Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Stupid Wells Fargo Story of the Day . . .

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(or is it just the story of the hour?)
 
Represent a client who owns a 1/2 interest in some property - she got it by will from her father who got it by will from his wife who, with her ex husband, got the property by deed.  Sent them a copy of all documentation and title search so my client would be listed as a co-owner of the property.  Of course, wills operate to transfer an interest in property.
 
Today I get a letter from Wells saying client "as potential successor in interest who can receive limited account information . . "
 
and "We understand that [client] is 1/2 owner of this property.  In order for us to update the account with this information, please provide us a copy of the recorded deed".
 
My response: 

In your letter you ask for “a copy of the recorded deed”.  There is no ‘recorded deed’.  The documentation you have – which includes the Recorded Wills of the prior owners – is all that has ever been required under the statutory and common laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia since it was first colonized in 1607 to fully vest title in [client].
  
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Reminds me of the fabled 'letter from a Louisiana Lawyer" . . .
 
 
A New Orleans lawyer sought a FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loan for a client. He was told the loan would be granted if he could prove satisfactory title to a parcel of property being offered as collateral. The title to the property dated back to 1803, which took the lawyer three months to track down.

After sending the information to the FHA, he received the following reply:
Upon review of your letter adjoining your client's loan application, we note that the request is supported by an Abstract of Title. While we compliment the able manner in which you have prepared and presented the application, we must point out that you have only cleared title to the proposed collateral back to 1803. Before final approval can be accorded, it will be necessary to clear the title back to its origin.
Annoyed, the lawyer responded as follows:
Your letter regarding title in Case No. 189156 has been received. I note that you wish to have title extended further than the 194 years covered by the present application. I was unaware that any educated person in this country, particularly those working in the property area, would not know that Louisiana was purchased by the U.S. from France in 1803, the year of origin identified in our application. For the edification of uninformed FHA bureaucrats, the title to the land prior to U.S. ownership was obtained from France, which had acquired it by Right of Conquest from Spain. The land came into possession of Spain by Right of Discovery made in the year 1492 by a sea captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted the privilege of seeking a new route to India by the then reigning monarch, Isabelle. The good queen, being a pious woman and careful about titles, almost as much as the FHA, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the Pope before she sold her jewels to fund Columbus' expedition. Now the Pope, as I'm sure you know, is the emissary of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And God, it is commonly accepted, created this world. Therefore, I believe it is safe to presume that He also made that part of the world called Louisiana. He, therefore, would be the owner of origin. I hope to hell you find His original claim to be satisfactory. Now, may we have our damn loan?
They got it.
 
 
 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Raise Hell for our Veterans.

Incompetent delay by the Veterans Administration

As noted before, I have been appointed as guardian (in charge of the physical person) and conservator (in charge of their money) for a number of people.  I usually cringe when one of them receives Veterans Administration benefits because (a) in my opinion the VA is the most inefficient agency of the entire Federal Government (one helluva feat) and (b) – probably related to (a) – is that the VA bureaucracy is a pain in the ass to deal with on a good day because the proper form is more important than the proper care. (An exception is the field officers – those who actually visit and work with the Veterans – are dedicated professionals who actually care for their veterans and I have total respect for them)

However, over five years to handle a Veteran’s claim is grossly incompetent and shows a callous disregard for the needs of those who put their lives on the line for our freedoms.
I recently got appointed as guardian and conservator for a 92-year-old WW2 Combat Veteran. Going through his papers I found a recent Board of Veterans Appeals decision related to his service disability benefits that, simply, pissed me off.

The Veteran had a 30% PTSD related service disability rating.  He applied for an increase sometime prior to 2010, the regional office denied it October 2010 and an appeal was requested. In April 2012 the Veteran asked to be allowed to testify at the hearing. That hearing was held THREE YEARS LATER in March, 2015. The Veteran, at the young age of 92, wasn’t able to appear.

The good news is the Board of Veterans Appeals ruled in his favor (only 5 months later in August, 2015) and said he should have, at least, a 50% disability rating. They remanded it to the regional office to see if it should be greater; that remand is probably pending since the Veteran – with combination of PTSD, age, and dementia – apparently hasn’t responded to requests for more information.

This much time to process a claim is inexcusable. It harms our veterans.  The hell of it is, Congress is well aware of the issues and problems facing the VA and is too damn incompetent to do anything about it.

And this ‘hold your nose and vote’ election coming up? I haven’t heard anything from either candidate or those running for Congress about what they’d do to address the VA’s incompetence. And I seriously doubt they really care.

Raise Hell for our Veterans with all politicians you encounter and vote for those who get results.


