For anyone who has ever been a beneficiary in a will, or who expects to be, here is a cautionary tale.
Last year, as followers of this blog will be aware, my Mother died. Lost my dog on the same day, but well, that’s another hole in the heart. Now while my dog, being canine did not leave a will, Ma Sticker did, and a pretty penny it is too. Well it would be. If not for the Executor, my elder sibling. Who is being an idiot. And may be about to get a very nasty legal and fiscal shock. But first, let me fill you in on some family background.
Elder sibling and I share the same mother, but that is the total depth of our relationship. My mother married his father, according to family legend “Only because he had a car.” At least according to one of my cousins, who spent a gleeful hour at my mothers funeral letting cats out of bags, showing me a familial walk-in closet full of skeletons and reminding me that I am the family bastard. “But Bill, we thought you knew.” Was another family members semi shocked response to my statement of disbelief. Well kind of yes, and kind of no. Of course I was aware through a combination of guesswork, surmise and ‘why am I over six feet tall and built like a dray horse whilst everyone else struggles to get past a slender five feet eight’, but it’s a hell of a thing to get the news you’re a “Love child” straight from the horses mouth. Especially at your Mothers funeral. With all the gruesome details of how my mother was cheating on my brothers father, who did what, to whom and when. Cheers, cousin.
Well it’s true. I am the scion of an adulterous relationship. My biological parents were not married when I was conceived or born. I know this is no big deal any more, but autre temps, autre choses. It was back then. My only beef is that my parents, particularly Ma, continually bluffed and obfuscated on this topic while they were alive. Honesty on their part would have made my life so much more straightforward. Isn’t family guilt just wonderful dahleengs? There are so many things they should have done but didn’t because they thought they would get into trouble. Now belatedly I have to do the fixing myself. My birth certificate has to be changed for one. I’ve contacted the relevant court, and doing the changes means an expensive personal visit to the UK. Court fees and lawyers. Clucking bell.
What my parents’ misplaced guilt also resulted in is stuff like elder sibling going to private school and getting his university education fully funded while yours truly went to a bog standard comprehensive and a variety of technical colleges. He got the Gap year, I went straight to work at seventeen, all that jazz. Not that I resent these ‘advantages’ (if that’s what they are – I think they’ve narrowed his mind rather than broadening it, but that’s just me), it’s just that no-one seemed bothered to give me the choice when there was one. I was the one who took the beatings, both fathers not believing in sparing the rod. Such is life. You can play the ‘what if’ game until the cows come home but it won’t change anything. All you can do is not pass the bad shit on. There, having just talked to youngest via Skype, who is currently touring New Zealand, I think I may just have succeeded. So not all bad then.
So, that’s the background. I’m a genuine bastard son of a bitch, but you all knew that anyway, you cuddly little kittens you. Meanwhile, back on the subject. Legacies. Wills. Legal shizzle. Inheritances. Money. Moolah.
The good news is I stand to receive a goodly sum which will set me up for the rest of my days. If the Executor can get his act together. The bad news is, elder sibling is doing anything but. Getting anything out of the estate with him in the drivers seat is like pulling back molars with a set of nose hair tweezers. The will states the estate is an even split. No trusts, challenges or codicils. Probate was granted back in early October. All discoveries have been made and outstanding bills settled. No challenges, taxes paid, yet sibling wants to hang on to the major asset, which is a brace of rather pleasant little country cottages, officially valued at just shy of a very large sum indeed. He tells me he wants to ‘invest’ our inheritance jointly in those cottages and live off the rental income. I try to tell him they’re potential money pits which we should sell off, or we’ll end up losing money. I tell him I don’t want estate funds spent on them. I tell him he could make more money by selling up, splitting the estate and investing his share in more modern rental properties. Response? *crickets* La-la-la, he’s not listening. Even though he’s legally bound to execute the will and any losses he makes have to come out of his pockets, not the estate, for as long as he remains Executor. Which until the estate is fully paid out, he will remain. It’s not as though I’ve seen a penny so far, either. Despite there being significant liquid assets available ready for paying out.
As an aside; for those of you who need to make international currency transfers, here’s a piece of advice: don’t send it by cheque or in cash. Use a currency broker. Reason; you’ll get a much better rate of exchange from a broker than a bank, and they take care of all the money laundering restrictions. Broker transferred funds are available within 48hours, cheques take almost a month to clear. Canadian Banks also report cash transfers over $5000 direct to the tax man if they think the provenance of the source is a bit dodgy. They don’t like sterling cheques over CAD$5,000 either. Over a certain amount, cheques and money orders also get reported to the security services as possible terrorist activity. Believe it, the banks use special data mining applications to comply with these financial regulations. They can get fined millions if they don’t comply. RBS got caned a cool 5.6 million GBP a while back for not being careful enough. As did NatWest, Ulster Bank and Coutts. Oracle provide products for the very purpose of detecting money laundering. The only way round these restrictions is carrying large wodges of cash in your luggage, which is something the customs guys tend to frown upon.
Elder sibling does not ‘believe’ any of this. He refuses all my advice. I do not care. I just want him to execute the will and pay out my share of the estate a.s.a.p. before he manages to fritter half of it away. What he does with his own share is his business. Am I going to use my share of the money wisely? I think so, yes. I have an carefully selected Investment Fund Manager and Tax Accountant on standby. The additional question is, do I trust sibling? Well, funny you should ask that. No. His repeated failures to cough up and the way he is handling communication between us is ringing loud warning bells. I may have to lawyer up smartish. Which may prove expensive for both of us. Fortunately I have a top notch UK-qualified and based family lawyer waiting in the wings (Youngest). What I hope to gain, properly invested, will not only benefit me, but eventually our two reprobates and their families when it comes to check out time for Mrs S and I. As for who will get the job of Executor, well, it won’t be one of the beneficiaries. I’d rather pay a lawyer to do it.
You know, it’s at times like these I’m moved to reflect that I’ve never really had a close family and nowadays find myself wishing for even more distance. Maybe Canada was nowhere near far enough. The next galaxy, perchance?