Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I'm an Heiress

Remember Great Aunt Minnie? She died peacefully a few weeks ago. I had a chance to see her one last time in May, and spoke to her on the phone a few days before her death. I couldn't go to her memorial service, so it still seems almost surreal that she's gone, after her being such a constant, steady figure in my family's life all these years.

So it was even more weird to find a thick envelope in my mail the other night, which turned out to be from Minnie's lawyer, because I'll inherit a share of her estate.

Minnie had no children-- she left everything to my father and his 5 sisters, to be divided equally. Since my father died before her, his share now goes to my sister and me. At first, I thought this was weird-- my father's estate was all in some kind of trust going to my mother, and I thought as his surviving spouse she'd be entitled to a share in whatever Minnie had left. This gave me an icky feeling when I saw that her name wasn't included on the papers-- it's not that I want my mother to have more money to burn in irresponsible things, but I didn't want to think she was somehow being shut out. On the other hand, I didn't want to rock the boat, so I asked my sister about it, and she reassured me that my mother was well aware that the will specified that the kids of any of the siblings who were deceased were to be the heirs, not the spouses. (Perhaps because of my family's many divorces and other relationship issues!)

So now I just have to see what happens once the estate is settled and divided up. It's very odd-- I've never been named in a will before. I mean, I was named in my Dad's, but because I was so involved in his estate planning, and it was all about my mom being provided for, I never thought of it as anything actually being left to me. And although Minnie didn't single out me or anyone in my generation, and I'm only getting anything because my dad is dead, which was certainly not a happy matter-- despite all this, I feel weirdly pleased that Minnie is passing something on to me, because I think she would be happy to give it.
After her death, one of my aunts emailed to say that all Minnie's stuff had to be out of the assisted living apartment by the end of the month, and that I should come and claim any items I might want. All I could think to ask for was a book I'd given her about a year ago that I know she had really enjoyed. Other than that, I have other mementos of her-- an old stool that was hers (and made by my great-grandfather), a cracker tin that was in her old kitchen, and a few other small items she'd given me over the years. More importantly I have audio and video recordings of parts of our conversations from the last time we saw each other. And most importantly of all, I have a lifetime of good memories.

But now, I guess I'll also have some money. Weird, weird, weird. I have no idea how much money it will be. I certainly don't expect much, given I'll only get one twelfth of her estate. Though she had a good career and was very frugal, the assisted living place was expensive and I know she worried about being able to afford it. And she was paying for extra nursing care towards the end. So it's not like this will be some great windfall. But it's nice to know I'll get some small amount, whatever it is. We shall see.


beth said...

It sounds like you had a really nice relationship with her, which is so lovely. Since you're in a relatively good financial position (you really are!) I hope you can do something with however much money you get that feels like a bit of a tribute.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about Aunt Minnie. I didn't even realize she was sick. My condolences.

No matter what the amount, you'll do something great with the money and it will make her proud. Your sister on the other hand, who knows?

Sorry again.

MEG said...

Wow, what an interesting process. I've never been named in a will either (or none of my close relatives have passed yet).

I also want to reassure you that when bequests are designated to be split amaong siblings, children or other groups, it's very standard that if those people are no longer living (or if they disclaim the inheritance) that their children receive their share instead. That's the standard set up unless the person writing the will decides to make it more specific.

The reason it's done that way is that it's simply too complicated - and risky - to name spouses and other folks who may not be around/alive when the will is ultimately read. Especially with 6 siblings - your aunt would have had to name all of them, plus all their spouses, plus specific alternatives if any of those people had passed or were to disclaim (like you and your sister, your mom, etc). And then she'd also have to update her will every time the family changed or somebody got married, divorced, had a kid, or passed away!

Sicilian said...

I am sorry about your Aunt Minnie. . . you posted what I think I'd feel like to. . . I've never been named in a will either. . . .
I think it is great that you have recordings of her. . . . I wished I had thought of that with my mom.

Washington Savings Bank said...

It's always interesting to hear the varying sides of a story when someone is on the receiving end of a will. Some people get overly excited and spend the money before they have it; others don't do much with it at all. Madame X, I would encourage you to speak to your banking partner when you learn exactly what you will receive from the will. They will have some great advice for you. http://bit.ly/952dWI

Anonymous said...

My condolences on your loss. I did my will the same way: the term is "per stirpes"--I divided my assets between my five siblings (no plans to marry/have children), and if one of them dies, his/her share goes to his/her children.

Christel said...

My condolenlences on the loss of your beloved aunt.
Here in Belgium it's the same rule for inheritenses, by law.

AJC @ 7million7years said...

Not sure how much you're getting, but I see two risks with an inheritence (or, any other form of 'sudden money':

1. Spending too much, and

2. Spending too little.

Rather than explain here, I've temporarily unlocked this page from my member-only site for you, and your readers: http://tinyurl.com/25vtf6m

Let me know if I was on base!

Andrew Stevens said...

Your concern for your mother's feelings is commendable, but the fact is that you are related to Great Aunt Minnie and your mother isn't. (Keep in mind that your mother and father had been married all your life, but they were not married all of Great Aunt Minnie's life.) The possibility of divorce probably doesn't have much to do with it so much as blood being thicker than water. If my wife predeceased me, I would be astonished if I then inherited anything from her family, rather than our daughter. If I did inherit anything, I would correct the error by adding any such money to my daughter's college fund and/or put it in trust for her until she reached majority. If she were, like you, already grown, I would pass it on as quickly as possible, taxes permitting.

Nick D. said...

Sorry to hear about your aunt, a pleasant surprise being named in the will however. I'm sure whatever you decide will be good!