TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tampa Bay area woman tells 8 On Your Side she’s having the worst year of her life and it just got more complicated.
Kara Arnold hired an attorney and paid thousands of dollars to get her father’s estate settled. Now, her attorney’s doors are locked, and no one is answering the phone, so she turned to Investigator Mahsa Saeidi.
8 On Your Side is in touch with several clients of this attorney. They’re all frustrated and they want their money back.
We’re breaking down what they can do to possibly see some of that cash again.
“Everybody knew him as the friendliest guy ever,” said Arnold said of her father.
Kara took a picture to remember the first time her dad, Jim Arnold, had dinner with her at her new job at a restaurant in Clearwater.
Now, Kara misses those days.
“Honestly this has been the roughest year of my life,” she said.
After Jim’s death, Kara hired attorney Dennis Szafran to handle her father’s estate.
In May, she says she gave Szafran $3,800.
Last week, he sent her this letter stating that “due to unforeseen financial circumstances” his firm was shutting down.
“It is not a decision I have taken lightly,” he wrote.
In a follow-up email, Szafran told Kara “Unfortunately, the firm is insolvent and we are unable to provide our clients with a refund.”
“Very taken back, and really shocked. Because this was the No. 2 recommended law firm in the area,” said Kara. “And they had really good reviews.”
“I just want to know if I’ll ever be able to get that money back. And how do I go about that.”
8 On Your Side stopped by the law firm and found a notice of closure posted outside. No one answered the door, emails or their phone.
“We ask that you please let us know where to send your client files,” a voice recording said.
Next, we turned to the Florida Bar.
Szafran is currently in “good standing” but a spokeswoman for the Bar tells 8 On Your Side they now have an “open file on this attorney.”
“$3,800 is not just something to throw out the window.”
So, there are two ways Kara can potentially get back her money.
First, she can file a complaint with the Florida Bar. If, for example, the Bar determines that this attorney neglected Kara’s case, he could be ordered to pay her restitution.
The Bar also has a Clients’ Security Fund, which you can learn more about on their website.
Next, if and when this attorney files for bankruptcy, Kara would be considered to be a creditor and again, she could collect some money as well.
Bankruptcy attorneys tell 8 On Your Side, if there’s money left to be dispersed, Kara and all the other creditors would be notified and they’d be required to file a proof of claim with the court.