Without integrity, you have nothing

Posted by on May 29, 2015 in Featured, Uncategorized | 7 comments

Without integrity, you have nothing

Five years ago an attorney drew up a protective trust for us. We don’t have a lot to protect, but we went to his seminar, listened to his shtick, and trusted him. After all, he went to my former church. I saw him interact with the youth group on a mission trip to Mexico. He’s a nice guy. Except for one thing. I’m not sure he is.

I called Tuesday to ask a question and he was suddenly using different language. “Your assets aren’t protected,” he said, and then in a rhetorical-talking-out-loud question to himself, “Why did we do it that way? I’ll have to look at your file and get back to you.” I was shaking when we hung up.

He called yesterday and I let it go to voicemail so I’d have a recording.

“We talked about doing a protective trust, but we decided it against,” he said.

A remarkable lie given the clear and unequivocal explanation of the protective trust he wrote to us in the documents five years ago.

At the time, we were satisfied with ourselves that we had taken this step. We had our living will, health care directive, and power of attorney prepared at the same time. I kept a notebook, updating it periodically so there are no questions for my son when the time comes. We still have all that, but the so-called protective trust is smoke. Meaningless.

The five-year eligibility period would have been up in September. That’s will not happen.

He said he wants to sit down and discuss it. No. I wrote him a letter we will wait to deliver, but to get my rabid thoughts on paper and out of my head.

No more explanations–your credibility just went up in smoke. Instead, we’ll explain to you what happened. We would never have paid you what we paid you for a non-protective trust. Your seminar was all about protective. There would have been no point.

He apparently believes we are as naive now as we were going in.

This saying comes to mind. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.”

We don’t know what he has to gain, or if it’s simply incompetence. We don’t know if the trust is even legal. After calling around to find an attorney to do a consult, we learned we are not the first ones to have a problem with him.

I see his wife at the gym. A lovely woman. I wonder if she knows what he does. They have a big house on the hill, own a vacation home and a boat. Four gorgeous children. A good life. I do not begrudge him any of that if he delivers what he says he’s going to deliver. But if he’s getting rich off the backs of hard-working and honest people, that’s altogether different. We see it all the time–happening to other people. Now it’s us.

I began to wonder if there is something faulty in our decision-making process. Are we so naive that we can’t make good decisions? I began to link this betrayal to all the past betrayals in my life. The betrayals beyond my control as a child. Choosing bad relationships. Taking jobs with abusive bosses.  Signing on with people who renege on agreements without a backward glance. Hiring people who say they’ll deliver, and don’t.

My confidence was shrinking and I knew I needed to turn it around quickly.

I wrote my writing/life coach, Christine, and briefly explained. She wrote back and said: Avoid linking it to other like incidents as is the mind’s inclination. Keep it separate as best you can.  It’s one incident in the here and now that you and Ben will work to correct. Pile on thoughts of how well Ben and you work as a team. You want to steer your mind to acknowledge the good things that you do for yourselves and each other.  Think of your successes and your good instincts to mitigate the mind’s negative bias.  Your mind works that way for your survival, but that negative bias interferes with your desire to thrive.

Excellent advice for anyone with past trauma. Her words give me strength to deal with this bitter pill with confidence, without panic, without shaming myself for a mistake.

Ben and I have a consult with a new attorney next week. We will find out if the previous attorney did anything illegal, if he’s incompetent, or a scam-artist.

Once we find out, if necessary and at a minimum, we will report him to the bar association. We will ask for remuneration for services he said he rendered, but did not. If what he did was legal, then we are out the money. Our five-year window. Legal fees for the new attorney.

I will forgive him. There’s no choice.

The main lesson I taught my son growing up is this. Without integrity, you have nothing. I can’t imagine how people live with themselves without it. But there’s that naiveté again. Apparently a lot of people are doing just fine without it.




  1. One of the great discoveries of my life was integrity as wholeness. (Think, “integer”.) “Practice what you preach” was the way I heard it as a child. The consonance of word and deed was how I came to describe it later: a way of referencing my hope that I would write and speak only what I believed, be dependable in life, and truthful in my relationships.

    It sounds as though your incompetent/scammer/rule bender isn’t quite so dedicated to that word and deed business. Of course, there have been such people since the beginning of time, and they’re often very, very difficult to flush out. Some construct a facade deliberately, others have good intentions, but seem incapable of living them out.

    The struggle for me always is to remember that, when someone turns out to be a flaming jerk, that says more about them than it does me. And if someone I trusted proved untrustworthy? The cynicism and hardness that comes from swearing never to be deceived just isn’t worth it.

    • In learning to live my true life, I’ve made mistakes that hurt people, but never out of malice. Thus, it is hard to wrap my mind around a deliberate deception. As you say, he may have good intentions, but incapable of living them out. Or, he may just be a flaming jerk. It isn’t about me, but I wanted to label myself as naive, incompetent to make good decisions, but what a waste of energy, as is vowing never to be deceived again. Thank you.

  2. Hello Martha! Good advice from your coach. If we look back at the many times we have been hood-winked, cheated on, lied to, etc., we might be tempted to take the Narrows Bride plunge! But on the bright side, we are still here, so we still have time to wise up! God knows, I’m trying! Love you!

  3. What a terrible mess. I’m so sorry that you’re experiencing what many of us worry about. H turns 70 in two years, and we will have to start moving money out of his 401K. A friend of mine has recommended the fellow who handles their finances. She goes to the same church, and she says he’s very trustworthy. I think some people cannot withstand the temptation when dealing with large sums of money. We’re living in a very materialistic society. As for trusting and being naive, I think this could have happened to many of us. We pay someone to do what we do not know how to do, and it’s reasonable to believe they will do it. You ran into a bad fellow that seemed very trustworthy. I hope you can get remuneration. Fingers crossed.

    • Thanks for stopping by Bella. We at least discovered the mess before it was too late. Because he misspoke about the kind of trust we had, we were alerted to his incompetence. We wrote back and forth a few times to first clarify what kind of trust we have (in the first letter he misspelled my name, in the second letter he misspelled Ben’s name). Finally he acknowledged that we have a protective trust; he did not acknowledge misled us and we didn’t need it to begin with. Our bad for not vetting him more thoroughly. We had no reason to doubt him…he went to the church, nice guy, The new attorney also indicated malpractice lawsuits. That’s a bit more than dumb, I think. We have a new will and power of attorney written up ready for us to sign that backs us out of the unnecessary trust, redefines the power of attorney and will. It’s important that whoever you hire you thoroughly vet. But mainly don’t sign up for something you don’t need like we did.

  4. Would you believe,I just now found this blog of yours??? In the past, whenever I would click your name on a comment, it would take me to a different looking site…about the stories that connect us…didn’t see a link to an active blog. So glad I found it! Just read this post about the encounter with the dishonest lawyer. I also appreciated what your life coach shared with you about how to process things and not let it completely color your thoughts. These are life skills I am still (even today) learning and re-learning…

    • Hi there, I just saw your reply. Before I continue writing about this new chapter in my life I’ve got to come up with a name for the blog that isn’t my name that takes one to the first page that was about my personal history business. The blog was linked in a tab, but not obvious. Haven’t yet figured out how I can utilize this site that I’m paying for, and change the address–I just need to call Blue Host to find out. But thanks for commenting. Stay tuned.