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Closing the book on the closing

October 15th, 2015 at 02:10 am

I met with my lawyer the day before the scheduled closing last Thursday. I signed a bunch of papers. He went through the HUD settlement with me but it was very confusing because the buyer's numbers did not jive with ours and we were looking at 3 different sets of numbers.

I was a little thrown when he told me I wouldn't be able to collect the check immediately after the closing, which I didn't plan to attend for several reasons. He said no, he would deposit it in a specially designated trustee account and would have to wait 2 days for it to clear before he could write me a check. We agreed he would either hand deliver it to my house or overnight it yesterday.

Despite that verbal understanding, over the weekend I began feeling a little uneasy about everything, mainly because I've never done business with this attorney before and really don't know all that much about him. This is the first time I've sold any real estate. Plus this is a very large sum of money we're talking about, and I began thinking how I left his office without really anything in hand to show for it because none of the numbers would be considered final until the closing took place.

It occurred to me that he could be trying to abscond with my money! Or, he could probably make a tidy profit in interest simply by holding onto all his real estate clients' closing checks in his trustee account for just 3 or 4 days before writing the client the check. Interest earned after just a couple of days isn't a lot until you think about checks amounting to half a million or more.

My anxieties began to get a hold of me and one thought led to another. So yesterday morning at 8:30 a.. I called and left a message wanting to know how exactly I'd get the check as we hadn't nailed that down. I made the call when I arrived at work as I sat in my car in the parking garage. When I hadn't heard back from him an hour later, I called and left a 2nd message. In the past, he had always promptly answered the phone himself. Now, he wasn't. By late morning, I decided to call his paralegal, who promised to contact him on my behalf. A short while later, I got his call at work and we agreed that he'd leave the check in my back door.

I got the check last night when I got home from work and everything appears in order.

I felt embarrassed that for a while, I actually contemplated that my attorney might possibly be pulling some kind of fast one on me, although one would think if he was going to do this, he would choose a property with a much higher value than my mother's. (It was a sinking feeling that reminded me of how I felt after naively believing in 2013 I could go into a car dealership and negotiate a new car purchase without being totally taken advantage of. Fortunately at that time I was able to undo a car purchase I had committed to on paper but really didn't want.)

Still, I thought there were a few things my attorney did that just heightened my anxiety, like spending an undue amount of time going over the numbers on 3 separate versions of paperwork: his, the buyer's attorney and his own personal accounting sheet, which listed out the credits and expenses differently. It just made it all very confusing and hard to follow.

He should have made the time to reconcile these numbers before I, the client, arrived in the office. He was on the phone with his paralegal while I was there, trying to figure out the discrepancy with the other attorney's numbers, and this didn't exactly inspire confidence in me.

Probably the worst thing was that I signed a bunch of important documents and left his office without copies of anything. Perhaps all this could have been avoided if I'd chosen to attend the closing.

Anyway, after getting the check last night, I decided to send my attorney an email just sharing some of this feedback with him. I also apologized for not realizing he DID return my first phone call yesterday morning, almost immediately. That's actually why I didn't get the call, because after I called him from the parking garage, I was walking up to my office on the 6th floor and that's when he called me back on the office number I'd given him. Unfortunately, I have missed messages on my phone before because the machine does not always indicate I have a call unless I think to log in to Messages and/or check the log status of incoming and outgoing calls. In my job, I don't use the phone much, believe it or not.

He emailed me back with a detailed, articulate and interesting response explaining the movement of money after a closing, what the typical practices of other lawyers are as well as his own and he did point out a few things that happened in my closing that he didn't like. Nothing major, but it did require some adjustments.

So anyway, I am greatly relieved and I do really like my attorney after seeing how he responded. I could tell when I did finally talk to him this morning that his paralegal must have relayed to him my concerned tone of voice because he sounded a tiny bit puzzled, or hurt. Not defensive, but maybe surprised that I might be less than completely confident in him.

He pointed out in his email last night, and I had been thinking the same thing, that if you don't have complete trust in your attorney, then it's game over. It's that kind of profession where you have to trust that they're going to do the right thing by you. And it's the same way in my profession, banking...if customers for whatever reason lose trust in the bank as a safe institution to entrust their savings to, well, you've just lost a customer.

