Maxine Ussery, a Black woman over 80 years of age, and her husband and brother, have received an eviction notice to vacate the property their father Ananias Willis left to them.
It is a modest property with 10 bungalow units in West Oakland, but it is all they have left after the court sold their father’s home and thriving cleaners business in 2013.
Homelessness is so stressful it can kill, especially someone of this age. At work, the stress and trauma on Maxine’s face is palpable. She excuses herself frequently with an upset stomach that “has been like this for months.”
Apparently the courts have forgotten they were created, “for the people.” There’s fault on both sides. The Willis’ violated the first rule of estate planning: Never step foot inside a probate court.
Yet once they landed in probate as a result of actions of a single sibling, the judge should have protected this family.
It did not. Instead it became a predator.
(See Post Story March 25, 2016 “Even when Done Right the Probate Court Still Wins”).
The cold fact is the court has every right to do what it is doing. Unfortunately, the judges have forgotten their raison for existing. The court’s purpose is to protect families and make sure assets are fairly distributed among family members according to trust documents.
The court-appointed trustee of the Ussery-Willis estate trustee has violated the first five rules on the trustee responsibility list, which can be viewed on information on the Alameda Court website.
The law says the trustee must: Do what the trust document says as long as it is legal; Do only things that benefit the beneficiaries; Not favor one beneficiary over another; Avoid conflicts of interest with the beneficiaries; Never use trust property or the trustee’s powers for personal benefit, unless the trust authorizes it. Probate court has it twisted.
The trustee has issued a 30-day notice for Maxine, her husband and her brother Raymond to vacate their property.
If the court was operating as it should, the judge would have protected the Willis family. According to the Ananias Willis’ Trust, he wanted decisions regarding his estate to be made by 60 percent of his beneficiaries.
That 60 percent say they didn’t want to sell their property or need a trustee, and they wanted to manage their property, something they did successfully for years before court interference. The court ruled against their wishes, appointed a trustee and has served them with a 30-day notice to vacate their home and is selling off the estate.
When Maxine asked the judge why she was doing this, the judge told her, “Because I can.”
Probate court is self- serving and corrupt. They could easily rule to allow the Willis-Ussery family to stay in their home and deduct the “rental payment” from their portion of the Ananias Willis Trust once it’s settled.
Maxine and other elders whose property has been taken by the courts protest every Tuesday in front 1225 Fallon St. courthouse from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or the Berkeley Probate Court at 2120 Martin Luther King Way. They will be at Fallonnext Tuesday. Please join them.
By the time the courts have paid the judge, the trustee, and everybody else, there will not be any money left for the beneficiaries, and that’s a hard cold truth.