Saturday, September 28, 2013

Post Mortem Explosions


Eye catching title, yeah?

But, big but, this is exactly what happens in families after the death of the last parent.

Two friends, within a very short space of time, have lost their surviving parent. Both parents had lived full and interesting and long (90+) lives.

So fine and dandy, lovely services, eulogies, songs from the grandkids, flowers, both were smiley kinds of funerals and even involved simultaneous broadcasting to the far-flungs in America and Australia. Oh, the wonders of the e-world. Long may it continue.

So there you go and the dust settles and the earthly bits and pieces and bank accounts and all things: built, gilded, diamonded and chinaed of the dearly beloveds are divided up and tied with a ribbon and dispensed.

Oh, not so fast there.

In the first case, the sole heirs, a brother and sister, are joint executors. But it turns out Bro had had his father sign a power-of-attorney and had been pillaging the estate for years prior to the death. So there wasn't much left. Sis had suspected some financial shenanigans but when the spoils were finally divided she (an accountant by trade)finally confirmed the mountainous level of the embezzlement. So what does one do? Sue your only sibling through a welter of legal costs she couldn't afford? Call the police? No, she took her measly cheque, pondered the options, and let it go along with the resolution to never, ever speak to her brother again.

In the second case, the mother had willed that her estate be divided evenly between her six children. But a sibling had been living in the family home and now refuses to leave. My friend, single, getting on in years herself and with very little in the way of financial reserves, needs her share of the money that the sale of the family home will give her. Sibling has emptied the bank accounts as co-signer of the deceased mother's bank accounts ("for ongoing household expenses"). One of the other siblings, a solicitor and the executor (conflict much?), sides with the squatter. The other three don't want to "get involved" and as privileged males "don't need the money."

My friend is reasonable, has told squatter-sibling that they can remain in the house for a reasonable length of time (a year or two) or buy her, my friend's, share out either solo or along with the other siblings. Squatter has managed to save a substantial sum by living rent-free with mum for the past 10 years - claiming government subsidies for mother care along with a monthly cheque out of mum's account and working part time for another sibling.

Squatter-sibling has now severed all contact with my friend and has threatened suicide if "tortured" by these demands any further.

Neither of my two friends have the financial resources for lawsuits.

All this is par for the course. My own family of origin had its own Hiroshima after the death of my father. And there are still occasional reverberations all these years later.

Much as we try, nothing is ever clear cut and amiable in the brutal finalization of death.

29 comments:

  1. death is final, and clear, but possessions and money muddy the waters terribly. watertight will?..even then it can take a lot of time and effort, as you have shown. even when possessions are given to family by the parents as they age, this can also cause problems..usually after they've died. i have to say that often, siblings are strangers held together by their parents love, as long as the parents live. ann.

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  2. The death of a parent does not bring out the best of us even in the best circumstances, so I can imagine who bad it gets when complicated financial situations are involved. It would be best to live your life like you're never dependent on what you may inherit so you will not be disappointed when the time comes. It is a stab in the heart to see a sibling end up with all the money, however.

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  3. I have three siblings. Every time we meet we count our blessings that we did not have an estate to divide between us. We have seen too many families destroyed by such shenanigans that you write about for me to be surprised.

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  4. Remember that famous Norman Rockwell picture of mom bringing the turkey to the happy family, sitting around the dining room table on Thansgiving?

    If anytone thinks the average family is like those happy folks in the paibnting,then pigs have wings.

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  5. Ann:

    "Held together by the parents" I like that.

    XO
    WWW

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  6. Irene:

    Stab in the heart doesn't quite cover it. My friend is heartsick and demolished as it has riven the family apart.

    I personally feel they will never recover.

    XO
    WWW

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  7. Ramana:

    Money is the root, isn't it?

    You are blessed indeed. Most of my family is at peace too.

    XO
    WWW

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  8. Marc:

    LOL. I often say "Walton's Mountain never existed, people."

    Most times the happy endings just don't happen.

    XO
    WWW

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  9. I'm afraid there are a few cracks showing in my family since my father died last year, I just don't understand why it does not bring people together, after all, we are all we have left.
    I'm so glad I have only one daughter, no fighting, no expectations from anyone else, I always felt guilty she would not have another to share the grief with, not anymore!

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  10. CC:

    It baffles me too as to why the common grief and memories don't bond a family tighter.

    I have a challenge with my estate which I won't get into here. Needless to say, it is causing me some grief, though the estate won't leave much :)

    Yes, one child to inherit has untold benefits!

