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Very Bad Lawyer in South Florida!

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  • Very Bad Lawyer in South Florida!

    I have a very sticky situation that I would like resolved in the most positive way possible. Here's the story:

    I filed for bankruptcy protection in 2003. I told the lawyer that I hired about all of my assets and all of my liabilities. There were two properties, however, that had my name of them but the properties belonged to my parents. One property had been bought 18 years prior when I was still in college and single. This property had been purchased by my mother and she had put my name on it so that in case anything were to happen to her it would be left to me. She purchased it and still pays the taxes and maintenance on it today. The other property was a house that my father bought after my parent's divorce in 1999 and he also decided to put both my sister's and my name on the deed so that in case of his death we would both inherit the property equally. I told the lawyer exactly what I have just related to you and he told me that my mother's property, which at the time had a very small market value, would not be a problem if I filed Chapter 7. By the way, since we had no other assets at the time, he recommended Chapter 7 from day one. The other property, however, could be an issue, but it could be worked out so I would be fine filing a Chapter 7. He told me to get more information on my father's house and get back with him. I did get the information and then called him about it. He never returned my phone calls. At this point I had already hired him and had given a deposit for the filing of the bankruptcy. I thought at the time that he had not returned the calls because I had not paid the whole balance I owed him. So after paying the balance I spoke to him about it again. He said that he was going to put the two properties in the schedules as "Bare Legal Title." I told him I had all the evidence in the world to prove that--especially, my father's house, which was a more recent purchase--it was not my property but I would acquire it only after my father's death. He had made all of the payments and had received all of the rental money from the property. My father lives in a portion of the house and rents out the rest of the house, and this helps him pay his mortgage. The lawyer said that everything would be fine. When I went to the Creditor's Meeting I took my father with me. I had told the lawyer that I would take my father so that he, himself, could tell the Trustee that this was his property and his homestead. At the Creditor's Meeting my father never got a chance to speak and when we confronted the lawyer there with the same question he told both my father and myself "not to worry about the property, and that everything was just fine." He said I would soon be discharged and the case would close shortly after that time. I had never been in this mess and I had never dealt with a lawyer so I believed everything he told me and never doubted his competency. The law firm that he worked for and that we had hired for the bankruptcy was a good-sized firm and they touted all of the experience that they had with bankruptcies--years and years of experience. The main lawyer of the firm even had a webpage through the Miami Herald, where he answered bankruptcy questions. So I assumed they all knew what they were doing. (Wrong assumption!!-What's that saying? Don't assume because you'll make an ass of you and me!!!) I received my discharge at the end of 2003. I forgot to say that at some point after the filing they called me from the law firm and they had me sign a letter that stated that the lawyer was going to try to save the properties. They did it, however, in a matter of fact way and told me that they were sure that nothing was going to transpire, but if it came up I could always change to a Chapter 13. After I got my discharge, I thought it was almost over. But since I had started using the Internet to check up on things I discovered that discharge is only part of the story. The case needed to CLOSE too. A couple of months passed and my case was still open. So I started calling the lawyer, and of course, I could never speak to him. The secretaries and paralegals kept telling me my case was over and discharge was the same as closed. There was nothing pending and not to worry about anything. Well, I did worry and more months passed and my case was still not closed. I kept calling and would get an annoyed person telling me my case was closed. I knew better. Then in 2005 I get a surprise! The Trustee had now started a LIS PENDENS on my parents' properties. Panick sets in and I contact the lawyer. At this time I had to call him a few times because he didn't want to be bothered with me. He finally calls me back and says that he didn't think they were going to do this. He said he was going to redo my Schedule and write the property as exempt because of Bare Legal Title. He said he was going to try this but wasn't sure if it was going to work. There was a hearing and the judge said that I couldn't exempt property that I claimed wasn't mine. So the Trustee won. This lawyer did not even show up to the hearing, he sent some other guy which I found out did not even work for the firm. It was just some other lawyer friend of his whom he sent to hearings that he did not want to bother with. This other lawyer told us at the time that the only way that they could get to the properties was if they sued my parents directly. I told him at the time that I didn't want this to happen. I told him I had proof that I did not own my father's house. I didn't have as much proof for my mother's property because it had been bought so long ago, but the property still had a low market value. He said that there was nothing else to do. I then contacted my lawyer and told him that I wanted to give him all of the paperwork that I had for the two properties. Also, at this time his secretaries kept telling that they didn't understand this. They had other cases with the same problem and the Trustee had not done what they were doing in my case. In other words, my case was a fluke. Again, I believed it. So I thought that if the Trustee just saw the paperwork they would leave us alone. He told me to bring him all of the evidence I had and he would send it all to the Trustee. At that point I told him that since I did not have as much paperwork for my mother's property that my mother was willing to pay my "supposed" half of the market value and put this whole thing behind her. He suggested that we didn't do this because "it