This is a tale of the stolen inheritance. It's a horror story. It's based upon a real, true life story and is an example of what can happen to people as they get into certain situations and stages in life. Of course, the names have been changed to protect the innocent here. This is a story of Sharon. Sharon is a high spirited, Irish widow that I worked with for a number of years. I remember she came into my office with a friend and that she inherited some money from a sister. Her husband had long since passed. She had questions about what to do and we put the investments to work. As the years passed on, I discovered that she was very highly spirited, but she didn't say too much about her past. We pretty much kept to the facts. I kept hearing stories of her working in the Library of Congress, about her husband, Irish lore and how she came here to the States. Then one day, she all of a sudden opened up. I guess she got into her 80s, she shared about where she wanted things to go when she passed. It happened so quickly. So quickly that it was difficult for me to capture it all. I did refer her to a few attorneys I knew that could help her with her estate plans.
She articulated where her son and her sisters lived. Her accent was so thick and her passion was so heavy, that it was hard for me to really grasp what was going on with her desires. I could tell that she was estranged from her son, but she definitely wanted him to be involved in her final affairs. I guess she just held a grudge against him for some reason. She also wanted her sisters, who lived in Ireland, to receive some money as well.
As years passed, I would visit her on occasion with different ideas. Suddenly, a striking meeting came about. I went to her home to sign a routine document, since she couldn't really travel anymore to the office. There was a new person in her life that I did not know, and proclaimed to be her caretaker – a concerned neighbor. At the same time, in talking to Sharon, I could tell that her mental capacity was going downhill, but it wasn't 100% gone. Sharon mentioned that this caretaker was helping her out with things.
The caretaker was being awful tight with facts. She was highly-controlling of Sharon, and asking what was this, what was this for, being really into her affairs quite a bit. At the same time, I was asking “the caretaker” about her role. She was being opaque saying she was her caretaker and power of attorney. She did show me the power of attorney form, but she let Sharon go ahead and sign the document I brought. I thought the whole case was quite bizarre, because she was not really communicating with me. It was almost like a standoff at the OK Corral. It's like, who's this person, she was leery of me, and I was leery of her (the caretaker).
What caused me deep concern is I definitely knew that Sharon had some strong opinions about who she wanted to get her money when she passed, and I'm not sure that this caretaker person, who had power of attorney, was going to honor her wishes. As time went on I could not communicate with Sharon anymore. Dementia had set in. Meanwhile, I got a call from Sharon's accountant, saying Sharon normally contacts them to do her tax returns but we have not heard from her, do you know what's going on? I hadn't heard anything. I attempted to contact the caretaker, the caretaker would not return my phone calls. I was getting quite concerned. I contacted the law firm that allegedly had drafted the power of attorney, to confirm whether or not this was the case. They did not comment one way or another. It was a very uncomfortable situation for me, and quite frankly, my hands were tied. Unfortunately, my relationship with Sharon ended at the expense of this caretaker. The caretaker was not cooperating at all. Sharon was all alone. I knew that Sharon had nobody else in the area, and her mental capacity was getting much worse. It was a sad, confusing situation for me. I really didn’t know what I could do at that time. I highly suspect that because of the lack of cooperation from the caretaker toward me that Sharon had her legacy stolen. So moral of the story is, as soon as you know what you want to do with your affairs, make sure you contact somebody that can actually specify that in a legal document. Also, make sure that you are working with people that you trust and communicate those plans to them.