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  • Estate Executor Abuse?

    My sister and her husband were named co-executors of my parents estate,
    which includes a home left to all four siblings (my sister, myself and
    two brothers). My mother died in Jan, 2004. My sister recently
    received a phone call from my father's attorney stating that the
    probate process needs to be completed. For some reason I don't
    understand, she seems to prefer it not be settled and the house put in
    all four names. I've assumed this could be for liability reasons (she
    owns more property than us), but I don't know. However, a recent
    comment by my sister concerns me. In essense, she said that she could
    sell the house without consulting us three brothers, and is apparently
    planning to do so. When I mentioned that I thought an executor was a
    temporary situation, and that we all four would need to get together on
    any sale plans, she stated again that she has the right to sell it
    without any of our (her brothers) input.

    I thought an executor was a temporary thing? Can she sell the house
    without us? How can we finalize probate? She has used money in my
    mothers account for paying hers and others utility bills, vehicle and
    insurance payments, and so on... treating it like her own account
    without any oversite. The money is about all gone, I understand.

    My sister does not inform any other members of anything, and seems to
    treat the situation as if everything was left to her. She is the only
    person to meet with the attorney my dad was using before he died, and
    this attorney was referred from my sister's husband. No one else even
    has his phone number.

    As I said, we're getting close to 1 1/2 years without the house being
    put in our shared names. When I've asked her why, I've gotten vague
    answers.

    Advise, please!


  • #2
    Estate Executor Abuse?

    [email protected] wrote:
    My sister and her husband were named co-executors of my parents estate, which includes a home left to all four siblings (my sister, myself and two brothers). My mother died in Jan, 2004. My sister recently received a phone call from my father's attorney stating that the probate process needs to be completed. For some reason I don't understand, she seems to prefer it not be settled and the house put in all four names.
    Does your sister live in the house? If so, that may well be the
    reason. If she's the executor she may be able to continue to live
    there until the house is distributed. If it's distributed to all
    the kids as joint tenants, she will be able to continue to live
    there until someone sues her and gets a court order to sell.
    However, a recent comment by my sister concerns me. In essense, she said that she could sell the house without consulting us three brothers, and is apparently planning to do so.
    Generally that's the executor's job. If one or more of the heirs
    want to buy the house from the probate (receiving credit for their
    proportionate share of the value, of course), he is certainly free
    to do so.
    She has used money in my mothers account for paying hers and others utility bills, vehicle and insurance payments, and so on... treating it like her own account without any oversite.
    She will have to justify her actions to the probate court. But if
    nobody shows the court the inconsistencies in her accounting, she
    may get away with it. Consult a local estate lawyer.

    Stu

    Comment


    • #3
      Estate Executor Abuse?

      [email protected] wrote:
      My sister and her husband were named co-executors of my parents
      estate,
      which includes a home left to all four siblings (my sister, myself
      and
      two brothers).
      That's not how it usually works. Did the will actually say the house
      itself was to be retained and bequeathed to the 4 siblings, or did it
      just say that the 4 of you share equally in the residual estate? The
      latter is more common these days unless your family home is part of a
      working farm or has been in the family for generations and the dying
      ancestor wants it to stay that way. In a modern middle class American
      family sually all the parents care about is that their children receive
      money, not specific land, from their inheritance.
      My mother died in Jan, 2004. My sister recently received a phone call from my father's attorney stating that the probate process needs to be completed.
      Based on what you say below, how do you know she got such a call? You
      said she's not telling you anything. And you say you don't know who
      the atty is.

      Anyway, closing out probate sounds like a good idea. That's the point
      of the whole process, completing the distribution of the estate assets
      to the heirs in one way or another.
      For some reason I don't understand, she seems to prefer it not be settled
      That's one possible thing but the court, not she, has final say over
      that. And probate does have to be completed, eventually, sometime.
      and the house put in all four names.
      And that's a totally different possible thing which may or may not be
      part of her plan for closing out probate.

      I detect a possible misunderstanding. In order for probate to be
      settled, all the assets of the decedent's estate have to be collected
      by the executor, and then disposed of in accordance with the will.
      Perhaps the executor is doing what your mother wanted by selling the
      house so that the money from the sale can be split among the 4 of you.
      In any event, even if your mother's will did say the house was to be
      put into a tenancy in common owned by the 4 sibs, after probate closes
      any one of the new co-owners who wanted "out" could file a complaint to
      partition the property and force a sale by that means, at which time
      the cash value of the house would be split among the 4 of you. 6 of
      1, 1/2 dozen of the other.