would open a whole can of worms." He said it was best to just sit it out. He even said that the Trustee's lawyer would ask him as they ran into each other in court how much we were going to offer him for the property. He made it sound as if the lawyer only spoke of my father's property, which was the one with the greatest value. He said that he just shrugged him off when he said this. He made it sound as if the Trustee's lawyer was just a greedy guy trying to see what he could get. He, however, had never mentioned this exchange to me before. He then, again, said that he was going to send the paperwork that I had given him to the Trustee and that there was nothing to worry about. I honestly thought that this guy still was giving me good advice. I thought that all the Trustee needed was the evidence and he would see the light. So I felt really good after leaving the office. A couple of months passed, however, and the case was still open. I contacted him several times and he finally responded to me by mail. He basically told me that he had looked at PACER and had seen no activity, to stay put, because as more time passed it was unlikely that the Trustee would do anything. He said do nothing but let us wait. He stated all of this in his letter. I waited and just last June my father received a letter from the Trustee's lawyer that a third of his house is being sold. I almost died! I suffer from hypertension and I think my blood pressure must have hit at least 200! I called the lawyer crying! He said that I could file a Motion against this, and again made it sound as if everything was going to be okay. But I did not buy it this time. I started calling lawyers but none of them wanted to deal with it. Some because they said that the Trustee's lawyer was a hawk and very aggressive and they did not want to enter this fight, others because they did not take cases in progress, and yet another told me that he knew my lawyer, had worked with him on some case, and there was a conflict of interest if he took my case. He then added, which made me very nervous, that there probably would not be anything he could do to solve my problem and "that I was do a very serious explanation from my lawyer as to why this was happening." He made it sound as if the lawyer had really done a number on me. (Which he has!!!). After contacting a few lawyers I happen to come upon the lawyer that had been at the original hearing concerning my case. The lawyer that had gone in my lawyer's place because my lawyer didn't think that my hearing was important enough for him. He suggested that I go back to my lawyer, but I told him that at this point I did not trust him at all. He said he would speak to him and that my lawyer would get back with me. At this point my lawyer called me back and said that he could be hired to do this for me. I told I didn't have a problem paying what was needed. So he was going to fight this for me. He said that the worse that could happen would be that they told my father he had to pay what the market value was in 2003, about $13,000. He said that he could get a mortgage on his house and the payments would be low. He mentioned he was doing Real Estate now and could help with this. Again, made it sound as if everything was fine. The hearing date came and I was called that it had been cancelled. I looked on PACER and discovered that the hearing had been held, the other lawyer had shown up, and that it had been rescheduled for a later date. He did not tell me this, however. I wouldn't have known if it wasn't for PACER. Then, the day before the hearing the secretary calls me asking me if I had a deal for the Trustee. I was stunned. I said, "What deal?" I had never spoken of any deal with the lawyer. I asked to speak to him. When I finally got a call from him later that day he said that the deal was just because the judge always wants the debtor to offer a deal for the property. I told him that we had never spoken of any deal. He said not to worry again (his favorite words). Then he said that he wouldn't be able to make it to the hearing and he was sending another lawyer he trusted. At this point I was raging mad, because he was doing it to me all over again. I told him that this was unacceptable, that I had paid him, not the other lawyer. He said that he would be there. The hearing came and he did not show up. He spoke to the judge through a conference call. Of course we lost again. The judge took the side of the Trustee and said that he was sorry, but he couldn't do anything for my father. He was selling 1/3 of the Trustee's interest in the property. I was devastated!! My lawyer then said that we were back to square one. It had not been determined who owned that 1/3 of the property and that the Trustee had sold his 1/3 interest, whatever that interest was. We now had to fight in State court. He said he was recommending a lawyer that he knew that was very aggressive and had had a case similar to mine. I went with this lawyer. This lawyer even said that my lawyer had asked him if he had done anything wrong! The new lawyer finally brought up case law and presented it all to the judge. He said that I only had bare legal title to the property. I had not put in any money toward the house and had not gotten any befenit from the house. The judge denied this. At this point the other party started a LIS PENDENS on my father's property. The new lawyer even tried a Chapter 13 with my father's case to try to take it back to bankruptcy court because he said that judge's there understood the case better. He got the same judge, which again refused to change what he had already ruled on the case. All this time again I mentioned my mother's property and nothing came out of it. The new lawyer said that the Trustee's lawyer had not mentioned my mother's property. The judge even said in court that they were selling the 1/3 of the property so that they could close the case. They got the money from this third party, the claims have come in, the time has expired for the claims, and the case it still open because the Trustee is now finally coming after my mother's property. Now we're back to square one and we're waiting to see what happens with my father's property. There's a mediation meeting for both parties-my father and the lawyers that bought a 1/3 of his house. If this doesn't work out we have to go to trial. It has already cost my father $7,500 and counting, because the lawyer has asked for another $6,000 if they go to trial. My new lawyer told me that the Trustee's lawyer now wants money for my mother's property, which unfortunately has now ballooned from a small market value to a significant amount.