Government Logic . . .

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A heading like that is an oxymoron - contradictory terms within the phrase.  And in this instance, I don't mean it in any sort of flattering manner. (for classic oxymorons, look at these
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As any regular reader knows, I'm court appointed guardian for a number of people, most of whom have dementia and no clue as to the current century, much less anything else around them. And just about all of them get "Medicaid" long term care benefits. Medicaid is notified that I'm the guardian and as such I am to get all notices that affect their benefits; there's an appropriate place in the Medicaid database for my contact information and, to my knowledge, I'm in there for all my wards.
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Virginia has embarked on a test project for health care called Commonwealth Coordinated Care ("CCC").  The ins and outs of the program are beyond the scope of this blog entry, but frankly it sounds good IN CONCEPT.  The roll out rivals the ACA Website roll out in incompetency, in my opinion, and from what I've seen I have refused to allow my wards to join it. Again, that's not the point here.
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Health care is a paramount concern for anyone, especially the vulnerable elderly Medicaid population. Virginia is spending great dollars mailing information to people about the 'benefits' of CCC.  So, logically, as guardian I should be getting a bunch of letters about CCC for my wards.
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Wrong. 
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DMAS (the agency that runs Medicaid in Virginia) sends it to the individual in the nursing home.  The same individual a court has declared legally incompetent. The same individual who is reliving the 1950's in their mind. The same individual who is in diapers.  A year ago I complained about this to Virginia's Governor; Dr. William Hazel, Secretary of Virginia's Department of Health and Human Resources, wrote back saying that the fault was a "limitation of our system and mailing processes . . . "
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That's Bullshit. And by profession I'm a bullshitter so I know it when I, uh, smell it/hear it/see it..  Dr. Hazel was trying to bullshit a bullshitter.
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The data is in the system.  People control what data is retrieved for which purpose. I see absolutely no reason the system data could not be used to send the legal representative - with sole authority to decide on care for an individual - the information about CCC or any other program.
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I had to write the Governor, again, about DMAS' idiocy and asked that he tell them to show common sense and fix it so the right people get the notice. And I got another bureaucratic bullshit response.
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Nah, I won't turn it loose - I'll continue to give them hell.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

More #WellsFargo nonsense

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Another reason NOT to bank at ‪#‎WellsFargo‬.

Just had another client have bad experience with #WellsFargo - client is a successor under Virginia Law to a decedent. Decedent's estate is only $2000 in #WellsFargo account. Account absolutely qualifies for small estate treatment (which in Virginia is anything under $50,000.00, and the law holds the bank harmless). Client goes to bank and is told that "Wells Fargo policy does not accept the Small Estate Act and you will have to go to the courthouse and get a letter of qualification" 

So, the idiots at #WellsFargo want the client to spend hundreds of dollars and a lot of time and hassle for a measly $2000. I ask everyone to remember that when choosing a bank. It is crap such as this that have caused me to either remove or advise clients to remove (in aggregate) a couple of million dollars of deposits from that bank and go to one with more sense. And a lawyer friend in Richmond claims to have done the same with over $20 Million in deposits at #WellsFargo.

I first posted this on Facebook - in 30 minutes there are already 5 shares.  Tells you what people think about #WellsFargo.  Roanoke USED to have Bank of America (probably the only national bank harder to deal with than #WellsFargo) here , but somehow we ran them away and they sold out.
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Friday, May 22, 2015

ID Overkill . . .

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Last night my wife and I went to the local Applebees(tm) for dinner. As is my custom I ordered a beer with dinner. Imagine my surprise when the waitress - young enough to be my grand-daughter - asked for my ID.

She immediately shattered any illusion she was trying to flatter my grey, fat, 64-year old physique, but explained that in Tennessee another Applebees lost their license because they provided a beverage to someone who was of sufficient age but their ID HAD EXPIRED.

The patent stupidity and lack of logic is ridiculous.  Not Applebees for protecting itself (I hope Virginia's ABC Board, untrained as a lot of its agents may be - especially in Charlottesville - would go that far). But Tennessee for requiring a "Valid" ID for proof of age.  As an identification, even an expired drivers license should identify the holder.  As a license to drive (or do whatever) the expiration should only mean that the person can no longer do that function legally. 

Do we cease to exist when our ID expires? Should the Right To Life faction of our society be told of this problem and take action? 

So as I was fuming (Rossiferous scale of 1) my wife pointed out that there is a notary she deals with who will refuse to notarize a document if the person signing has an 'expired' ID.

