Monday, August 6, 2012

Pro se

A pro se litigant is one who represents oneself. One is legally able to represent themselves in a lawsuit, criminal or civil. Where the law becomes murky is in the case where a person is representing an estate. Technically you are not presenting yourself even if it turns out that you are the estate. You can only be your own lawyer for yourself. Whether this is wise, is another issue.

I have had bad experiences with lawyers. Theoretically, they are to represent your best interests, but if  self interest is involved, you can bet that self interest wins out every time. There are two basic ways to pay a lawyer; by the hour or by the job. I have tried it both ways.  Going the by the hour route, my lawyer sent me outrageous bills. For example: if three papers needed to be filed, instead of filing them at the same time, he charged as if he made 3 different trips. Soon I became an expert in probate law and started filing things for myself (or for the estate as it turned out). He purposely dragged out a lawsuit so that he could get maximum hours. I eventually became wise to his BS and fired him. Then by the job: the lawyer we hired was going to do the barest minimum of work. If you asked a question, he generally didn't know the answer or pretended not to know and said that research was extra. Hello, I hired you for your alleged expertise.

This weekend I met a woman who went through a lawsuit from hell abetted and fueled by an unethical lawyer. Her ex-husband had borrowed money from his parents unofficially (no written contract) and then died due to bad choices he had made. He did not have a will so he was INTESTATE. Love that word as it sounds like he died without his cojones. Michigan probate law indicates that if there is no wife (exes don't count), any remaining children will be the sole heirs. The only time parents enter into the equation is when there are no spouses or children. The life insurance money would go to his teenage daughter who will need it for college. She was considered 'the estate'. Damned if these wealthy parents didn't sue their grandchild. Apparently having a relationship with their only granddaughter was not a priority. The lawyer indicated that they could defend the suit as there was nothing written. It went on forever racking up expenses. Finally they settled without the lawyer's help.

Josh is trying to go the pro se way for this divorce. Theoretically it should be easy as there are no children and it will be uncontested (hopefully..). He of course is too busy to research this but he seems to have parents with time on their hands. After much research, we finally found a way to get those forms (some how they are specifically unavailable online though every other legal document can be readily obtained). There is an organization that specializes in self-help cases. I have known people who have put off divorce as they could not afford the fees. Josh could afford the fees but there does not seem to be really a need for him in such an uncomplicated case.

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