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Warning and a Teachable Moment

October 8th, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I love to talk about how well things are going financially (OK brag) but this is a half rant / half warning for those that read this. (You have been warned)

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When you save money you are of course working towards having the money available for your needs (and wants). Optimally however you will have money that not only gives you everything you reasonably want over your lifetime, but beyond that the money can give your descendants (or whomever you designate) money that can help them pay bills, have a down payment on a house, get a reliable car, or just whatever makes sense. If the money goes to someone else, it can be to appreciate what all they did in life, or help an organization that does things you believe in. The point is, it is common in our society to allow you, in fact I would say it is a given, that as the person owning the money you get to decide what will happen with your money (and other items as well) when you pass away. Yes, if your estate is large enough, the government will stick its hand in for a share, but otherwise you are free to distribute as you see fit.

Unfortunately, there are those that feel that the deceased's wishes can be ignored, and often can get away with it. A few years ago in dealing with my father's estate I came up against this first hand. An object from his items, that was specifically indicated as to go to me, was all of a sudden said that it would stay with his wife because she "needed" it. Yes, she could use it, just as much as I could have used it. It wasn't worth a lot, probably would cost ~$600 to get new which I could afford, but that wasn't the point. Everyone there knew, and said as such, that my father said it was for me. But her answer was that "I'll give it to you when I die." Yeah sure. Perhaps today I would have fought it, but at that point I was disgusted and just wanted to get away from her and that place, as that was the best for my mental health. Lets just say I didn't like the way she treated him for some time, and that was the push I needed to never ever want to go back there.

A week ago similar issues started with my girlfriend. This time the estate of her mother was being split, which went as well as could be expected, given 5 daughters, with the multitude of dislikes between various sisters. Then the final split was to be done, where the instructions given were that the remaining liquid funds should be split equally between all grandchildren (The exact words I think were "All remaining cash is to be distributed in equal shares to all grandchildren", but it may have been slightly different). With all previous disbursements of IRAs and stock investments, the executor was very deliberate and checked with the sisters before finalizing the various distributions. This time however no check was done with the sisters, but a brusque email indicating that the final liquid dollar amount ($X) would be destributed among the grandchildren (#Y) but that however each grandchild would not be receiving $X/Y (call it $Z). Instead she has decreed that since her mother indicated that the grandchildren will get the same money, but since two grandchildren got a life insurance policy benefit of $5,000 (basically a investment that was made 15 years ago with the grandmother paying for it over 12 months), she would only give ($Z-$5,000) to those two grandchildren (my girlfriend's children), and take that money and give it to the other grandchildren. When we pointed out the mistake she made (the life insurance was not part of the estate), she indicated that she "knew" what her mother wanted, and that my girlfriend should shut up otherwise she would stop payment on the check she did send. I won't go into it further, but the explanations have been contradictory, illogical, and when she was backed up by another sister (lets just say the one that really doesn't like my girlfriend) that sister's story was implausable for a number of reasons. My disgust with their behavior was palpable and I wrote to let them know just what they did wrong and how I felt about it - which of course was dismissed out of hand (which I am sure didn't help, but really do you even want people around you that will steal from children in the family?).

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To wit, this, which I could easily rant about more, is a warning and teachable moment.

Teachable in that this whole escapade has been shown to her children how people can behave. It shows that people that can say they care about them, and then turn around and treat them as second class family members (and that's being generous here). And then behave like they are the victim at that.

And this is a warning to everyone that reads this. If you have wishes for your money, you need to be very, very explicit about how it is to be executed. More so, if you have any sizable amount of money (I would guess over $50,000). If you want it done right, pay for a lawyer, or make sure the person in charge has impeccable ethics. An executor is given very wide latitude in their actions, and can easily use the opportunity to enrich themselves, or just to curry favor with those they feel the closest to. Lawyers will follow the instructions, so you know what will be done, no doubting will be needed.

11 Responses to “Warning and a Teachable Moment”

  1. creditcardfree Says:

    Yuck! I don't like estate matters for that very reason, people become greedy and treat each other terrible.

  2. Miz Pat Says:

    OMG how painful.

  3. TashaC. Says:

    Inheritances cannot be counted on for these reasons. The vulnerable can get bulldozed by more aggressive people. Sadly my mom did this to my fathers 2 children from a previous marriage when he died. I knew what was going down (sort of, I was 14), that those kids were getting screwed. But my mom remained belligerent and scream-y until they just stopped trying. Then I got everything when she died. I gave my half siblings a lot of dad's possessions that they had attachment, and financially helped my half sister get surgery for her dog. It does not make up for the inequitable split, but that was 20 years ago so we are all "over it", but there is still tension if money comes up in the discussion.

    BTW- i guess your girlfriend now needs to pay into the life insurance on her kids to keep it going? Or is she going to try to cash out?

  4. Rachael777 Says:

    I just stumbled up on your blog and am SO excited with your freedom! how long did it take you to get to that goal (no debt, savings and house paid off and pension). I love that goal! Smile Great job

  5. baselle Says:

    Two words: Trust fund. Its faster than a will and probate, and its opaque to the beneficiaries.

  6. TashaC. Says:

    ooh good thinking Baselle. Husband and i have been talking about setting one up for our soon to be born child.

  7. snafu Says:

    So sorry this nasty is being perpetrated You may have had satisfaction expressing your feelings but that doesn't get the result you seek. Depending on the sums involved, it would be smart for DGF to consult a lawyer to request the executrix process and distribution be reviewed. Sister is NOT entitled to re-interpret the words of the will. Carrying out the wishes of a will has serious legal obligations.

  8. Single Guy Says:

    The life insurance policy was cashed out (it was payable upon her mother's death). The executor was pushing to know how much it was, though never said why. We found out though, didn't we? As for consulting a lawyer, the dollar amounts aren't high enough to really make it practical. Plus since the executor had her mother set up the accounts in the last years of her life as joint accounts, all the money went to her. While she went way against the spirit of the will, she was legally able to do this. Its really not the dollar amount (to me or my girlfriend), it is the principle of it all. Now to the kids... that's another story. No money now to buy a safe car, have to keep getting rides from friends, and so on. It is deplorable.

  9. Single Guy Says:

    For Rachel,

    If you check my older entries I am sure I have done a lot of discussion over how I got here. 15 years ago my net worth was barely above water with a wife that was happy to be miserable and poor the rest of her life. While there have been lots of things I have done to save & make money, sorry to say but the divorce was the best of the bunch. Getting to the point where I am takes time, a little luck, and determination. Don't expect it to happen in a year or two. But when it starts working, it becomes easier and easier to do.

  10. Rachael777 Says:

    Thanks for the reply. Hats off to you for your accomplishments.. and the journey you took to get there. I am excited and motivated. Smile

  11. FinancialRecovery Says:

    I think your GF's sister believed that all the money that came from Grandma should go equally to all the kids. Did Grandma not set up similar life insurance policies benefitting the other daughters' children ? In the executrix's mind, she was trying to ensure that every grand kid received the same final dollar amount from her mother. If Grandma wanted your GF's children to have a bit more, then she should have specified that somewhere in her will or trust document. I take it that she didn't ?

    In any case, congrats on accomplishing goals that are only dreams to me at this point of time. Your blog gives me a lot of hope. Thanks again for posting and sharing your journey to financial independence.

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