      Do you want to keep the house in your (not your siblings') nuclear
      family? Then offer to buy it from the estate, or to have it be
      appraised and taken out of your share of the overall inheritance.
      I've assumed this could be for liability reasons (she owns more property than us), but I don't know.
      It doesn't matter why she doesn't want to keep it, since the law gives
      her as executor the sole discretion in whether to keep it or sell it
      unless the will specifically provides otherwise.
      However, a recent comment by my sister concerns me. In essense, she said that she
      could
      sell the house without consulting us three brothers, and is
      apparently
      planning to do so.
      If she is the executor, and IF selling the house does not violate any
      of the provisions the testator (your mom) put in her will, then yes she
      can do so.
      When I mentioned that I thought an executor was a temporary situation, and that we all four would need to get together
      on
      any sale plans, she stated again that she has the right to sell it without any of our (her brothers) input.
      Yes, executor is a temporary position; it lasts until the probate is
      completed. And collecting, selling, and converting into cash the
      various assets of the testator's estate are all properly part of her
      duties in wrapping up the estate to complete probate, UNLESS the will
      specifically prevents her from selling the house.
      I thought an executor was a temporary thing? Can she sell the house without us?
      If the will so permits, yes.
      How can we finalize probate?
      By letting her do her job properly.
      She has used money in my mothers account for paying hers and others utility bills, vehicle and insurance payments, and so on... treating it like her own account without any oversite.
      That is a different kettle of fish. What proof do you have? I note
      that she does have an atty representing the estate; so he is ethically
      bound to see that she follows the provisions of the will and reports a
      proper accounting to the court. The kind of self-dealing you suspect
      is much more likely in cases where a relative acts as executor without
      an atty being involved since, as you note, there would be no oversight.
      But if you are concerned the atty may not be adequately supervising
      the process, you would be well advised to take your specific facts, and
      any supporting documentation (including a copy of the will) to a local
      probate atty other than the one currently representing the estate, and
      lay it all out for him to see if he feels your interests are at risk
      and if so, if there is anything he can do to protect your interests.
      The money is about all gone, I understand.
      How much of it was there to begin with? What were the estate's
      expenses and your mother's debts? As noted, all of this needs to be
      accounted for publicly if the will is being probated. But the house is
      still there, right? It sounds like that is the bulk of the value of
      the estate.
      My sister does not inform any other members of anything,
      That's not unusual or improper, except for whatever reports she may be
      required to file and copy to you by your state's law. You don't say
      where you are, BTW.

      Often, all that is required to be reported to the heirs is a final
      accounting when all is completed. The longer it takes her to sell the
      house, the longer it will be until probate is completed, IF selling the
      house is part of what's necessary to close out probate.
      and seems to treat the situation as if everything was left to her.
      That's not the same thing. What solid evidence do you have other than
      her lack of communicativeness that she is taking the estate's money and
      using it for her own benefit in breach of her fiduciary duty to the
      other heirs?
      She is the only person to meet with the attorney my dad was using before he died, and this attorney was referred from my sister's husband. No one else
      even
      has his phone number.
      For heaven's sake, if the will has been probated, the attorney's name,
      address and phone will appear on the court's file. Call your county's
      office that handles probate of wills, and find out who he is.
      As I said, we're getting close to 1 1/2 years without the house being put in our shared names. When I've asked her why, I've gotten vague answers.
      Maybe you've gotten straight answers (that she intends to sell it and
      distribute the cash) but don't like the answers you're getting.
      Advise, please!
      You'll have to ask a local probate atty for that, after showing him all
      the facts, if the above discussion doesn't clear up your confusion.
      Good luck,

      --
      This posting is for discussion purposes, not professional advice.
      Anything you post on this Newsgroup is public information.
      I am not your lawyer, and you are not my client in any specific legal
      matter.
      For confidential professional advice, consult your own lawyer in a
      private communication.

      Mike Jacobs
      LAW OFFICE OF W. MICHAEL JACOBS
      10440 Little Patuxent Pkwy #300
      Columbia, MD 21044
      (tel) 410-740-5685 (fax) 410-740-4300

      Comment


      • #4
        Estate Executor Abuse?

