I was just blown away by a story a friend of mine told me. Her aunt died of cancer a few months ago. The memorial service held a little while later was an interesting event that brought together a diverse group of family and friends, many of whom had never met each other before. The aunt, who I'll call Donna, was an odd character, perhaps a bit bipolar, so she went through phases where she was moody and didn't keep in touch with people, and those who cared about her were often forced to do all the reaching out themselves if they wanted o keep in touch with her.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
The cast of characters in her life included one sister named Michelle, Donna's step-children, and a good friend named Fred. When Donna's husband died, she was left fairly well-off and didn't have to work for a living, but she didn't know anything about managing her own finances, so Fred, who is an accountant, helped her with all that, and was the executor of her will. Fred had met Donna through his wife, who was a good friend of hers.
Donna died of cancer, and in the last years of her life, her sister, with whom she hadn't been very close when they were younger, came to stay with her frequently and helped her get through her chemo treatments. Donna's step-children, who had young families of their own, drifted out of touch and didn't even know Donna was sick until it was too late to help much. In Donna's last days, Fred told my friend that he didn't think Donna's step children should be told, and though they came to her bedside immediately when they heard she was dying, he thought they didn't care about her and didn't think they should even be invited to her memorial. But in the end, they did attend, and each read a reminiscence about Donna that was obviously heartfelt and sincere.
Donna left behind an apartment full of clutter. There were a few heirlooms that by family tradition were supposed to go to her oldest stepson. There was some anxiety that Donna might have sold them, but they were found and passed along to him. Donna's sister Michelle coordinated cleaning out the apartment, giving various personal items to some of Donna's friends (though nothing to my friend her niece, which is sad, as she'd been fond of Donna and more attentive to her during her illness than a lot of other people had been. ) Michelle had to travel back and forth to New York several times to deal with all the mess in the apartment and prepare it for being sold. But by a few months after Donna's death, it was all emptied out and ready.
And that brings us up to now, when the shocking thing happens: my friend finds out that Donna's will had left her apartment entirely to her friend Fred, not her sister Michelle! She is still trying to find out all the details but it sounds like Michelle got pretty much nothing, and the step-children didn't either. And that apartment is worth at least a couple million dollars.
The whole thing seems fishy. Did Fred trick Donna into changing her will? Did he try to encourage the alienation from her step-children? Why wouldn't Donna have wanted Michelle to get at least some of that money? I was also surprised that Donna's deceased husband hadn't dealt with his own estate in a way that gave Donna the right to live in the apartment during her lifetime but left it to his own children after her death, since he and Donna had no kids of their own. Who knows what the facts are behind all this, as what I am telling is just second hand hearsay. But it fascinates me nonetheless...
Posted at 7:46 PM