Saturday, May 15, 2010

Misuse of the Law

To date, no blood Eskeys have received copies of the current living trust for the Eskey estate. These copies, either electronic or paper, will provide insurance against any of the Eskey girls being written out at any time. It is only an interim solution, but an important one.

The Will that my father put into place 6 months into his new marriage in 2000 was meant to be a temporary solution to allow him to travel safely to the Middle East with his new bride. On that trip, his children were informed that his plan was to put a living trust into place upon their return, which would allow them to take a more thoughtful and careful approach to the estate planning when they had more time.

Unfortunately, my father died a year and a half after that trip. He was only 69 years old, and it was quite unexpected. My new stepmother agreed to put the Trust into place, and has theoretically done so, although she has appointed herself as the sole Trustee and has yet to share copies with the Eskey family. She has shared little to none of the assets with anyone other than the members of her own immediate family. On November 14, 2008, with guidance from her estate attorney, she sent a very detailed letter to the Eskey daughters stating that her plan was to share no more of the assets with the Eskeys until her own death. Her mother died at the age of 96. If her life span matches that of her mother, that would be another 25 years or so. The letter also included clear threats to write the Eskeys out of the living trust if we pressed the issue and a statement that she would be answering no further questions regarding the estate.

On December 10, 2008, her estate attorney sent me a letter stating that she would be handling all correspondence regarding the estate, and that I was to refrain from contacting my step-mother or her children regarding these matters. I do not believe there is any supporting legal precedent for enforcing this request, although for the most part, I have honored it.

Since my father's death, I feel that my step-family has modeled behavior where financial (and emotional) abuse is not only supported, but often emulated and parroted. It is my sincere desire that my own immediate family will in no way view their abominably bad decisions as acceptable, representative of Eskey family values, or in alignment with my father's wishes. I believe that the current situation is based entirely on self-serving misinterpretations of my father's hopes and dreams for his family.

In spite of numerous attempts on my part to meet with various members of this family, many emails sent directly to my step-mother's estate attorney, and several attempts to coordinate visits to an estate attorney in my own neighborhood, my step-family has refused all requests. I have not set foot in my father's house in over two years, and it has been many more since I have visited my family's timeshares in Palm Springs and Sedona. My step-mother's estate attorney is advising her to ignore my communications. I have an email along those lines that was accidently sent to me on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at 2:36 PM. Her daughter has refused my invitation to meet in Seattle, in her own hometown, which is also the location of my step-mother's second home.

I have yet to understand the inexplicable sense of entitlement that this family has to even a dime of my father's money, given that his third marriage lasted about two years, let alone refusing access to and oversight by his own family. His 3rd wife was well into her sixties when he died, having already lived a full life with income not only from alimony from her first marriage to an attorney, but also from a part-time teaching job. She owned a large home outright in an upscale neighborhood not far from our home which sold for just under $1M in 2006. She had recently inherited a sizable sum from her mother. Her own family was and is far more secure financially than mine. Her daughter is an executive in the pharmaceutical industry.

What is especially disturbing to me is that one of our first meetings was in a hospital as I was recovering from an operation to remove a cancerous growth. In retrospect, I feel that my step-mother's involvement with my family was from the start motivated by her desire to ingratiate herself with my father (and later with my uncle) with her primary goal to take and retain control of our assets. There are additional details and events that have taken place over the years that support my belief, far too many to share on this blog, including the fact that she has never made herself available to discuss the estate.

In addition, I don't believe that "temporary" wills are a common occurrence under any circumstances, and especially not "temporary" wills that leave everything to one person. Travel insurance with one beneficiary, perhaps. Or a will that allocated the assets according to California law with 1/3 to the widow/widower and 2/3 to the children. Or, given their advanced ages and solid financial standings, allocations that were far more generous to the children. In any case, my instincts tell me that convincing a loving parent to write a "temporary" will that excludes his children is a common strategy and an approach that is only used when attempting to defraud a Testator. What convinced my father that his new bride was trustworthy was that she wrote a similar will, leaving everything to him if she died first. However, given the lifespan of her mother, I believe that she knew quite well that the odds were heavily weighted in her favor, and that there was a good chance that my father would be too busy (and perhaps even too distracted by her attention) to put their combined living trust into place before he died. Hence, I believe that the elder financial abuse was premeditated, and that there were multiple co-conspirators.

So, under the circumstances of the "temporary will" and given that my father died so suddenly, leaving no written instructions as to the structure of their combined living trust, my goal is to facilitate the process of preparing new (more equitable) family trust(s) in time for Christmas, which is also my sister's birthday. The "short haul" and "long haul" models in the New Year's Day blogs will reallocate the assets in alignment with California law. Given that my step-family has had ample time to reconsider, I am optimistic that we will have copies of the current living trust and a (legally binding) promise for the new trust(s) before then. However, if you are reading this blog now, you will know that my step-family was not cooperative, and that under the circumstances, my preference is the "short haul" model. I would like to cut all financial ties with this family as soon as possible.

My step-mother has taken everything that belonged to my father as her own including photo albums, personal items, cookware, linens, contact lists for relatives and friends, artwork, and so forth. Many of the household items once belonged to my father's second wife of 17 years. As such, I would like her to have "first look" and the opportunity to reclaim those items that have particular significance or sentimental value to her, items that she and my father purchased together, or items that she purchased on her own.

Once the new trust(s) have been established and the assets have been properly allocated, I would like to rent out the townhouse as soon as possible.

Truth is like oil, it will always rise to the surface. See especially Module 4: Consent and other Suspect Justification. My all-time favorites: "I didn't know it was illegal." "But we were soulmates." "But that is what s/he wanted." Fortunately, there is no statute of limitations for family intervention.

"In addition, victim behaviors in UI cases may be similar to those demonstrated by victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual abuse. Older victims may appear to be willing participants in activities that are not in their best interest and that run counter to belief systems they have held for many years. They may protect the suspect. Some older victims impede the investigation by not providing information or giving inaccurate information. Some victims later recant."
- Undue Influence: The Criminal Justice Response

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