The Estate, The Widow, and a Used Parrot: A War Story

So not too long ago I blasted a guy for making a post about a fucking parrot.  The post called out another attorney for possibly copying a tweet regarding a parrot in a divorce, it got thousands of views, and got me labeled as the “parrot post” guy.  Hell, it got mentioned in an online blog ran by People magazine.  A fucking parrot.

Ever notice how sometimes cases and legal issues in various matters, all of which are unrelated, become similar?  Not too long ago I was retained to sue a titty bar.  Since then, I’ve had a number of cases come in where I’m suing titty bars, all different cases.  Likewise, a while back I got one case against a car dealership, then while it was pending got like three more.  None of these people knew each other.  I have no idea how it happens, but it’s a truth:  For some reason certain types of cases seem to come in clumps.

Which, of course, means that a parrot became the central issue in an estate I handled recently…and then I started getting a variety of pet-related matters.  Determining the ownership of thirty cats.  Figuring out which neighbor’s dog was destroying prize-winning roses.  Etc etc etc.

Because, given my history with the species, of fucking course it would be a goddamn parrot that started the multiple rush of pet cases I’m currently handling.

Alright, you ever met two elderly people who got married simply because neither one of them could stand being alone?  You know the type, they don’t really want to be married, but they like each other and neither one of them want to spend their last few years alone?  However, it really is like the two of them live completely separate lives, and that’s just how it is?  That was Martha and Bob.

Martha and Bob were each on their second and third marriages respectively when they wed.  Bob, being a long time client of ours, was someone that we dealt with, and for many years they were happy.  However, as Bob had suffered through the financial devastation that followed divorce, he was in no hurry to transfer assets into joint accounts, which led to a situation not too long ago where, after Bob had been admitted to the hospital for a series of medical conditions, we very quickly had to engage in some asset transfers and estate planning the day of his release, sitting in his downstairs office.

Now, parrots aren’t common legal issues that we deal with.  Dogs, yes.  Cats, yes.  People fight over those animals all of the time, but generally a parrot, from my limited experience with those flying, feathered terrors, imprints itself on one owner to the detriment of all of those around them.  The Oatmeal, a site I absolutely love, has a comic about such an instance that you can, and should, read here.  In my experience, when the custody of a parrot is left in the air, a person should realize that one person only wants the fucking bird so they can kill it.

So of course Bob had a parrot.  And of course Martha hated that fucking parrot with every bone in her body.  And of course Bob, shortly after executing the documents, died suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly, leaving Martha in control of the estate.

The estate that was severely in debt outside of the transferred assets.

Except for the fucking parrot.

Bob had been dead for a about a week when the phone rang at 8:31 a.m., a solid minute after the office opens, and my staff dutifully informed me that Martha was on the line and quite upset.  This was not unexpected, as Martha was a recent widow.  I was expecting to hear how overwhelmed she was regarding the death of her spouse and partner, and how she appreciated the help we were giving.  I was even expecting some tears, and maybe the need to offer some reassurance.  What I was not expecting, however, was to pick up the phone and be greeted as follows:

“I’m getting rid of the goddamn parrot,” she snapped at me.

“Excuse me?”

“The parrot.  I’m getting rid of the goddamn parrot.”

“Wait, wait, back up, what parrot?”

“Bob’s parrot.”

“Why are you getting rid of the parrot?” I asked, staring forlornly at the egg bagel sandwich that was getting cold on my desk.

“It’s sick, and I can’t care for it because Bob always cared for it, so I’m getting rid of it,” Martha told me as I scrambled through the file.

“Okay, okay…well, we have it listed here as an Africa Grey parrot type.  Now, that’s an asset of the estate, so as the attorney for the estate I’m going to advise that you at least call one pet shop and get an estimate of worth so we can document the price you’re getting for it is reasonable since there are going to be creditors and the estate is largely insol…”

“I’m giving the parrot away,” she answered, “I’ve already called the Parrot Rescue and they’re coming this afternoon to pick up the parrot.  The parrot is going away this afternoon.”

“Back up….what the hell is a ‘Parrot Rescue?’  You know what, nevermind, nevermind.  Look, these birds can be worth some money, so I’m going to need you to at least call one pet shop and ask them what they would pay for….” I began, far out of my depth as neither coffee nor bagel had been consumed and I had somehow found myself in a world where I had to consider the likelihood of a creditor claiming the executrix had wasted the assets of the estate, in this case, one parrot.

