August 30, 2009 by 8junebugs
There’s an interesting wrinkle popping up in EstateLand this hot August night. A family in my hometown would like to retrieve from my mother’s home the ashes and belongings of her best friend, who was born into their family and left it behind as soon as his mother died.
His reasons were private and personal, and I will say only that they were damned good ones.
It took years for him to trust that we loved him for who he was and wanted him around. When I got married, he sat at the family table with my mom, but he almost didn’t. They were only friends, but he didn’t want to offend my father or make anyone “uncomfortable.” He was the most sensitive man I’ve ever known, in that regard, always afraid to be in anyone’s way. It took me assuring him that he was invited as my guest and anyone taking issue with that would get a white satin shoe up their ass to convince him he was welcome.
He wasn’t used to being welcome, and he wasn’t used to anyone being willing to stand up for him.
When he died, we found that he’d named my mother as executor and sole beneficiary to his estate. Should Mom pre-decease him or abdicate, I was his second choice for executor, and KidBrother and I were named as co-beneficiaries.
KidBrother and I didn’t know he’d laid it out that way, but it wasn’t a surprise. Mom said she didn’t know, but she might’ve. I agreed to help her manage the estate, as long as I had power of attorney. There wasn’t much to manage — more claims than assets, and most of the assets had beneficiaries named.
I have no idea, now, if his family ever made formal claims on the estate — I do know that Mom tried to be sympathetic when they wanted family photos or things of that sort. But he explicitly left everything to her. Now that she’s gone, that property belongs to her estate.
To wit: If A = B and B = C, then A = not their property twice over. Not even close. Unless my attorney tells me I’m wrong, they have no legal right to anything.
(Actually, it might be three times over. Some of his stuff was passed to him when his mother died…and not to them.)
As to any other rights, I’m not totally unsympathetic. I’m close, though. If you treat someone badly enough that they adopt a new family just to try to be whole, you shouldn’t get to benefit from his death.
As it happens, I doubt they will. See, I only heard about this because my uncle ran into someone this afternoon, someone he hasn’t seen in years…used to bowl with him and Mom, and was just so sorry to hear of Mom’s passing, etc. There was some mention of us selling the house. This woman is friends with someone in that family, and that family’s acting patriarch called my uncle tonight to see about getting our friend’s stuff out of the house.
First? They have to actually contact me or my attorney. It’s not up to my uncle — he’s fine with that, and I’m glad he called me. There’s a process for making claims against an estate, and I have no reason to make exceptions.
Second? There’s a window of time for making claims against an estate. That window has long since passed (to say nothing of claims against our friend’s estate) and was properly advertised in a local paper I know they read.
Third? They need to make a formal claim in writing. And by formal, I mean specific. I will absolutely NOT allow them — or anyone else, for that matter — to browse through my mother’s house, expecting to take anything they think is theirs.
Fourth? I owe them nothing. My allegiance is to my mother’s estate and my family, and that allegiance alone will inform my decision.
Fifth? They’ve got one business week to make a claim. We are under contract and I’m cleaning the house out over Labor Day weekend. Anything still in the house by next Tuesday morning will either be sold at an estate auction or left for the new buyers.
Hmmm. I have no personal issue of my own with this family — I quite like the members of it in my own generation, and I know at least one member, the patriarch mentioned above, came to Mom’s service. But I do feel strongly that one’s final wishes should be honored, even above the wishes of one’s family. If I need to stand up for our friend, still, four years after his death, I will.