Allow me to tell you about my day in the Courthouse.
Recently my husband died and there were many details to be taken care of. We owned everything jointly and the will would not have to be probated. However, one bank account was in my husband's name only.
I was advised to go to the office of the Register of Wills to get a letter of administration so that the money in that account could be transferred to the estate account. As my husband's personal representative I would then have access to that money. All well and good.
In our town the office of the Register of Wills is not in the original courthouse but in a newer building behind it. My bank is on a
corner approximately two blocks away. I didn't have the foresight to call ahead to find out what information would be needed. I took a copy of the will (they already had the original), an original death certificate, a copy of our marriage license, and I walked through town to the Courthouse.
I was intervied by a young woman who seemed to be having a bad day. "Exactly how much money is in this account?" she asked.
"I'm sorry, I don't have that information with me -- how about calling the bank" I suggested.
"Oh no, we don't do that."
There was no other way, so I hot-footed it to the bank. The representative who was familiar with the situation was at lunch, so the bank manager used her computer and gave me the figure.
Again I hot-footed it back to the building behind the Courthouse and gave the clerk the information. She proceeded to type the information on numerous forms. She then prepared the letter of administration and had me sign a few forms and said, "That will be $100."
I had to confess that I hadn't brought my checkbook with me and I didn't have that much cash.
Guess what! I shuffled back to the bank, which was closed by now, but they were expecting me with the letter. I tapped on the window and was admitted. I was given a check for $100, walked it back to the building behind the Courthouse and gave the clerk the check.
Back I went to the bank with my letter of administration. The young woman who usually takes care of me was back from lunch. She examined the papers and said, "This won't do -- you gave them the amount that is in the account to date. Legally it must be the amount that was in the account at the time of death."
My heart sank. My bank friend called the clerk at the Register of Wills and explained the problem. "Can't we take care of this on the telephone?" she asked.
"Absolutely not," she was told decisively. "Besides, the fee for that amount of money is only $50, not $100."
My friend at the bank gave me a check for $50 and off I went, dragging a little. By this time the security guard at the Courthouse and I were old friends. He waved me through without searching my bag, and without my having to go through the contraption that alerts them if you're carrying a weapon.
The half-dozen clerks in the Register of Wills office were 'N watching for my return. I entered the office bent over dramatically, dragging my feet and grimacing piteously. They all laughed, even my clerk. I believe she felt more cheerful because I was now the one having a bad day. Some of the forms had to be revised and signed. My check for $100 was returned and my check for $50 was accepted. Mission accomplished.
It was now four o'clock and we were all ready to go home. I took the letter to the bank and staggered home, a mile away. When I arrived I kicked my shoes off, made myself a perfect bourbon Manhattan, collapsed on the sofa and watched the remainder of the Oprah show.
Aunt Minnie was right. She always said, "If you don't use your head you'll use your feet!"
2& Lucille Bjanes writes from Towson.