As I spoke, I frantically googled what the value of a fucking parrot is.  I wasn’t even sure how to search this.  Did I need to to refer to it as a used parrot?  Is that even a thing?  Is there a market for used parrots?  Are they rated like the used goods on Amazon, with a condition identified?  One Parrot, Used.  Condition: Like New, But Bitey.

“I’m not calling anyone, I’m getting rid of the parrot today,” she insisted.

“Okay, Martha, I get that, it’s probably fine, but we need to document the fact that the parrot is basically worthless,” I explained in my ‘calm but firm’ voice, “See, if a creditor finds out you’re giving away assets that could have been used to pay some of the estate’s debts, they could come back against you personally and then…”

I’m not getting a value for the parrot,” she answered, “The parrot isn’t even worth $100. Nobody’s coming after me for that.”

“I agree it’s unlikely, but I’m seeing here that some of these birds sell for up to $1,500…I mean, they aren’t used parrots, but it’s at least worth getting a valuation and….”

“Boozy, I’ve already told I’m not documenting anything.  You are not being helpful and I am getting upset, so I am hanging up now.  Goodbye.”

That’s how the call ended.  I have to admit, I was more than a little confused, but that’s how it goes sometimes.  Clients will occasionally call you over batshit things, ignore you, and do whatever they want.  I made a note in the file, and then sent off an email confirming what I had advised her to do.  This, by the way, is standard “cover your ass” procedure when a client makes it clear they plan on ignoring you.  My day continued until, again, the phone rang.

“Hello, Attorney Boozy, how can I help you?”

Another thing about the parrot,” Martha began, with no time for introductions, “It’s making me sick!  I shouldn’t have to keep it in the house if it’s making me sick.”

“Wait, what?  Martha?  I thought the parrot was sick,” I said, scrambling to keep up.

“Well, it’s making me sick too.  Besides, that parrot isn’t even worth $500.”

“Wait, earlier it wasn’t worth $100.  Why does the amount the parrot isn’t worth keep going up?  Are you getting estimates on the parrot now?  Who are you getting the estimates from?”

“I’m not keeping the parrot,” she insisted, “It’s going away today.  You can’t make me keep it.”

“Martha,” I explained calmly, “I’m not making you keep the parrot.  But if the parrot’s worth money, and you get rid of the parrot, a creditor of the estate may come back and claim you should have sold the parrot.  We need to document what the parrot is worth.”

“You’re trying to make me keep the parrot,” she insisted.

“No, no I’m not.  I don’t care about the parrot.  I don’t represent the parrot. But I have to advise you as to the risks concerning getting rid of the parrot.  If you’re okay with the risks, I don’t care if you kill the parrot.”

There was a beat of silence, then

“Is that….”

“NO.  NO.  DO NOT KILL THE PARROT.

Somehow we had gotten to the point where I was having a conversation that was quickly moving towards parrot-cide.  I took a moment for myself, took a deep breath, and returned to the call.

“Look, you want to be rid of the parrot?”

“Yes.”

“Do you understand what I said about the possibility of personal liability?  You understand that if you get rid of the parrot without some estimate of value, they can come back and say the parrot was worth money and you’d personally have to pay that money?”

“Yes.”

“Are you still planning on getting rid of the parrot today by giving it away despite me telling you that?”

“Yes.”

“Great.  Just….just respond to my email and say ‘okay,’ alright?”

We finished the call, and I assume she gave the parrot away that same day.  However, a few days later she called, much happier than before, to speak with me about the boat and asking if that was among the assets transferred into her name before the death.

“Well, yeah.  The boat was transferred solely to you years ago, Martha.”

“Oh good,” she giddily replied, “Because once I sell the house, I’m going to move onto the boat and live on it in the Florida Keys.”

“Wait…you’re selling the house to move onto the boat?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“In the Caribbean?”

“Well, the Gulf of Mexico, but yes.”

“So…let me get this straight, you’re going to live on a boat and sail around the Caribbean?”

“Yes, it’ll be wonderful!” she exclaimed.

“And you got rid of the parrot?” 

Alright, that’s what I got for you today.  Tomorrow is music and a post on the continuing debacle that is Charlotte School of Law, probably.

-BB

Author: BoozyBarrister

From a riverboat to a law office, the BoozyBarrister is a civil litigator with a bad attitude.