        > My sister and her husband were named co-executors of my parents
        estate, which includes a home left to all four siblings (my sister, myself and two brothers). My mother died in Jan, 2004. My sister recently received a phone call from my father's attorney stating that the probate process needs to be completed. For some reason I don't understand, she seems to prefer it not be settled and the house put in all four names.
        Stu: "Does your sister live in the house?"

        No, she lives a block away. A brother lives in the house, paying the
        taxes, insurance and utilities, but no rent.

        However, a recent comment by my sister concerns me. In essense, she said that she could sell the house without consulting us three brothers, and is apparently planning to do so.
        Stu: "Generally that's the executor's job. If one or more of the heirs
        want to buy the house from the probate (receiving credit for their
        proportionate share of the value, of course), he is certainly free to
        do so."

        I didn't know that when I posted my questions, but now I understand
        that she can sell the house so long as the will doesn't prohibit it.
        I've never seen the will, so I don't know what it says, actually.
        She has used money in my mothers account for paying hers and others utility bills, vehicle and insurance payments, and so on... treating it like her own account without any oversite.
        Stu: "She will have to justify her actions to the probate court. But
        if nobody shows the court the inconsistencies in her accounting, she
        may get away with it. Consult a local estate lawyer."

        Which is what I suspect... that she'll get away with it. I'm not
        really wanting to cause her problems with that, since it was not a
        great deal of money left in the estate. However, with the length of
        time this simple estate has stayed unresolved, and with her comments
        about having the right to sell it without involving us brothers, well,
        I'm beginning to become concerned. Of course, your answer explains
        that indeed she can sell it, which is not what I assumed.

        Comment


        • #5
          Estate Executor Abuse?

          > My sister and her husband were named co-executors of my parents
          estate,
          which includes a home left to all four siblings (my sister, myself
          and
          two brothers).
          MIKE: "That's not how it usually works. Did the will actually say the
          house itself was to be retained and bequeathed to the 4 siblings, or
          did it just say that the 4 of you share equally in the residual estate?
          The latter is more common these days unless your family home is part
          of a working farm or has been in the family for generations and the
          dying ancestor wants it to stay that way. In a modern middle class
          American family sually all the parents care about is that their
          children receive money, not specific land, from their inheritance."

          I have not read the will, so I'm not sure what my father stipulated.
          He died of cancer, and he created a living will and supposedly arranged
          for everything for my mother, who died a few months after him, with the
          house being left to us four kids. I guess I need to see if a copy of
          the will can be provided for me to read.

          My mother died in Jan, 2004. My sister recently received a phone call from my father's attorney stating that the probate process needs to be completed.
          MIKE: "Based on what you say below, how do you know she got such a
          call? You said she's not telling you anything. And you say you
          don't know who the atty is."

          Well, she's certainly not being very forthcoming, but she and I get
          along well and we do talk. I first learned about the attorney's phone
          call from my brother, who learned it from my sister or brother-in-law.
          I mentioned it to my sister, who confirmed that the attorney had called
          and said the estate could not stay in limbo forever. This was about
          three months ago or so (and about 16 months since mother passed.) As
          for the name of the attorney, she had mentioned it before but I didn't
          make record of it, and I'm in the state now where I don't really want
          to make waves, unless, as I'm worried about, things are not being
          handled properly or fairly.

          MIKE: "Anyway, closing out probate sounds like a good idea. That's
          the point of the whole process, completing the distribution of the
          estate assets
          to the heirs in one way or another."
          For some reason I don't understand, she seems to prefer it not be settled
          MIKE: "That's one possible thing but the court, not she, has final say
          over that. And probate does have to be completed, eventually,
          sometime."
          and the house put in all four names.
          MIKE: "And that's a totally different possible thing which may or may
          not be part of her plan for closing out probate. I detect a possible
          misunderstanding. In order for probate to be settled, all the assets
          of the decedent's estate have to be collected by the executor, and then
          disposed of in accordance with the will. Perhaps the executor is doing
          what your mother wanted by selling the house so that the money from the
          sale can be split among the 4 of you. In any event, even if your
          mother's will did say the house was to be put into a tenancy in common
          owned by the 4 sibs, after probate closes any one of the new co-owners
          who wanted "out" could file a complaint to partition the property and
          force a sale by that means, at which time the cash value of the house
          would be split among the 4 of you. 6 of
          1, 1/2 dozen of the other. Do you want to keep the house in your (not
          your siblings') nuclear family? Then offer to buy it from the estate,
          or to have it be appraised and taken out of your share of the overall
          inheritance."