And DMV, which is one of the most hated agencies in the Commonwealth of Virginia (and probably a lot of other states) will not accept an expired driver's license as identification of the individual when they show up two days after it expired to get it renewed. That means the individual has to get their birth certificate or passport or some other 'acceptable' documents to start the licensing process all over again. 

This is not an earth-shattering problem but still a major inconvenience to us.  We need to get our legislators to define 'Valid' ID as one issued by a recognized agency which identifies the holder by whatever criteria required; whether or not expired for the purpose of licensing the holder to perform some function (e.g. driving), is nevertheless valid for purposes of identifying the individual or their age.
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Friday, May 8, 2015

The Fax Blast

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I will freely admit that at times I am slow completing assignments and I try to consider that trait when working with others.  There are times, however, when all involved must move quickly to protect or promote rights of clients and delay hurts.  About once a year I get someone who has a reputation of not responding and -- true to form -- they don't do what they say they will anywhere near timely.
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Enter the Fax Blast.  I learned about it the hard way (see first sentence above)
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It consists of:
  • FAXBLAST cover sheet (simply a cover sheet with a line stating "REMINDER NUMBER and a series of numbers 1 thru 25 or so, spaced so they can be circled easily)
  • Confirmation sheets (note plural) printed by my fax machine.
  • Whatever memo/document the recipient should act upon.
First day, I send the fax, circling "1".   If I don't get a response, on the second day I send the fax again, this time circling "2" and INCLUDE the confirmation sheet from the first day. If no response then each day the memo is sent again, circling the appropriate number, and including ALL previous confirmation sheets.

After a few days I'm using more and more of the recipient's fax paper and ink/toner.

After a week it goes to twice a day.

After two weeks, HOURLY. I've only had to threaten this level once.

It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it
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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

lowlife SCAM ALERT

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I just got a call from a client -- a wonderful, elderly retired nurse, "Ross I'm in Trouble".  Seems she got a call 'from the sheriff' that she had missed reporting for jury duty and there was a warrant for her arrest. They told her the fine was $950, and she needed to go to Kroger and get a money-order to pay it.

THIS IS A SCAM.  THAT WAS NOT THE SHERIFF.  IT IS BULL$#!7. 

I called the sheriff to advise it was happening and he told me that one of his deputies was handling REAL jury notices and one of those summonsed had PAID the fine two weeks earlier. (and they had a lawyer living in the household!)

If you get this call, simply hang up and then call the police or the REAL sheriff.  The only person who can impose a fine is a judge; they only do this when you show up in front of the judge and if you don't have an excuse then they may fine you.

Warn your friends and elderly relatives.  And if you get this kind of call tell them I said it was BS and call me about it. The low-life SOB will get a blast of Rossiferous.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Satisfied clients

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Normally I don't like to 'toot my own horn', but this one I've got to.  

I just got one of the best ‘thank you’s’ ever from a client. Background:  son (in his late 40’s, no children or wife) died broke with a large amount of debt and no will, leaving only very elderly but spry parents. I decided that they should forego any formal administration as it was only work with absolutely no benefit to them. Also, the apartment where their son was living changed the locks after his death and—working with the apartment’s lawyer—I was able to get my clients back in to retrieve the property and memories he left behind. Their letter:

Mr. Hart:
  
Thank you and your dedicated staff for all you have done for us. Losing our fine son has been very traumatic for us and the legal ramifications were overwhelming to us.

Yet you established a plan that both provided dignity for our son, and isolated us from the harassing phone calls and direct contacts that we could have been subjected to.

Mr. Hart, your legal knowledge, expertise and positive directions assured us that our son’s best interest and ours was always at the forefront of each decision.  . .  .  .  

Our gratitude again for the ‘extra mile’ you went to help us during the ‘lockout’ of [our son’s] apartment.


                                                           Respectfully yours,

                                                          (clients)

             These clients are wonderful to work with and they followed my suggestions. Days like this are why I love my job and career.
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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Virginia's Mean and Callous Joke . . .



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I’m guardian for Sylvester who lives in Assisted Living where he paid ('privately) $2250.00 per month until his saved money ran out; now he pays $1450.00 per month (the owner has a heart of gold, likes Sylvester and agreed to reduce the rate, otherwise he’d be in the street). He thrives there. And at that rate the owner gets a whopping $243.00 more than she would be paid if Sylvester was on the embarrassing disgrace called ‘auxiliary grant’. (see my blog entry on THAT)

Sylvester’s net Social Security income is $18,876.00 per year or $1573.00 per month (after Medicare A, B and D are deducted). So he has $123.00 per month remaining for clothing, diapers, incidentals, Medicare co-pays, my fee for serving as guardian, etc. (I will NOT ‘short’ the assisted living facility as a roof over his head and meals is the most important priority). 

