But I Did Spend Last Night at a Holiday Inn Express!

In June 2009, Sophia Ricco died.  She had no Will and left behind two adult children as her surviving heirs.  The son, Al, with the consent of his sister, Eileen, applied and received Letters of Administration from the Camden County Surrogate.  Feeling that his mother’s death was caused by the acts and omissions of various medical facilities, Al filed a malpractice lawsuit against these facilities.

During the proceedings, Al asserted that he should be the beneficiary of any recovery as his mother had made it clear to him that he should get everything and his sister nothing.  However, he did join his sister in the proceedings.

The case was thrown out because Al decided to practice law without a license and not hire an attorney.  Although one is allowed to represent himself, he may not represent others without a license.  Because Al decided to dance to the beat of his own drummer, any potential damages he could have received for him and his sister were lost.  (Ricco v. Lourdes et. al., Docket No.: A-0288-12T2)

On that note, I received a call yesterday from a nice man who was the sole child and heir of his parents’ estate which was worth approximately $1.7 million.  I had prepared Wills and Trusts for his parents many years ago in an effort to minimize exposure to the New Jersey State Estate Tax which applies to estates exceeding $675,000.  He informed me that he had paid over $70,000 in estate taxes after his parents died in the past two years.  Based on the planning which was done, this bill should have been at least $40,000 less.  With proper post-mortem planning, it could have been eliminated altogether.

Recognizing that the individual who handled the estates had committed malpractice, I asked for the name of the attorney so I could suggest appropriate steps to make a claim on his behalf.  Unfortunately, he responded that he had handled the estates on his own.  As such, he had only himself to blame.

About 10 years ago, there were a series of commercials placing unqualified people in high caliber situations, such as an individual dressed up as a doctor in an operating room who was asked if he was a doctor.  His reply, like the other situations parodied, was “No, but I did spend last night at a Holiday Inn Express.”

On the one hand, consumers should not overpay for legal services.  However, consumers should be cautioned against the scribes of the internet, trust mills and other unreliable sources about the “merits” of self help.

Self help is funny in the commercials.  It’s not so funny in real life!


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