          I do need to read the will, I guess, since all I know is that my father
          prepared everything before his death (about four months before my
          mother's), and the house was left to us kids. As to whether it was
          expressely stated that we get the house, and not proceeds from it,
          well, I just don't know yet. As for me, I don't really care about
          having the house for just myself (by buying the others out). I have a
          brother who is living there, and who would like to own it, but he does
          not have good enough credit to buy it. I do think it could be fairly
          good investment property, since it's on a primary street and zoned
          commercial in a growing area.

          I've assumed this could be for liability reasons (she owns more property than us), but I don't know.
          MIKE: "It doesn't matter why she doesn't want to keep it, since the law
          gives her as executor the sole discretion in whether to keep it or sell
          it unless the will specifically provides otherwise."

          This I did not know. I was alarmed when she said she could sell it on
          her own, without us, but your helpful answer confirms that indeed she
          can.
          However, a recent comment by my sister concerns me. In essense, she said that she
          could
          sell the house without consulting us three brothers, and is
          apparently
          planning to do so.
          MIKE: "If she is the executor, and IF selling the house does not
          violate any of the provisions the testator (your mom) put in her will,
          then yes she can do so."
          When I mentioned that I thought an executor was a temporary situation, and that we all four would need to get together
          on
          any sale plans, she stated again that she has the right to sell it without any of our (her brothers) input.
          MIKE: "Yes, executor is a temporary position; it lasts until the
          probate is completed. And collecting, selling, and converting into
          cash the various assets of the testator's estate are all properly part
          of her
          duties in wrapping up the estate to complete probate, UNLESS the will
          specifically prevents her from selling the house."
          How can we finalize probate?
          MIKE: "By letting her do her job properly."

          Which is fine by me. Up until recently, when I posted these questions,
          I have not gotten involved at all, trusting that she would try to do
          things rightly. My concerns lately were whether she actually is doing
          her job properly. The fact that after 16 months the estate is not
          probated, and the comment she had about her selling the house on her
          own (which I thought she could not do). Still, I've not shared these
          concerns with her, and we talk occassionally and get along fine.
          Frankly, she's influenced by her husband, who I deem to be a bit of a
          "snake"... who I learned to not trust many years ago, so I do keep a
          bit of a wary eye on the situation.
          She has used money in my mothers account for paying hers and others utility bills, vehicle and
          insurance payments, and so on... treating it like her own account without any oversite.
          MIKE: "That is a different kettle of fish. What proof do you have?
          I note that she does have an atty representing the estate; so he is
          ethically bound to see that she follows the provisions of the will and
          reports a proper accounting to the court. The kind of self-dealing
          you suspect is much more likely in cases where a relative acts as
          executor without
          an atty being involved since, as you note, there would be no oversight.

          But if you are concerned the atty may not be adequately supervising
          the process, you would be well advised to take your specific facts, and

          any supporting documentation (including a copy of the will) to a local
          probate atty other than the one currently representing the estate, and
          lay it all out for him to see if he feels your interests are at risk
          and if so, if there is anything he can do to protect your interests."

          Thanks for that advise. I lived in another state until recently, but I
          learned from both of my brothers and from my sister (the executor) that
          she has spent money from mother's account for herself and them, paying
          vehicle payments, insurance, utilities, and whatever else, "helping out
          in a crunch", apparently. When my sister and I discussed it, she said
          she was aware (at least at that time) that this use of funds was not
          proper.
          The money is about all gone, I understand.
          MIKE: "How much of it was there to begin with? What were the estate's
          expenses and your mother's debts? Asnoted, all of this needs to be
          accounted for publicly if the will is being probated. But the house is
          still there, right? It sounds like that is the bulk of the value of
          the estate."

