I had my long-awaited court date to send my mother’s will to Probate. Apparently the calendar is full and it takes months to get your case heard by the judge. My mother died the sixth of August and her court case took place in March. A long time passed as I waited for this day to come.
I don’t know what it is about my life that invites complexity. I plan well. I am good at organization. I make my bed each day and have a closet that is divided by color and type of garment. You would think these traits would lead to my life going more smoothly. Perhaps as I plan and organize, I do so to rebel against the chaos that surrounds my life. I guess the good news is that I organize as well as I do, because if I did not, my life would simply crumble around me.
My mother’s will was written in 2002. I had recently been divorced and lived with the girls here in Texas. My mother did her will in Colorado with her longtime attorney, Bill Kemp. He was to be the executor of her estate, and if he could not be then my former brother-in-law, Sean, was named as an alternate.
Of course, my mother never dreamed she would die in Texas or in the tiny county of Wharton. But things change. By the time my momma got here it was too late to change her will to the laws of the state of Texas, as she was not of sound mind as the lawyers say.
After my mother’s death, I had the will but was not in any particular hurry to settle things. I just really couldn’t deal with much else and thought it would be very straightforward and quick. It might have been in the fall when I started to hunt down the phone number for the Denver lawyer my mother had used for her will. As my mother’s only surviving child, there was not anyone else to be effected by this will. I thought I would call the attorney, there would be some court thing and I would get a check for the assets left in my mother’s estate. It works like that on television.
I guess my television show would have been characterized as a legal drama with death (and not just my mom’s), inter-state judicial wars, and unscrupulous attorneys.
I quickly got the phone number of the attorney and waited until 9:00 am Mountain time when they opened to call. A very pleasant women named Rose answered the phone. I asked to speak to Mr. Kemp. Her voice got guarded as she proceeded to quiz me on who I was and what I wanted with her attorney.
Turns out that tragically that week, Mr. Kemp had been diagnosed with a fast-moving cancer. The office was closing and all the files were being transferred out. I was stunned. Bill Kemp, always referred to as my mother’s attorney Bill Kemp, had been a regular feature in our conversations for years. I could not believe that his office was closing and his health so critical.
Mr. Kemp called me shortly thereafter. He told me he could not serve as executor and it would be preferable to have an executor in Texas, such as myself to handle this with a Texas attorney. Okay, I was very sorry but totally understood. I went on an internet search for a Probate attorney. That may not have been my smartest approach to finding someone to handle such an important issue. I read online reviews and chose a female Probate attorney with an office nearby. I was told she would call me. She did not. After several follow-ups with her office, I finally reached her and explained the Colorado will with the dying executor problem. She quoted me a fee of $10,000 and told me to get Mr. Kemp and my brother-in-law to sign away their executor rights.
I called my now best friend Rose at Mr. Kemp’s office and she assured me that was a ridiculous amount to handle this will. The Texas attorney wanted $9000 upfront and the balance before the court date.
What finally settled the issue of this being the wrong attorney for me was when Mr. Kemp called after his session of chemo to tell me another attorney from Texas had called him asking him for all the documents on the case.
I had never even met the female attorney in person nor agreed that she represent me but she had asked an attorney friend to take over the case and sent my mother’s will to him. Mr. Kemp told me if I had not released those files to this new attorney that it was a breach of confidentiality at best. He advised I find another attorney.
This time I chose another method to pick a good attorney. I drove around my little town and looked at their offices. Pretty Scientific. But this new attorney was a winner. He represented me for a fraction of the cost and worked to get all the paperwork in order. He established a March court date.
In the meantime, Mr. Kemp passed away as did my step-father Jim. So much change. I met my new attorney at the courthouse Monday on yet another dreary, rainy, south Texas winter day. It fit my mood exactly. Of course, I was last on the docket but found the process to be quite straightforward. I was asked some questions, the judge told me he was sorry for my loss and good luck. I was officially appointed “Administratrix” of the will. I guess that word is the feminine version of the word administrator, but it scared me so I did not ask.
The next day at the post office, I sent off the paperwork to Wells Fargo and hoped to God that I was done with all of this. I asked for a book of stamps and was given the ones below. My mom was an avid rose gardener in both Chicago and Denver. She always said that the white rose called the John F. Kennedy was my dad’s all time favorite. It was a fitting close and reminder of the fragile beauty of life. Thank you for riding along and being part of my journey.