Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Trust Issues

As soon as each of my children turned 18, their father began pressuring them to sign trust documents drawn up by his father (a lawyer), but I told them not to sign anything I couldn't have another attorney look at (they were not given copies of these documents). Late in April of 2005, two trust documents like the one shown here (one for each of my children who were over 18 at the time, the younger of whom had only just turned 18) suddenly turned up in our mail. These documents were sent to me by my former father-in-law (the attorney who drew them up) along with a handwritten letter from him telling us why the children should sign them.

Sure enough, the next time the kids had visitation with their dad, he insisted that they go straight over to "the office" [it was never clear to us whether he meant his own office or his father's for this] and immediately sign these documents. I'd already shown my kids the documents, though, and I'd pointed out to them that if they signed them, they'd be signing away their rights to whatever was in "Schedule A"--and "Schedule A" was missing, so anything could be added and they should not sign the documents. They understood this, but when they tried to explain to their father why they couldn't sign anything like this, they said he became very angry and told them he wouldn't pay either of their college tuition bills for the coming semester that would be coming due in about a month. This upset and frightened the kids, both because they were worried about their tuition and also because they were upset about being threatened like that, but they continued to refuse to sign anything, told their dad why they couldn't, and then came home early from their visitation because they said when they refused to sign, their dad got "scary". I pulled out my copy of our divorce decree and showed them where it clearly stated that their dad had to pay for their college tuition and repeated to them that they should not sign an incomplete document that took away their rights.

The next time the children went to their dad's for visitation, the eldest almost immediately came back home in tears saying their dad was still insisting they sign the trust documents or he wouldn't pay for the rest of their college, that the two of them had continued to refuse to sign anything and why, and that things had gotten "too weird" for them to feel comfortable about staying at their dad's. After the visitation ended, the other over-18-year-old came home with two more trust documents (one for each child) that were identical to the ones mailed to us except that their grandfather had handwritten in "Schedule A" and the amount of their upcoming tuition bills on each document; it is one of these same documents that is posted here for your inspection. I repeated to the kids that they should not sign the documents because they would be giving up all of their assets to their father and that this should have nothing to do with their tuition payments, which were a separate issue. They said they understood this completely and that they had no intentions of signing any such document, but they also both said they were afraid of going back over to their dad's.

Since all this happened at the time that I was working with the ex-FBI agent, the ex-DEA agent, and the Boerne lawyer (who was on the city council there at the time), I took these trust documents to them and had them looked at. Instead of advising me, however, they all asked me what I thought of the documents, which I thought was very strange. When I told them I felt the kids shouldn't sign them and why, they began trying to change my mind in various ways, but as soon as they realized I had no intention of backing down on the issue, they just said I should tell the children what I felt was best.

After this, the kids said they were still being threatened about not signing the trusts whenever they were at their dad's, but they held their ground and didn't sign anything, made it clear to their dad and grandfather that they had seen what the divorce decree said about their education expenses, and left their dad's house early several more times when they said things got too argumentative. After about a month of this, their father suddenly showed up at our front door one day with two checks, one to pay for each of their college tuition bills (but one of these was several hundred dollars short, and both checks were from his father's account, not his, for some reason). We immediately sent these checks off to the schools involved by registered mail because they were a few days late.

The older of these two children was seriously upset and frightened by this incident and also realized that they had almost no assets of their own for their dad to want--unless the kids inherited our house and land from me. This child was also angry and upset over their grandfather's having drawn up these documents and also about the threats related to it and some other serious but separate incidents that had occurred in the past. They decided it was in their best interest to end all contact with their father and his family at that point, and they now say that even though this decision was very painful at the time, they do not in any way regret it or the peace it has brought them since. The younger of these two handled the situation differently, telling their father that they would overlook the whole incident if their father and his family never again mentioned trust documents and that if they did, they would follow their sibling's lead and also end all contact.

My youngest child recently turned 18, and they said their dad has already mentioned trusts several times. For the record, ALL of my children say they have NEVER signed any sort of trust document.

Another lawyer from my case (the last one, who has ties to both San Antonio and Boerne) is now advertising as an elder law lawyer and is giving "Elder Law Seminars"; the advertisements for these sound as though trusts may be involved. Also, while this lawyer was supposedly representing me, I remember her telling me about other cases she was involved in from all over our area that concerned court cases involving estates, trusts, real estate, etc. (After I fired her, I learned she had previously worked as a criminal defense lawyer in Bexar County and also as a personal injury lawyer with a prominent San Antonio firm.) Update, 3/16/21: This last attorney is now running for public office in Bexar County.

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