How incredibly ironic that I heard your book discussed on a radio program this morning. Our family’s life has been turned upside down within the recent two weeks due to the decision of my grandfather concerning his will. He is 87 and lives on a large working farm. He bought this farm 30 years ago with the money from selling his old smaller farm. He bought such a large place with the agreement that his only son would help him farm it as a career. Over the years of work, two new homes were built on the farm….one for my grandparents and one for his son and daughter-in-law. There were however, two other children to this family….two daughters (one being my mother). Each daughter married and moved a couple of hours away. One daughter found it hard to ever visit…maybe once every 6-8 weeks, and the other (my mother) visited frequently and helped out her parents over the years, painting and other odd jobs.
As the years went by, and my grandparents got older, they needed a lot more care. Financially, my mother and father were going through some rough times, so they decided to move to the farm and rent an existing old home that had come with the farm when it was bought by my grandfather. My grandparents and uncle all expected and collected rent for this older piece of property, even though it was not even barely livable…… i.e. flushing the toilet with a bucket, electrical problems, leaks, plus many more. My parents put some of their money and much time in making the place decent enough to live in. My mother, instead of going to town to get a job, decided to stay home with my younger brother and help take care of my grandparents. Within a year of being there, my grandmother’s health went drastically downhill, and my mother became the primary caregiver, which meant constant trips to the doctor, spending nights with them, cooking meals, doing housework. These duties were not shared among the son and the other sister. In fact, the other two ignored the situation, and complained if anything was necessary or expected on their part in the form of help.
So for 8 years my mother has cared for her parents… grandmother passed away a few years ago, but just in time for grandfather to need much care himself. So my mother’s duties (done out of nothing but love) continued. And rent is continually collected on the horrible dwelling in which my parents live. Years earlier, my grandfather had told my mother that when he and grandma passed on, the farm would be first split in half…one half going to the son who worked it for many years…..which we all thought was perfectly fair. The other half and money would be split three ways between all three children as their inheritance. My parents both had been told that someday they would own a nice piece of land, and had looked forward to that and even counted on that for a wonderful retirement location.
But two weeks ago, all of that changed. My grandfather called my parents over and were worried about where they would live after he died and he wanted them to buy a new double-wide mobile home and he would let them sit it where the old place was now. And after he died, the deed would stipulate that they would be allowed to stay on that piece of land as long as they wanted, but the land underneath it would belong to the son. He said they could just take the double-wide with them whenever they left the area. This greatly confused my parents. Because of what they had been told earlier, they didn’t understand why even such a tiny piece of land after my grandfather’s death would belong to the son if they indeed inherited a portion of the farm anyway. Since this was their future at stake, my mother went to ask her father what exactly happens after he passes on. He stunned our family by telling her he changed the will and was giving everything….all of the farm and equipment, and both new houses to the son, my mother’s brother. The money that my grandparents had amassed over the years was to be split between all three children (which was not a large sum of money). His reasoning behind such a drastic switch was that he didn’t want to split up the land! That was the only reason.
So, after all the years my mother took care of them, cooking, cleaning, being the chauffeur, gardener, painter, maid, ambulance runner, hospital sitter, pharmacist, and grocery deliverer by herself with only the help of her husband and children, she basically is being cut out of any real inheritance. Each of the other two siblings did nothing to help with the care of the parents, and one gets most of it to retire a millionaire and the other gets the same amount of money as the daughter who slaved 8+ years.
Needless to say, my parents are trying as quickly as possible to get off of that farm and into a house of their own. The hurt feelings are beyond description. My mother out of Christian love still takes care of her father on a daily basis while the other two siblings go about their normal lives. We were quick to think this was the tragic decision of a senile old man…and are able to look past the hurt. But we also realize this decision has been well discussed with the son, and he is very aware of this new decision, and he is even the executor. He sees nothing wrong with this and is quite delighted with his new found wealth….and plans to sell the farm and retire in Florida….even though grandfather thinks he is leaving it to be in the family for years “undivided”.
So the moral of our story is, try your best to find out what is in the will before they die….open those lines of communication. Be careful….the older they get, the more sporadic decisions can become. And above all DO NOT depend on the affection and love of your family members. No matter how much love has been shown all throughout the years in all branches of the family……money changes people. Unfortunately, usually for the worst. But as traumatic as this whole thing has been, we are VERY thankful we have this information before my grandfather passes away. After the funeral would have been a hundred times more devastating!! My grandfather does not want to split up his precious land, but he succeeded in splitting up his family….because we will never feel the same way about everyone, it caused scars that I doubt will ever heal.