So, I have close friend that was put in a unique situation. She and her husband (Lucy and Ricardo) lived down the street from another couple (Fred and Ethel) for most of their lives. The couples weren’t close friends, but Lucy and Ethel were more than acquaintances, especially as they got older.
Fred and Ethel were about 15-20 years older than Lucy and Ricardo. Fred was a doctor in the Army and he and Ethel had one son (Fred Jr.), who also grew up to be a doctor, but moved away out of state a long time ago. Fred died about 15 years ago, and while going through many of the things in his office, Ethel learned and shared with Lucy that Fred had engaged in numerous affairs over his life, and had kept correspondence with many of his lovers in the paperwork in his office. Ethel inherited all of Fred’s estate.
Fred Jr. would come visit his mother once a year. Ethel never got along with Fred’s wife and didn’t really know her grandchildren well, as they didn’t come to visit very often. As Ethel got older, she could no longer drive, so Lucy would take her to doctor appointments, grocery shopping etc. Ethel’s health continued to deteriorate, to the point that Lucy would take a plate of food every evening to Ethel’s house for the past 5 or so years.
Soon, whenever Fred Jr. would come to visit, Ethel, would ask Lucy to take a box of documents over to her house for safekeeping. The documents contained bank statements, investment account statements, and her legal will and medical directives. Ethel told Lucy that she had named Lucy the executor of her estate and didn’t want her son to see those documents.
About two years ago, Fred Jr. hired a mental health practitioner to come and interview his mother, to test her competency. Ethel kicked the practitioner out of her house.
In the last few months of her life, Ethel became bedridden, and between Lucy and a home health nurse that Ethel hired, they cared for her before she was taken to a hospital and died of cardiac arrest at the age of 92.
After Ethel’s death, Lucy learned that Ethel had Lucy’s name added to 3 different Wells Fargo bank accounts that passed to Lucy upon Ethel’s death. Lucy remembers Ethel asking her to sign some bank documents but was not aware that this resulted in the accounts passing to her.
Fred Jr. didn’t make it to town to see his mother before she passed, even though Lucy had been giving him frequent updates on Ethel’s condition. Fred Jr., his wife and his oldest daughter did show up at Ethel’s house the day after she died. Loading up their own car and Ethel’s car with some of the furniture they wanted and left. On the way out of the neighborhood, they stopped by Lucy’s house and asked if she was aware of a will that Ethel may have left. Lucy gave Fred Jr. a copy of the will along with Ethel’s attorney’s name and phone number.
The will laid out the following as bequests:
The house and contents to be sold and the proceeds put into a trust for the benefit of Fred Jr. with 1/10 of the trust amount paid to the beneficiary each year over a ten year period. If Fred Jr. passes before the full 10 years pass, then the remainder of the trust should be paid to the local public library. (approx. $1,000,000)
The public equity investment account should be transferred to Fred Jr. (approx. $1,200,000)
Approx. $50,000 from the Bank of America account to be paid to Fred Sr.'s junior partner in his medical practice that was a significant help to Ethel, when Fred Sr. passed.
Approx. $50,000 from the Bank of America account to be paid to the local senior citizens center.
The remainder of the Bank of America account, after settling the estate and expenses of the estate, to be paid to Lucy. (approx. $800,000)
The will was dated approximately a year after Fred Sr. died, which was about 14 years ago. The value of the Wells Fargo accounts that Ethel co-owned with Lucy was approximately $1,200,000.
Fred Jr. has argued that Lucy must have coerced Ethel into the will structure that she set up. He has threatened litigation, he has threatened contacting his congressman, etc. Fred Jr’s adult daughter has taken to harassing Lucy, Ricardo, and their children and grandchildren. It has caused a ton of stress for Lucy that she never asked for. She was just trying to be a good neighbor, and ended up being $2 million the richer for it.
I know these facts because as a favor to Lucy, I prepared Ethel’s last tax return and the Ethel’s estate return.
I’m of the opinion that Fred Jr. got what he sowed, but I might be a bit biased. Fred Jr. is in his early 70’s, and is very obese, so it is likely he will pass before he receives the full payout of the trust.