    XO
    WWW

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  11. God in Heaven, we went through scenerio number 1 with husband's family, who were very well off. I swear the older brother would have killed us for a penny. He actually did physically attack us, and threaten our lives, at the advice of the lawyer we moved, changed phone numbers, etc.

    When my Dad died three of us gave our shares to our fourth brother, who was having medical problems and great financial stress.

    Those people who leave everything to the local cat shelter have a good idea.

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  12. I could fill a book with stories of similar situations. As my Jack used to say: "Dead money brings no luck"!

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  13. My mother often worries about how my brother and I will handle things when she passes on. We keep telling her that we'll share everything just the way she wants, that she doesn't have to worry, that no one will try to take more that their share. And we trust each other and we mean it. But I guess we won't really know for sure until the time comes, will we?

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  14. I have to echo pinklea. Jenny and I still have living mothers, and we assume that when the time comes to sort out wills and estates all the relatives will be sensible and cooperative. But who knows if that will be the case?

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  15. Pinklea:

    Exactly. No one ever anticipates eruptions, I certainly didn't. And neither did my friends. All tied up with the grief and the emotions and the clinging to memories.

    We can never ever predict.

    XO
    WWW

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  16. Nick:

    Sensible and co-operative I've never observed after the funeral and the funeral meats have been put away.

    Claws and greed more likely. And hitherto unvoiced entitlements.

    XO
    WWW

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  17. Anon:

    Great idea for an animal shelter, now I know why people formalize that in wills.

    XO
    WWW

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  18. After death is a problem yes, I've been there too, and I just bowed out and left it up to sibling. I contested nothing even though I got one-third of what sib got. I signed when the papers were sent and that was that.

    But before death, with our elders living on in nursing homes enters another disaster. Seniors accounts and pensions are bled to cover costs, and frail elderly are medicated into harm with families not being able to refuse.

    "Doctors deny power of attorney rights"

    http://www.seniorsatrisk.org/2012/09/update-of-previously-reported-case/

    Beatings, rapes and bedsores, theft, and murder in nursing homes/care centres: across Canada.
    http://elderadvocates.ca/case-studies-2/

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  19. It seems there's nothing like a death in the family to bring out the worst in everyone. I can see all points of view but the one who embezzled for years takes the biscuit!
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

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  20. Anon:

    I'm working on a project at the moment to present on elder abuse at different venues, so your links are very, very helpful, thank you.

    Good for you on bowing out, did it change your relationship with your sib?

    XO
    WWW

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  21. Maggie:

    My friend also feels it was with the collusion of her father who suspiciously hid some documents on her one time when she wanted to make sure he was OK financially.

    XO
    WWW

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  22. Hattie:

    LOL, how true!! What are they anyway? Remind me....

    XO
    WW

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  23. Tome and again, I've seen this sort of thing in my work. Estates bring out the ugly in people, that's for sure.

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  24. SAW:

    I'm sure you must, every twist and turn, yeah?

    XO
    WWW

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  25. So true
    you take me back to my mother's death 13 years ago.
    Stepfather with mind issues tore up her will, attorney who prepared had died years before, stepdaughter
    who never made a visit - shows up.
    My mother and father's home and belongings went to one it was not suppose to go to.
    Legal actions would have just been a benefit to attorney. So you just try to forget...
    So sad

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  26. OWJ:

    I am so sorry to hear this, how upsetting for you!

    A small comfort to know you are not alone.

    XO
    WWW

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  27. I can empathise with your second friend here - this happened when my grandfather died. He left the entirety of his estate to be split six ways between his children. The majority was tied up in the house, which my aunt was still living in (had never moved out, now in her mid-forties). She refused to move out, and, as an alcoholic, bouncing from job to job, didn't have the money to buy the rest of her siblings out. She (bolstered by her drinking buddies, who saw the possibility of free booze for life if she won) took the family to court, and added into the suit that my uncle (eldest and executor) was defrauding the estate. The uncle, in an attempt to stave off the costs, actually bought her a flat to live in, which she refused to move into. In the end, it went all the way to the high court, was dismissed in about five minutes, and the lawyers took all of the money.

    However, the plus side was that the whole thing brought the other five siblings much closer together, when we were reasonably fragmented as a family.

    In my immediate family, I would like to think that we won't have the same issues, because of the pain that we have already been through. But, we'll never know until the time comes.

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