Thursday, July 30, 2009

Don't Assume Anything - especially that the milk of human kindness flows freely

Way back in March I wrote a blog - The Wicked Step-Mom Rides Again - I was cautioning about leaving undone legal matters, especially in the case of second marriages and premature death of a spouse. My step-children chose to attack me three years after their father's death and hurl all manner of baseless accusations at me. The more outlandish ones being that I had transferred assets belonging to their father to my name prior to his death and that I had changed his life insurance policy in the weeks prior to his death. Not only do claims of this nature leave a bad taste, they speak to the way in which young people (maybe not just young people) are swayed by sensational media stories and think they can find a quick buck.

David and I were very generous to all "our" children, providing down payments for first houses; providing business loans that were forgiven and in general looking out for welfare. We also did everything the right way in terms of wills etc. and that's where my heading here, Don't Assume Anything, comes into focus. The latest from the step-children attack now that it been clearly shown that you can't make a case out of nothing, is that I now have a "demand" that I pay their attorneys fees for "forcing them to take a legal route to get information"; this from their attorney who obviously hasn't been paid.

Don't assume anything has particular resonance in this age of second, even third or more, marriages and committed relationships. No matter how smooth the surface might be, never assume that some deep, slow growing resentment over a perceived slight, a careless word, doesn't lurk beneath the surface. And neither should you discount plain old greed and unkindness. The 93 year old mother of a dear friend, her mind still as sharp as a tack, has just been served eviction notice from the home she and her second husband lived in for 30 years. It was left to his children in his will with a notation that she was to live in the house for "as long as it was reasonable and agreeable to all parties" - lord, room for interpretation there! Now six years after her husbands death, her step-sons want her out and the house sold. It is their contention that she should be 'in an assisted living facility" and therefore it's unreasonable that she stay on in the house! This from two successful men, now in their forties, about whom she keeps saying "but we have such a good relationship"; my friend was at a family reunion with the two just three weeks before this all came about. Never assume that the milk of human kindness flows freely!

Equally as distressing is an email received this week from a really old friend - we go back 45 years. Her own son and daughter-in-law have been siphoning off her assets for several years now since her husband's untimely death when she turned over some asset management to them so , as she put it, "I wouldn't have to think about it". Don't assume that you can trust just because it's a family member.

I'm not encouraging paranoia but I am encouraging a careful look at relationships and documents that involve money. One of the saddest things I ever heard was from a man in his seventies who sold his business on a handshake to a son-in-law ; all terms of the sale were verbal. The only signature was on the actual transfer of ownership. I'll leave you to imagine what happened when the young couple divorced.

Ah well - there are good people in this world and lots of positive good emanating from them; there are many good relationships forged with step-children. Just don't take anything for granted. If you are thinking mid-life second marriage or commitment, deal with the thorny issues of finance and assets before the rosey glow fades! Long before you plan that ceremony you should plan the "what happens when and if I/you die first " scenario. It's not morbid - it's good thinking.

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1 comment:

  1. This is so sad. I too have dealt with step-children who paid lip service to their father when he was alive, failed to visit him (same town) during his long illness and then, immediately after his death aided by his first wife ( and he was long divorced when we met) began a campaign to discredit me as a gold digger - we were married for 14 wonderful years. The only gold I dug was in his heart! Hang in you know who you are, they are the ones who are lost.


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