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Do You Want to Know a Secret?

I was representing a married couple in a real estate sale. A few weeks before closing, I was told by one party that they’d need separate checks from the buyers, as the couple was splitting up.

“However, that’s a secret,” he said. “She doesn’t know about it, so just tell her that it’s what has to happen under the law if there are two or more owners.”

 About a half-dozen ethical warning bells rang at once, and so I told Mr. Breakup to send me an email a couple of days prior to closing, stating that, “This is how we want the buyers’ checks written for closing.” I’d then share the email with Ms. Unsuspecting and ask if she had any objections.

“After all,” I said, “she’ll see the checks anyway at closing, and know about the separation.”

He replied, “At the closing is one thing. We’ll have already done all the packing and moving out by then, and she can only make so much of a scene.”

Still unwilling, I wondered where all the boxes were being sent, and didn’t they have a new place together? I regretted the question immediately, as he said conspiratorially, “Do you handle divorce? May I tell you my whole plan in confidence?”

I didn’t, he couldn’t, and they only had enough money at the closing table to cover the mortgage, the taxes, the real estate broker, and my fee anyway. There was no leftover money!

When I asked for a forwarding address for the closing statement, she offered just one place, and so I mailed one document to both of them.  I don’t ever wonder if he executed his secret plan, but I do occasionally muse on how he thought he could pull it off.
 

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