A Halloween Horror Story
Updated: Feb 13
The following is a story about what happened to our family friend, George. Of course, like all the best frightful tales, what makes this one so terrifying is that it is absolutely true. While the names have been changed for anonymity, virtually everything else is recorded exactly as it happened, roughly 12 years ago.
Back then, George's parents had divorced some 10+ years previously, and his dad, Abe, had remarried a woman named Bertie. Bertie was nice enough, she was friendly with Abe's kids, and most importantly, she seemed to make Abe happy.
A few years after getting remarried, Abe was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Untreatable, and terminal. His kids asked him about his wishes for end of life care, and what he wanted to have happen to his estate. Abe replied, on numerous occasions, "Bertie's got everything handled, and you'll all be taken care of after I'm gone."
Abe passed a couple months later. Two weeks after the funeral, the kids approached Bertie, asking about their inheritance. Bertie replied, "That's weird, Abe didn't mention anything to me. He just said that I'd be taken care of after he passed."
Abe's kids did some digging and found no will, no trust, no plan whatsoever. By law, Bertie was entitled to 100% of her deceased husband's assets, which became her assets going forward. So with Bertie, at least, Abe was true to his word. She was (and is), "taken care of," having received the entirety of his sizable estate.
Unfortunately for Abe's kids, they will never see a dime.
Bertie is still alive, living comfortably and spending down Abe's assets, while all Abe's kids can do is watch.
They try to stay on friendly terms with her, but it's clear that she's not going to do anything she doesn't want to do. In fact, George heard through Bertie's daughter-in-law, that Bertie's estate plan directs almost everything to her kids, some to charity, and none to Abe's kids. To say George feels cheated would be an understatement.
Bertie's kids, who are about 10 years younger than Abe's, are thrilled. They know that when Bertie dies they'll receive that inheritance from her, plus an inheritance from their dad, who also created a plan that takes care of them. While their stepmom will receive the interest generated by investments in the estate, when she passes, they will receive everything else.
George, meanwhile, is still a diligent saver at age 62, and foresees working another few years. He has an impressively good attitude about it. But still, I can't imagine that his dad would have consciously chosen for things to play out this way.
The most painful part of this story is how easily all of this could have been avoided with the tiniest amount of proactive planning. While we'll never know exactly what Abe's wishes were, it's easy to imagine that he would have liked Bertie to have enough to live on, and at the same time, for his kids to receive whatever was left over from that upon her passing.
Maybe he didn't realize that it was possible to structure his estate this way. Maybe he just never got around to it. But I doubt that he would have consciously chosen for Bertie's kids to receive everything he'd worked so hard for, while leaving his kids and grandkids with nothing. After all, he loved them very much, and spent his life doing what he could to make their lives better. By all accounts, he was a great guy. He just didn't do this one, very important thing.