Thursday, December 6, 2012

All You Need Is . . .

My mother, God rest her soul, did not leave a will. Or, if she did, she has a dastardly sense of humor and hid it so we would not find it. In South Carolina, if there is no will probating an estate is not pretty. Luckily my brother (my only sibling) and I get along very well and are in total agreement as to how to handle Mama's affairs. Everything was moving along swimmingly until a nice older couple wanted to buy her house.

The good news was that they wanted to her house. The bad news was that they wanted to buy her house. We could not sell it without permission from the Judge. When I first asked the Judge about this, she said that she saw no problem in our selling the house. When it came time, she would grant an order.

As the negotiations got more serious between us and the potential buyers, I called the court to see exactly what I needed to do. I was told I would need to get a valuation of the house for the court, bring it to the Judge and she would issue an order. Thanks to a wonderful friend who is a realtor, I was able to get the valuation in writing. So down to the court I went.

Not so fast, it seems that along with the valuation I needed to complete and file the inventory (that I had originally been told was not due for 2 more weeks) and get a signed contract. I asked the clerk to check her list twice this time. Back home I went.

We got the contract signed, I got the inventory completed, got a copy of the deed, and once again made my way down to the court house. If the Judge signed the order today, I thought, the rest was up to the attorney handling the closing. I sat down with the clerk and we went over the paper work. She handed me a Petition I needed to complete. When I finished that, I was told that my brother would need to be served with the petition and show acceptance of service. (He lives out of state.) 

I asked some very pointed questions and was assured that once I had a signed waiver from my brother the paperwork should be ready to go before the Judge. "If I bring that back tomorrow, can she issue the order then," I asked? "Well, we will need to schedule a hearing," she said. "And," she continued, "she only hears cases on these four days and her docket may be full. But I'll check."  As fate would have it, of those four days, I was scheduled to be New York three of them. 

Suddenly, those initial instructions, "get a valuation of the house for the court, bring it to the Judge, and she would issue an order," seemed seriously lost in translation. 

I was talking with one of the attorneys handling the closing for the buyers, expressing my frustration over this process. His comment made me want to commit hari kari. "We just find it easier to do a deed of distribution of the property to the heirs, then let them sell the property as owners out of the estate. Otherwise, it just gets complicated." No kidding! "So what I am doing is wrong?" "No, you are doing it the way the court wants it done. But, once you start that process, we can't help you.

The last time I felt this way was my foray into cooking duck. And, I still have yet to recover from that humiliating and painful experience. 


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