When it comes to the matter of distributing someone’s assets after he/she dies, funny things happen–even in the best of families. The reality is that when there is money involved–assets, property and valuable belongings–greed often rears its head. In some cases, it’s the aggressive sister and her greedy husband who are the troublemakers. But just as often, someone else entirely thinks he or she deserves the biggest share of their parent’s estate.
In our Oakland office, one of our clients entertained our team with what is ultimately a very funny story about his grandmother and the greedy relatives who were hoping to inherit their share of their grandmother’s modest estate.
Our client’s grandmother had helped raise him, and she had always been loving and supportive. They had remained very close, and it was his turn to care for her in the final years of her life. He had helped her create her Living Trust and he had Power of Attorney, paid her bills, took her to her doctor appointments, checked in with her most days and spent as much time with her as he could. In turn, she left most of her modest estate to him.
We probably all know a few people like this kind grandmother—she grew up during the depression, and she never forgot those difficult times, so she saved/repurposed everyday items. Cottage cheese cartons were her Tupperware containers, empty bread sacks with their little plastic closures became her Ziploc bags. She lived alone in her later years, and her cupboards, drawers, attic and garage became stuffed with the containers and other paraphernalia that she was saving to repurpose for some other use—things that should have long ago been recycled or gone to a landfill.
Grandma was tough, independent and resilient, but old age finally caught up with her, and at 93, she knew she didn’t have long to live. Assorted family members gathered around her, most of whom hadn’t bothered to call, write or stop in to see her in years. She slyly told everyone that there was a large amount of money hidden in her house. The result? The house and all of its bags and empty containers was cleaned out in record time. Our client, who was her caretaker, knew that there was no fortune, but took great pleasure in watching his greedy family members clean out the house as they searched for the money, each hoping to be the one who uncovered the hidden riches. Grandmother enjoyed her little joke enormously and got the last laugh.
People tend to move real property, brokerage accounts, life insurance policies and other big-ticket items into their Living Trusts. But in all too many cases, smaller items are not accounted for. And it’s these items that can cause family conflicts. Many of these items have monetary value, but often it’s the sentimental value that makes them just as coveted. The more detail you provide as you create your Living Trust, the less dissension there will be for your family.