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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why was a portion of the cottage in my name?

A few years ago my mother called with great urgency in her voice. There was a mistake in the trust. You and Steve are part-owners of the cottage! This will cost you a lot of money in taxes when you inherit it! Your father paid a lawyer a lot of money to draw up the trust and he must have made a mistake. Thank God I noticed it.

Upshot: sign our portions of the cottage over to my mother. Which we did. With a lawyer in Florida. At separate times. 

I had some misgivings (my mother and father had talked about selling the cottage many times) but knew I had to do it. Otherwise, my already fraught relationship with my mother would be destroyed. She would be angry with me for the rest of her life. I thought of having her sign something saying  but I knew that would also be a problem.

My mother declared that the cottage would remain in the trust and that (and this is a quote; she often says terrible things like this and later says she didn't mean them): "You and your brother will have it and then you can kill each other."

It was depressing but I did it. My brother did it too at another time, but I have no idea how he felt about it. He's fine with the house being sold in any event.

I asked my mother how I came to own a fraction of the cottage--or why a fraction was in my name. She had no idea. I thought my father must have done it, but he was very possessive about the house and I couldn't imagine it. 

Well, of course my mother has now decided to sell the property. She will have large capital gains on it. She has no immediate need of the money. She signed some very disadvantageous contracts with the realtor. I told her she should hold on to the cottage and sell it when she needed the money. That it was an insurance policy of a sort. She said "That's what your father said." (He was smart about money).  But the realtor approached her with a buyer--and so she put the house up for sale. The buyer seems to have evaporated--but perhaps not. The realtor had my mother sign a dual agency contract, whereby the realtor represents both seller and buyer--very bad for the seller. 

Last night I had a lightbulb moment. When my Aunt Fritizi died, she left her estate (small, sadly. She had a long widowhood) in thirds to her siblings (I believe her older sister Julchi pre-deceased her, so that portion went to her descendants). The cottage was at the time worth about 25,000. My parents bought out the shares of the relatives in Yugoslavia and Hans, Fritzi's brother. My grandparents--or perhaps just my grandmother--retained a share. They spent every summer there until they died--first my grandfather and then my grandmother. 

I think that my brother and I may have been left my grandmother's share. I think that together we owned a third. They may have wanted it to go to us and not to my father if my mother died before him (????). Of course, owing to the communications difficulties between my brother and me, I can't ask him--he wouldn't tell me his feelings in any case. 

I want to find a copy of my grandmother's will. My mother was an only child. 

I was almost 30 when my grandmother died. I hadn't seen much of her since I was going rather crazy in grad school--I say this to my shame. There was not much focus on having grandchildren see their grandparents in those days (this is something Tom and I were aware of and we have funded our children's trips to both families). Luckily, I sent her a letter a bit before she died--I had seen a greeting card of a girl lost in a book. That was me. She sent back a letter in reply thanking me for the letter with the exclamation "And what a beautiful card." Thank heavens I did even that, a very small thing and not enough.

Is it strange that I want to know if my grandmother left her share of the cottage to my brother and me? Since my share is signed over I am not a part-owner any more. 

But I am touched at the thought that my grandmother might have been thinking of me. I would like to know. I miss her so much. There is so much I want to ask her, so much I want to tell her.


Duchesse said...

I don't find that strange at all; it seems entirely natural to me that you would want to know their wishes. If that indeed happened, you were one of the designated stewards of that special place. That, in time, your mother overrode that, consciously or not, would not change the wish that caused you to be included back then.

Frugal Scholar said...

@duchesee--once again, thank you for your words. You have a gift of finding the right thing to say.