was shocked when he had to modify the final accounting for 1 item at 3 hours billing time.

I'm not sure this won't involve others, since I think it will require petitioning the court to correct the final accounting. One sibling was suing me for "stealing assets" from the estate (all that was left was the house). So this may create another opportunity to claim I did this to "steal" more of a distributed share for myself. Another family member is under guardianship and hasn't been told of the error as of yet. There's also the guardian ad litem that needs to be notified too. Since they would need to repay some $500-600, I'm sure there will be a lot of screaming about it.
The one sibling made us spend over $18k in legal bills just so he could get his fair share, which is now between $1500 - $2100. He has no sense of money, knows Chapter 11 rules well and will probably file again soon.
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Old 10-29-2010, 07:36 PM   #9
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I'm in this phase right now, it's been 1.5 days now and haven't had any contact from him (he wanted time to find the issue). You'd think it wouldn't take that long to isolate the problem since I pointed out specifically where the double reduction took place. Maybe he wants the weekend to try to figure it out. I think ego may play a big part in it, since I'm not an accountant, but I've found several previous errors in his financial accounting and he's made it a point to highlight how I always seem to find them. He insinuated that "how could there be an error" response when I first emailed him about this issue. I was shocked when he had to modify the final accounting for 1 item at 3 hours billing time.

I'm not sure this won't involve others, since I think it will require petitioning the court to correct the final accounting. One sibling was suing me for "stealing assets" from the estate (all that was left was the house). So this may create another opportunity to claim I did this to "steal" more of a distributed share for myself. Another family member is under guardianship and hasn't been told of the error as of yet. There's also the guardian ad litem that needs to be notified too. Since they would need to repay some $500-600, I'm sure there will be a lot of screaming about it.
The one sibling made us spend over $18k in legal bills just so he could get his fair share, which is now between $1500 - $2100. He has no sense of money, knows Chapter 11 rules well and will probably file again soon.
Just book your sibs onto the Jerry Springer show, maybe you can get some of it back.

Ha
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Old 10-29-2010, 08:11 PM   #10
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Just book your sibs onto the Jerry Springer show, maybe you can get some of it back.

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Old 11-03-2010, 03:41 PM   #11
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Just got off the phone after waiting a week to find out what the attorney wanted to do to fix this problem. He thinks I'm also responsible for double checking his work and like I thought, I signed off on the mistake. He agrees we're off the amount I figured it was, around $3400. Since 2 parties have cashed their distributions, he says going back to court opens up a can of worms and that we'd have to pay his legal fees if we do. He's going to talk to the owner of the firm to come back with other options. I'm kind of upset since I was due $1600 (net amount of my admin fee) and $2100 distribution. As it stands now, all I'd get is $400 or so total (admin and distribution).
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Old 11-03-2010, 06:43 PM   #12
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Were I you I would write the law firm a letter requesting that you be made whole in the amount of $3,400 (or whatever) and give them a deadline. They don't have to bother the judge at all.
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Old 11-03-2010, 07:17 PM   #13
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Just got off the phone after waiting a week to find out what the attorney wanted to do to fix this problem. He thinks I'm also responsible for double checking his work and like I thought, I signed off on the mistake. He agrees we're off the amount I figured it was, around $3400. Since 2 parties have cashed their distributions, he says going back to court opens up a can of worms and that we'd have to pay his legal fees if we do. He's going to talk to the owner of the firm to come back with other options. I'm kind of upset since I was due $1600 (net amount of my admin fee) and $2100 distribution. As it stands now, all I'd get is $400 or so total (admin and distribution).

What!

I am with Brat.
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Old 11-03-2010, 09:33 PM   #14
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I was asked an open ended question of "what do you propose as a fix for this?". I got the feeling they wanted me to take at least 50% of the blame for this so they don't have to reimburse me for the loss. I did tell him I wanted to get the $3400 back, since I felt he targeted my admin fee and distribution almost entirely. I also feel the firm's costs are more of a concern than making things right. I find it rather amazing that I've had 2 simultaneous lawsuits over the last 3 years, where we've had to pay them over 60k in legal fees. I also have 2 living trusts set up by them too. I don't know how much trusts will generate in fees, but I'm considering taking my trusts and not using them when the time comes. Any attorneys care to comment if this will help in my leverage to get this settled (pulling the trusts I mean)?
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Old 11-03-2010, 09:47 PM   #15
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I was asked an open ended question of "what do you propose as a fix for this?
". I got the feeling they wanted me to take at least 50% of the blame for this so they don't have to reimburse me for the loss. I find it rather amazing that I've had 2 simultaneous lawsuits over the last 3 years, where we've had to pay them over 60k in legal fees. I also have 2 living trusts set up by them too. I don't know how much trusts will generate in fees, but I'm considering taking my trusts and not using them when the time comes. Any attorneys care to comment if this will help in my leverage to get this settled (pulling the trusts I mean)?
I'm no attorney but I'd write them as Brat and Martha advised above, remind them of the thousands in fees you've paid them in the past, and demand they make you whole. No need to threaten to move your trust business elsewhere, that will be obvious.

Oh, and regardless of how this turns out I think you should find yourself another law firm.
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Old 11-03-2010, 10:05 PM   #16
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I appreciate all the suggestions, the attorney is going to talk to the owner about this when he gets back in the office. The reason I chose this firm is because they specialized in trusts, guardianships and estates.
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Old 11-03-2010, 10:06 PM   #17
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And, if they don't make you whole file a complaint with the Bar, cc the Judge just for spite's sake.
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Old 11-04-2010, 12:15 PM   #18
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And, if they don't make you whole file a complaint with the Bar, cc the Judge just for spite's sake.

I am with all that say the law firm should be responsible....

When I was doing taxes... and if we made a mistake... we paid the penalty and interest (not the tax as you would have had to pay it anyhow)...

Trying to put blame on you for shoddy accounting (not shoddy legal work as it does not seem to be a question of law).... is not something that I would like to hear... 'Oh, you are supposed to check me for errors even though I am a professional and you are not and you are paying me a lot of money for my expertise' is what I am hearing...


Edit to add... The one thing that I like about where I work now is our boss usually says 'what is the right thing to do'.... even if there is no legal reason for us to do it.... I think the right thing to do is the law firm either gets things changed and gets the money back (without charging you for the time) or pay the money... either way, it is right for them to fix their mistake... and not profit from it...
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Old 11-05-2010, 05:34 PM   #19
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Well, I just got a response (via email), the attorney will go back to court and revise the final accounting and attempt to get refunds from the 2 parties that cashed their checks. Both are the PITA siblings (1 tried suing me, other just wants to be an ahole). That should be a fun process, one check was deposited with the county treasurer and the other cashed the check after I told him there was a discrepancy and to wait. The last two, a banl guardian and last sibling agreed to wait to cash their checks.

I specifically asked the attorney to make sure we weren't responsible for the legal time involved (he alluded that we'd be responsible to pay for his time in our 1st conversation), I haven't gotten any response about his time that would be needed to fix this. He had to discuss this with the owner of the firm, although he gave me no details as to what the owner said, which led me to believe he needed approval to do this work.
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Old 11-05-2010, 10:37 PM   #20
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IMHO that still doesn't relieve him of the responsibility of making you whole. I think he is engaged in CHA with the Principal of the firm. Were I you I would put your position in writing and CC the Principal.

If this firm had good business sense they would write you a check, his plan will cost the firm more $$$ and good will in the long run.
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