Sylvester has cancer. He presently OWES medical bills of over $4600.00 (that I know of). He needs treatment; the cancer care provider (who has the stupidest billing department I’ve encountered in 20 years of guardianship) is raising hell over its unpaid bill of over $500.00 (and increasing every day); the pharmacy is raising hell over its unpaid bill of over $3500.00 (and increasing every day).  And I have no way to pay any of them.  UPDATE: the day after I posted this I got a letter from the pharmacy that they are discontinuing his meds -- I asked if they (a HUGE national pharmacy) had a charity program and they said NO.

The cancer care provider suggested we apply for Medicaid.  My thought was it’d be easier to move the Rock of Gibraltar to the African continent on the other side of the strait, and I said as much. Nevertheless we (futilely) sent in an application. As I expected it was denied but he was placed on something called “Spend-down”.

If you thought the ‘auxiliary grant’ was a cruel joke, you haven’t seen ‘spend-down’. It is mean and callous.

Our exalted Commonwealth of Virginia’s Medicaid program will pay the difference in
Sylvester’s medical bills OVER $8041.08. After insurance.  Over the six months ending October 31, 2014.

That’s EIGHTY-FIVE (85%) PERCENT OF SYLVESTER’S INCOME. 

NO-ONE can meet a criteria so damned asinine.

I’m pissed off at this. I’m pissed off because the “we don’t like anything Obama does and will stonewall everything related to him” Republicans refuse to expand Medicaid benefits in Virginia. AT NO COST to Virginia for the first 4 years of expansion. That expansion would probably cover Sylvester.

This is unconscionable. It makes me think that the Republicans want poor people to die so they won’t have to pay for their care. It’s the only logical answer – there’s no other way to explain what they’re doing. I don’t even think former Governor and US Senator Harry F. Byrd would stoop this low.

To protect Sylvester, I’m going to have to figure out how to get him into a nursing home where Medicaid WILL pay for his care.  At a cost to Virginia taxpayers of over $12,000.00 per year (based on Virginia’s share of Medicaid spending). The Republicans are penny-wise and pound foolish – and are too senseless to understand it.

And they’ll tell me I’m wrong about them that they really do care.  Really?  Then prove it.  Expand Medicaid. Show the world we’re better than Mississippi.
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The inaccessible Roanoke Law Library

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Over 75 years ago the Roanoke Bar Association was formed for the then primary purpose of maintaining a cooperative law library. (Law books are expensive).  In the 1970's the library was given to the City of Roanoke with the understanding it would maintain the library for the benefit of the public and for the lawyers (who represented that same public).  11 years ago Roanoke City cut hours of the Law Library and now the current operating schedule for the Roanoke Law Library is beyond ridiculous.  The hours are generally 8 am to noon all days except one when it is open until, I think, 4 -- this is applicable to lawyers and the general public. 
This puts the usefulness of the Law Library on nearly the same level as screen doors on a submarine. A joke.
I've toyed with the idea of some action against the city for the reduced hours, but would rather make a few suggestions and comments that may improve the present situation.
The heck of it is, Roanoke's not alone.  I just learned that the Alexandria, VA, proposed budget cuts all funding (except what comes from court fees) from its law library.
Short of restoring the Roanoke Law Library hours to something resembling common sense, a solution would be to move the Law Library over to the main library so the public at large and lawyers could have access on a more human schedule. Having the resources available is -- these days -- more important to the public than for lawyers (we've got our computers with Fastcase, Westlaw, Lexis).  That would free up significant room in the courthouse for something else.  (However, if this is adopted I'd urge the continuation of the "Lawyers' Lounge" for a place we could work between appearances, meet clients, take a nap, etc.).  
An alternative, which would apply to lawyers only, is to reinstate a version of the 'key club' (a privilege lawyers had for access years ago).  The Courthouse security checkpoint is mere feet from the door to the Law Library.  Have a key with the deputies and a sign-in/out book.  A lawyer needing to go in to the library could do so upon presenting his bar card and signing the book. (a modification of the old magistrate system)  Frankly this could be instituted immediately while the main branch consolidation idea is studied to death in typical Roanoke fashion.
For a number of years I was a member and chair of the Roanoke Bar's library committee and worked with the late Clayne Calhoun to make it a premier law library for a community of our size. It is disheartening to see it as a stepchild of the library system and virtually inaccessible to anyone who might want to use its resources.
I want to see it fixed.
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Monday, March 31, 2014

Voice to text . . .