    This has been a long story. I have been dealing with this for going on 4 years now. It has been a total nightmare. It has affected my health and my sanity. I haven't had any peace since 2003. And it's still not over. I say, how can they have sat on this for 2 years. Then after those 2 years they went after my father's house and made no mention of my mother's property so that now they can get more money because my mother's property has gained a considerable amount of value. It doesn't seem fair. I thought bankruptcy was a snapshot of your finances at the time of filing. I read the law and it states the market value of an asset at the time of filing. If they can wait this long then they could do it with every bankrupcty case with assets and wait until the value increases and then start asking for turnover of the asset. This Trustee waited 2 years to even mention anything. At least, that's the story I get from my original lawyer. The truth is that they did not ask about the properties and only started a LIS PENDENS 2 years after the bankruptcy filing in 2003. Can they do this? Also, I wanted to know if I have a case against my original lawyer for not doing anything about this. I have a letter from him asking me not to do anything. Any help that I can get would be a Godsend!!

    Thank you so much for listening to my HUGE PROBLEM!


  • #2
    I am sorry, but you need to put some paragraph breaks in that post. It is way too dense to read.


    • #3
      It's impossible to read!!


      • #4
        Short version:
        Parents put property in her name for inheritance purposes. Trustee never closed the BK, and is taking her share of the property. Her attorney has showed little interest in her case since day one.
        12/12/06 - Filed No Asset Chapter 7 - 85K on CC's
        01/16/07 - 341 drum circle 02/06/07 -US Trustee Review
        03/19/07 - Objection Deadline - 03/21/07 Discharged/Closed


        • #5
          After reading, I went to sleep... too dizzy for fast eyeball reading...


          • #6
            Originally posted by ChainSmokin View Post
            Short version:
            Parents put property in her name for inheritance purposes. Trustee never closed the BK, and is taking her share of the property. Her attorney has showed little interest in her case since day one.
            Based on that version, then she has a problem and there isn't much even a good lawyer could do for her.


            • #7
              I think proper BK planning could have prevented this. The title could have been changed prior to bk to read upon death, or even put the property in a trust. I'm afraid fighting is not only costly, but probably futile. If the title to the property is in your name as equal owner, then technically, the equity in the property you own is the trustee's. I read many articles prior to my filing that stated numerous people lose property they didn't even know was there's in bk when the trustee finds there names on the title. I made sure my mother didn't have my name on her property before filing.

              Good news, if there is any good news, is that under the old law, whatever you stated the property was worth when you filed is all they can base the 1/3 from. (assuming the trustee never filed a motion stating the value stated was not accurate) Equity gained after the bk is yours to keep. The new law kinda changed that language somewhat.
              Last edited by aa06a47; 01-27-2007, 07:52 PM.
              Chapter 13 Filed 4/03/06 :blink: 341 Meeting Complete 5/11/06 :yes2:
              Plan Confirmation 6/16/06 :yahoo:
              Discharged: 1/5/2010 :yahoo::yahoo::yahoo::yahoo:


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