          You're right. The money left in the account was not much, and the
          house is the bigger value. And my sister saw to it that my Mom had a
          nice funeral. The money my sister has spent improperly is a relatively
          small amount of money (perhaps a few thousand or so, but I don't really
          know). As I mentioned previously, my concerns have grown lately
          because of my sister's comment about her selling the house on her own,
          which I thought she could not do since it was left to all of us, and
          with that my beginning to question why the estate has never been
          probated, why I get vague unsatisfactory answers when I've asked, and
          about her handling of the checking account funds improperly.
          My sister does not inform any other members of anything,
          MIKE: "That's not unusual or improper, except for whatever reports she
          may be required to file and copy to you by your state's law. You don't
          say
          where you are, BTW."

          I'm in Marion County (Indianapolis), Indiana. Perhaps it's normal for
          an executor to not share information, but it can open worries, as this
          case. Both of my brothers don't know anything either, and up until
          lately, no one was really worried. I read a bit online about wills and
          estates recently, and something I read said something about the
          executor keeping the heirs informed, so that's where I got that.

          MIKE: "Often, all that is required to be reported to the heirs is a
          final accounting when all is completed. The longer it takes her to
          sell the
          house, the longer it will be until probate is completed, IF selling the
          house is part of what's necessary to close out probate."

          It wouldn't be necessary to sell the house, I don't think, since my
          brothers and I would just as soon hang on to it. My oldest brother
          expressed the view that any money would be spent relatively quickly,
          but that the house would be a good investment long-term, and my other
          brother and myself tend to agree with that. Too, the house needs some
          work to bring it's best selling price. The fact that my sister
          mentioned selling it was a surprise, I guess, since she knows our
          views.
          and seems to treat the situation as if everything was left to her.
          MIKE: "That's not the same thing. What solid evidence do you have
          other than her lack of communicativeness that she is taking the
          estate's money and using it for her own benefit in breach of her
          fiduciary duty to the other heirs?"

          Just what I've expressed so far. As I said, us brothers haven't really
          gotten involved or been concerned until I became a bit worried by her
          comment about her selling the house on her own. And, in that same
          conversation she mentioned the checking account was about depleted.
          I've never even asked how much was in the account to begin with.
          She is the only person to meet with the attorney my dad was using before he died, and
          this attorney was referred from my sister's husband. No one else
          even
          has his phone number.
          MIKE: "For heaven's sake, if the will has been probated, the attorney's
          name, address and phone will appear on the court's file. Call your
          county's office that handles probate of wills, and find out who he is."

          I will do this. Even though you've confirmed she can sell the house on
          her own, I still would like to have his contact information in case I
          feel a need to discuss something or get better informed. I should at
          least read the will, if he has it.
          As I said, we're getting close to 1 1/2 years without the house being
          put in our shared names. When I've asked her why, I've gotten vague answers.
          MIKE: "Maybe you've gotten straight answers (that she intends to sell
          it and distribute the cash) but don't like the answers you're getting."

          Actually, though it would be assumed, she never expressed it like
          you've said it... that she has the right as an executor to sell it and
          split the proceeds. Her comment was more vague. The house is fully
          paid for, no mortgage, and my parents didn't leave any large
          outstanding debts. That three of the four of us want to probably keep
          the home for long term, and she knows this, but yet she suddenly
          comments that she might sell it was an eye-opener. And she never
          mentioned about splitting the cash... just that she might sell it.
          That's what caused me to be wary.
          Advise, please!
          MIKE: "You'll have to ask a local probate atty for that, after showing
          him all the facts, if the above discussion doesn't clear up your
          confusion."

          Thank you very much for your advise! I'm less concerned now, just
          knowing more about these matters. I think I will obtain the attorney's
          contact information through the court as you suggested, and read the
          will. I still would feel better seeing the estate finish probate, and
          knowing that my name is attached to the title. I still don't know why
          there doesn't appear to be an end in sight that does this. And I don't
          "get" the answers I receive from her when I've inquired (they're
          vague). It's almost like now that I've asked questions, she's not
          going to get the home in all four names, but instead sell it on her
          own. I just don't get why. And, is there a tie-in to the spent
          checking account? How much was in there anyway, and how much did she
          spend on herself?

          These are still questions I have, but you have helped greatly by
          explaining things and offering advise. Again, thank you!

          Comment


          • #6
            Estate Executor Abuse?