Today (it's early Thursday morning as I write this) I have another important meeting at Masonicare with mom's caregivers. I don't know if her recent fall will change the hoped for schedule of returning her to Maplewood next week.

As far as falls go, I'm not sure you can reasonably expect someone to be by their side 24 hours a day to prevent another fall. And according to my cousin, legally they cannot restrain a patient in a wheelchair due to fire safety regulations. I am certainly going to raise the issue at the meeting though, to ask how we can prevent falls in the future. And to be honest, I have NOT ruled out investigating the possibility of a lawsuit aimed at the doctor who sent my mother back to assisted living and did not not detect the hip fracture when she was sent to the hospital following her 1st 2 falls.

I don't want to get into some sort of protracted, time-consuming and expensive legal battle that's iffy. I would only pursue it if an attorney, possibly the one I just used, felt I had a very strong case.

So after this morning's meeting at Masonicare, I will run to the bank to deposit my mega check into my mother's no interest checking account. As soon as it clears there and I will ask how long that takes, I will make a transfer of all of it to a new Ally online money market account, which gets 1% interest. That's the best rate I can find.

If, later this year, the Fed finally raises interest rates, I might like to take a large chunk of that money and put it in a higher earning, short-term CD for maybe 6 months or a year max. Like, maybe I could get 2 or 3% or something to beat inflation. But otherwise, I don't think I want to put this money at risk and it will just sit in the 1% Ally account..especially since another roughly $100K is already exposed to market risks in her brokerage account.

I was really looking forward to delivering mom's art to my cousin this weekend with my father, but sadly, it looks like her husband may pass soon. They've told her it's time for Hospice and that she should get funeral plans in place. She is battling her in-laws about where to bury him. We'll have to reschedule at some later time. I called her yesterday to see how she was doing and we had a good talk, even laughing as we shared some childhood memories of my grandparents.

Oh, and at the very last minute, when I'd realized I'd forgotten to include the keys to the new slider doors at my mother's condo to my lawyer when I signed all the paperwork, I left the keys for my lawyer to pick up on his way in to his office. (My house is on his way.) Inside the envelope with the keys I also wrote a brief letter addressed to the buyer, wishing her well and telling her about my mother's many happy and artistically productive years in that condo. I also told her she has great neighbors and encouraged her to get to know them. I actually felt a desire to get to know her better, but I guess in this kind of transaction it's best not to do that, mainly in case she has issues with the condo down the road or something.

After all my walk-throughs, my realtor informed me she'd found one remaining piece of my mother's art still in the condo after I handed over the keys, so she was able to drop that off for me today as well.

So we really have wrapped everything up. Now all that remains to be done is to account for the sale at tax time. I will use the same accountant my mother used for years. I'll have to do a very rough accounting of her cost basis as I have some knowledge of just a few improvements she made to the condo over the years which may or may not be permitted as deductions from her purchase price. Like windows, the slider doors, new stove and dishwasher. That's about it. I did the carpeting, but I know that won't fly.

Next I need to brace myself for the onslaught of medical bills and paperwork related to mom's surgery.

5 Responses to “Closing the book on the closing”

  1. VS_ozgirl Says:

    I don't know about the US, but in Australia lawyers and real estate agents must deposit all funds received into trust accounts and there are very strict procedures in place. I imagine it would be the same.

  2. creditcardfree Says:

    I'm glad it really worked out fine in the end with the condo closing. A little tip, you may want to see what the two banks you are dealing with have for limits on transfers(outgoing more commonly has limits). Sometimes, it can be less than the amount you want to transfer. This would then require several transfers. Another way to do it one transaction is to authorize a wire transfer. Usually there is a fee associated.

  3. Carol Says:

    So glad for you that the condo sale is complete! Good point about checking transfer limits--I have read about how much stricter they are nowadays. Take care and I hope that meeting goes well.

  4. Ima saver Says:

    I am so glad the closing is over. I cannot find any bank paying a rate higher than 1.09 on savings at the moment. That bank is mysavings direct (Emigrant bank) The only c.d.'s I can find at 2% are for a 5 year time frame. Nothing at 3% yet.

  5. FrugalTexan75 Says:

    If you have the account at a credit union, you could call them and ask them to raise the transfer limit amount. I had to do that when I was transferring money from Barclay's to my new credit union account.

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