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I've installed voice-to-text software -- the one advertised on TV.  I had tried it in the past but computer power and the software both left a lot to be desired. 

Given my new computer (I had an XP machine that is now obsolete, so got a Windows 7 thing) I thought I'd try it again.  It does do a lot better and it is fairly fast.

However, the accuracy rate is still at 95% -- that means one in twenty words is wrong and you have to take the time to correct it.  Given that lawyers use a LOT of words, that's a lot of corrections.

I just looked at something I 'dictated' into the computer.  Visions of instructions for electronic devices from Asia, written by a non-English-as-first-language person came to mind.  I'll have to be careful.
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Monday, January 27, 2014

Home fire safety tip . . .

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(originally posted 1/27/2014)

My wife and I learned something Friday night,  After we went to bed. And were half asleep.

Smoke/Fire alarms 'wear out'. And get noisy when they die. And they like to die in the middle of the night. (one Lowe's consumer review mentioned the "Midnight Fire Alarm Club").

Our house has 'hard-wired' fire/smoke alarms. This means there's a dedicated circuit connecting all the fire alarms in the house, and if one goes off, they ALL go off.  That's a good thing -- if there's a fire downstairs we might not hear the alarm down there; Allyson (whose apartment is downstairs) might not hear a fire alarm going off upstairs.

According to the firemen who 'visited' us Friday, the alarms have a useful life of about 10 years. Ours had a manufacture date-stamp of 2001. And, per the nice firemen, when one 'hard-wired' alarm dies, it sends a signal to all the others and they all shriek. The US Fire Administration (part of FEMA) also says replace after 10 years.

In our case, all EIGHT of the alarms.

And there's no way to shut them off -- no 'breaker' on the electrical box says 'fire alarms' (which is also a good thing because there are dummies who would switch them off) but even if there were one, the battery back up in each would keep it shrieking.

So after 14 1/2 minutes of shrieking (we couldn't find any fire, smoke, gas, etc.) we called the fire department and they kindly responded, getting to our house about 2 minutes after we called.

And 90 seconds after the 15-minute 'automatic reset' in the alarms shut them off.

Saturday I went to Lowes and bought 8 replacement BRK/First Alert (tm) alarms (and there's a 20% discount if you buy 6 or more, so I paid $15 for each $19 alarm); it took only 30 minutes to switch all of them out because they had matching 'plugs' to connect them to the house.  The alarms 'twist' in and out of the retaining/trim ring, while the new alarm had a different ring, all I did was loosen two screws holding it in, jiggled it out and jiggled in the new ring, tightened it, plugged in the new alarm and twisted it into the new ring.  The hardest part was moving the ladder from alarm to alarm.

So, folks, the bottom line is look at your alarms - if they were made before 2004 you need to replace them.  And consider doing it anyhow if they were made in 2005 or before.You'll sleep better (literally and figuratively)
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FOLLOWUP - 4/7/2014. 

Today I got the following email from a friend: 

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Yesterday afternoon while my husband and I were enjoying a quiet and relaxation time, all of a sudden the smoke/fire alarms started sounding off all throughout the house.  We both bounded up and went dashing through the house and I was feeling of walls and sniffing.  We have a nice staircase to the attic and I ran up there and there was nothing anywhere.  Well, of course, what did I think but the conversation that we had about something similar happening to you.  I hardwired alarms have been in service about ten and one-half years.  I went to the electrical box and there was a breaker that said “fire alarms”.  I tripped it off and the alarms were still sounding.  I thought good grief what will we do?   My husband is not the least bit mechanically inclined!  AND then it stopped.  I said to him, this is not the end of it.  He got the step ladder and proceeded to tell me we should replace the batteries.  Hummmmmm….not a fix I thought, but I went along with it.

The long and short of it is that they sounded again, and then again.  I determined that the breaker did turn off the electricity to all of them, but the batteries made them still sound off.  Then we removed the newly inserted fresh batteries.   AND then we had silence, but no protection.   We made a quick trip to Lowe’s and bought the six pack you described.  NOW like I said my husband is not the least bit mechanically inclined and certainly not trained in electric matters.  He wouldn’t touch them and he dared me to.  I googled it and I know that it is matter of turning off the juice and connecting the black wire, the white wire, and the red wire and reattaching them – but I was under orders not to touch them. 

FOR NOW, we have the circuit breaker off and the batteries removed.  I have one sole alarm/carbon monoxide unit in the middle of my one-story house and am praying for nothing to happen until we have someone in the house later this week that I think will replace them for us.

I AM A ROSS HART BELIEVER NOW!  Thank you.

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