            [email protected] wrote <lots snipped>:
            It wouldn't be necessary to sell the house, I don't think, since my brothers and I would just as soon hang on to it. My oldest brother expressed the view that any money would be spent relatively quickly, but that the house would be a good investment long-term, and my other brother and myself tend to agree with that.
            I'm afraid I wasn't clear enough on this point in my first post. This
            is not a case of "majority rule". Any one of the several co-owners
            can initiate a partition of the property if they want "out". Whether
            or not your desire to keep it as investment property vs. her desire to
            sell is not the issue. And this is not just because she's executor of
            the Will; _any_ co-owner can do this. OTOH, if the other 3 of you do
            want to keep it, maybe it would be within your financial means to buy
            out just the other sister's share? That would only require a cash
            outlay (or 2nd mortgage) of about 1/12 the house's value from each of
            the 3 remaining owners (1/3 x 1/4). You should definitely have a
            lawyer representing your side to negotiate this with her lawyer if
            that's what you want to try to do.
            Even though you've confirmed she can sell the house on her own, I still would like to have his contact information in case I feel a need to discuss something or get better informed. I should at least read the will, if he has it.
            No, don't do that yet; the main point I was trying to make is, the
            _court_ will have a copy of the Will, as a publicly available document
            in their file, if the Will has been submitted to probate. Call them
            and find out if it has, and then ask to be shown the file and/or make a
            copy for yourself from the official court file. Anyone in the public
            can do this, IF it's been probated. IMO if you can do that because it
            was never submitted to probate, then and only then do you have to go to
            someone connected with your sister's side of the family and/or her atty
            to ask to see their copy of the Will.
            Thank you very much for your advise! I'm less concerned now, just knowing more about these matters. I think I will obtain the
            attorney's
            contact information through the court as you suggested, and read the will. I still would feel better seeing the estate finish probate,
            and
            knowing that my name is attached to the title. I still don't know
            why
            there doesn't appear to be an end in sight that does this. And I
            don't
            "get" the answers I receive from her when I've inquired (they're vague). It's almost like now that I've asked questions, she's not going to get the home in all four names, but instead sell it on her own. I just don't get why. And, is there a tie-in to the spent checking account? How much was in there anyway, and how much did she spend on herself? These are still questions I have,
            Which is why you should consult a local probate lawyer soon who can
            help guide you through this and represent your interests in actuality,
            something you will not be able to get from mere internet discussion.
            Good luck,

            --
            This posting is for discussion purposes, not professional advice.
            Anything you post on this Newsgroup is public information.
            I am not your lawyer, and you are not my client in any specific legal
            matter.
            For confidential professional advice, consult your own lawyer in a
            private communication.

            Mike Jacobs
            LAW OFFICE OF W. MICHAEL JACOBS
            10440 Little Patuxent Pkwy #300
            Columbia, MD 21044
            (tel) 410-740-5685 (fax) 410-740-4300

            Comment


            • #7
              Similar Situation in NJ

              Hi, I also have a similar situation, which has been a problem for many years. I am a middle sis (3 girls), and my Mom died without leaving a will in the state of NJ, which is an intestate state. My youngest sis decided to make herself Power of Attorney to handle the estate, and I had to sign POA statements over to her, which was done in 1997. This was done primarily to rent out the properties and split monnies between the 3 of us, which was done from 1997 to 1999, without a hitch or problem. However, after 2000, the checks stopped coming and later I was informed (not in writing) that monies were being used to cover rental, improvement and other costs, but was never given anything in writing. I have often and frequently requested all copies of costs for improvements, etc. but have never received anything. Last year, the sister handling everything tried to pressure me into signing off on the one property held by my mother in Phila., PA, our ancestral home; I would not. She then began sending me paperwork to change deed ownership; I could not bring myself to sign easily, and had problems having any of the paperwork notarized here in CA where I now live - no one would touch it for some reason. So, she had me sign and send the documents back to her, and said she woud finish everything up; I even had to fax her my ID. However, this fell through, for some unknown reason, and then the process started all over again. The paperwork states it is for the Phila. property, but since I only signed - and then recanted by written statement - I have the feeling that my signature may be used illegally to give this sister power to sell both properties without my consent. Since there was no written will, and no papers have been drawn up stating she is sole Executor of my mother's full estate with bylaws, etc., and no probate finalized, can she sell the properties without my written consent? She claims she can do so.

              Thanks much,
              MS

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