Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Death Bed Thief

This guest post is written by Julie Hall who is known as The Estate Lady. Julie is a professional estate liquidator and certified personal property appraiser. She has authored a best-selling book titled "THE BOOMER BURDEN: How to Deal With Your Parents' Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff", currently available on Julie writes a weekly blog which is available at, called The Estate Lady Speaks.

The Death Bed Thief
By Julie Hall, The Estate Lady

Exploitation can raise its ugly head in the midst of unsuspecting situations. Such was the case with the Garvey family (not real name).

Mom and Dad Garvey were about the nicest people you'd ever wish to meet. Their three adult children lived nearby; they loved to have all the grandchildren over for Sunday dinners. All of the children were successful, and the family often took vacations together. As Mom Garvey shared with me, she could not recall one moment of discord between her kids.

Dad Garvey was diagnosed with cancer at age 73, and the disease progressed rapidly. He had lived a good life, and faced his illness with grace and courage. Even as his strength waned, he loved having his family visit. But soon death was imminent and hospice was called in to assist him and his family.

That's when strange things began to happen.

One of his daughters became uncharacteristically possessive. She wanted to be at Dad's bedside around the clock. Normally a sweet and accommodating person, she would snap at her mother over the smallest thing. She accused her siblings of not caring enough for their dad, even as she tried to prevent them from being with him during his final days.

Eventually Dad Garvey passed away, with his wife and children at his bedside. But as the funeral director's hearse pulled up to take the body to the funeral home, the same daughter disappeared into the basement, while the others comforted one another in their grief.

It was a few days later that they discovered what the daughter had been doing. Apparently, while she was keeping vigil by her father's bedside, she was also surveying his belongings. When he died, she quickly grabbed the things she had stashed in the final couple weeks of his life. Mysteriously, even though Dad Garvey had prepared a will, it was never found.

This is a scary story, no doubt. But imagine, for just a moment, how different this story would have gone if the parents had given serious consideration to dividing their estate prior to infirmity or death. At the very least, they should have distributed a master list of what they wanted each child or heir to have, making sure that each child received a copy. The will should have been given to the executor or another trusted professional, so it would have been available upon death.

If every child knows the plan in advance, it will be much harder for one child to take the lion's share. Unfortunately, this scenario occurs every single day, because no one planned ahead!

© 2010 The Estate Lady

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