Copyright 2011, Marc S. Weissman|
Certified Specialist: Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law
Certified by the California Board of Legal Specialization of The State Bar of California
Weiss & Weissman, San Francisco, California
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This Article is designed to be of general interest. The specific techniques and information discussed may not apply to you. Before acting on any matter contained herein, you should consult with your personal legal adviser.
12/27/2010: Someone told me a long time ago that I should write a book. The stories I see; the family relationships that make fiction seem boring. I had to start today, and I will add to this as I am inspired (or bored). But today's experience is definitely one for The Book.
Today I gave a letter to Son1 from my client, to be opened after her death. She died yesterday. She HATED Son1's wife. So much that Son1's inheritance was put under the control of his brother and sisters, as long as the wife may live. Since the 4 kids were in town for the holiday and her last illness, we met today and I had to explain the deal to him and the others. Yech!
Then there is the client whose Xmas presents were returned by the daughter-in-law, unopened, along with a note: "we don't want anything to do with you any more."
Or the Orthodox Jewish (VERY religious) client whose Hasidic (extremely religious) daughter-in-law limited contact between grandchildren and them because they are not Jewish enough.
Notice something about the 3 families above? It's the evil daughter-in-law who changes the angelic Son into a devil.
Families are relationships between humans, and we are all imperfect. The expression, "There is a thin line between love and hate" is true. I dislike my neighbor, but it does not bother me a lot. I do not have to live with him. But if I have a small problem with a family member, it often creates huge issues.
Most of what I do is preparation of Living Trusts. I explain to my clients that when they become incapacitated or die, the Successor Trustee takes over. I joke that trust is key to a Trust. The most important attribute for a Trustee is TRUSTWORTHINESS. If the Trustee does a bad job, there is little the beneficiaries are able to do about it.
Neglectful Kids: Luna (mother) has adult two children. Luna lived in San Francisco until she became incapable of caring for herself. Luna's Son is a registered nurse, also living in SF, so years ago Luna appointed him to be in charge of her medical decision-making..
When she became ill, did she go live with her Son? NO - that would be too inconvenient for the Son and his Wife and their family; instead, Luna went to live with her daughter for 2 months. [There is an old saying: "Your son is your son until he takes a Wife; but a daughter is yours for life. I am thrilled that I have 2 daughters.]
When I told my sister Laura about Luna, her answer was that I was as bad as that neglectful Son. Our mother is in assisted living in Hartford where Laura lives; Laura is stuck with the burden of caring for Mom as the 2 sons moved to California. We call and send cards, but from 3,000 miles away, what does Laura expect?! Funny how we do not see ourselves as other see us.
Hmm. 4 out of 4 evil daughters-in-law.
In my practice, I have to be aware of potential problems before they make trouble. The best solution is to avoid problems. So lawyers are focused on problems. In fact, most estate planning clients do not have huge problems. The easy clients are forgettable. When problems arise, I try to learn from them, not to forget. Usually what I learn I call a "life lesson." Something about mankind and our relationships with each other.
Uncle, age 65, had a dog. Nephew, age 35 took the dog for a run, threw a Frisbee, and the dog leapt off the cliff to catch it. Dog had $5,000 of surgery before death. Uncle asked me if hew should sue Nephew
"Our Son is a wimp. He lets his wife do anything. She runs his life; she has affairs and controls all the money."
Debbie has 2 children. A 'perfect' son and a wayward daughter. The daughter and mom fought for years; eventually Debbie disinherited daughter, leaving everything to her perfect son. Then she found out her son is getting divorced to shack up with his honey, a girl he met when she was a 15 year old foreign exchange student living in his house, with his wife and younger children. He has seen her overseas for many visits, and is now importing her, and her son. I told Debbie to, "Do the math: what's your new grandson's name?" It seems clear to me that the perfect son who had an affair with a 15 year old exchange student entrusted to his care should be prosecuted. "Had an affair." What a *. I call it statutory rape.
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