Chicago-area probate lawyer Joel A. Schoenmeyer wrote here on his Death and Taxes Blog about an article discussing why even probate lawyers feel the heat as our economy continues its downward spiral: Tough times making even probate practice riskier. One particular risk the linked-to article points out is worth focusing on:
Before the bottom started falling out of the real estate market, a probate lawyer who was dilatory in dealing with an estate could point to the fact that the property had increased in value while he fiddled. Not any more. In some cases, property values are fluctuating tens of thousands of dollars in a month. Beneficiaries do not take kindly to seeing their nest egg evaporating in plain sight. While the estate’s lawyer can’t determine when a property will sell or for what price, he does have some say over when it gets on the market, and the sooner the better, according to White, who is based about 400 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.
And if you think estate beneficiaries won’t sue over plunging values, think again. Back in 2006 I wrote here about a New Hampshire priest serving as executor of an estate who was tagged with a $1,256,000 surcharge judgment after the estate’s stock portfolio dropped in value from $6.5 million to $500,000 on his watch. And guess who the priest sued for malpractice? Who else, his probate lawyer.