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FAMILY STEALING FROM FAMILY
No one knows your business better than your own family
Have you ever heard the old saying keep your friends close and your enemy even closer? As close as your own family. Most families, even close ones, have a degree of distance between the members either by choice, location or lack of time due to the daily activities of each of their own lives. I am not sure that elder finance abuse is on the rise, or if more people are acting on it due to the information they can easily get now. How ever, all of the information in the world will not help you in civil cases or in probate. Only money will. You can have all of the evidence in the world that points to the vermon like a beacon in the night, but without the funds for the lawyer, that light is all you got. You better shine it on the subject before it leaves you in the dark.
HERE IS MY STORY
I grew up working in my families business since I was five years old, sweeping the floors. I worked on a daily basis with my father until he no longer wanted anything to do with the business after a few failed attempts of selling it. Knowing the business was to be passed to me, I quit my regular job in order to run what I thought was my own business. My mother had always done the books and paid the bills for all of the family members, properties and business. That is all I knew, and it continued that way. I took care of all of the work, and she took care of all of the books and banks. It had worked well all of my life so there was no need to change it now.
Unfortunately, my sister had some books of her own she was working on. As soon as my grandmother died, and left over a million dollars in cash which my father took and put into Trust accounts for both my sister and myself she has been working on getting every penny of it. He also purchased U S Treasury savings bonds for all members of our family. She wanted to give everything to me, but at the complaints of my sister my mother insisted that it be shared between both of us. Apparently that did not sit well with her that I was to get it all. My grandmother was old school, if you did not work towards getting the money, you should not receive it. And she said my sister never did not do anything for it.
She was right.
Her son and his wife got into a lot of trouble right before my father died, and as a result had to pay back the airline and travel industry over half a million dollars in restitution to keep from going to the federal penitentiary. You can guess where that money came from.
It was like taking candy from a baby, and just as cruel too. Proven to be frauds and thieves by the guilty verdict, they continued on with their actions to cover themselves by creating an elaborate scheme for hijacking the family fortune that we worked so hard to earn and save and reinvest. The actions they took in order to gain full control over all of our fiances happened like this.
First item in the classic cases of elder finance abuse is opportunity. This presented itself when my mother was left a widow and acquired the responsibility of the probate of the estate as it pertained to my father. Being a new widow, with all of the responsibility of the probate, the business, the finances and the banks, bonds and CD's she was put into a vulnerable position to say the least. My sister and her side of the family, the ones that moved off early and took on lives of their own, while the rest of us stayed and took care of the business, the properties, the building and the business kept a stream of lies and events that took every penny of our hard earned money. Vulnerable, CHECK. Inexperience, CHECK. Separation of finances, CHECK. Old, at 72, CHECK. No other family member interested in following the banks or money, CHECK. Why should they, they trusted their mother. OPPORTUNITY: A classic start.
POWER OF ATTORNEY:
This "help" they offered started with knowing all about the bonds, savings and earnings. The next step in the plan, get Mom to sign all of the papers you need, most of all, a Power of Attorney. This little item which has appropriately been named, "A license to steal" was created by my sister and signed by my mother. She had the obvious impression that it was in case she ever became incapacitated, someone would be able to get to the funds. This idea was started by my sister when she gave one to my mother so that she could sign a deed document while they were out of the country. (Even though they could have signed it from over there) Seeing how harmless this little legal robber was made it no problem to convince her to give my sister one, you know in case she ever needed someone to sign something for her. Of course the fact that the other members involved with the business daily had their names on the accounts and could have reached anything for the business themselves must have been overlooked. The misrepresentation that my sister was smart and trustworthy handling the money, and being so knowledgeable in the legal field gave my mother a false sense of trust in my sisters promises of fortune and security. She trusted her daughter as I did my mother. License to steal: CHECK
PRIVATE RELATIONSHIP AND DEPENDENCE:
Next on the classic sample of abuse list you have a "private relationship". Even though she called across the world home, and was only in town at the end of every year, she was able to create this by having my mother travel around the world with her "on vacation", that of course my mother paid for. Oh yeah, they went to Thailand, Japan, Cancun, Egypt, even Disneyland by cruise ship. And of course since she was already out of the country, visited my sister in the land of the oil. These trips were from three to four months long. At mom's expense. She created for my mother three wills, three power of attorneys, and all three were done at the same time of three Deed exchanges. She did not know what all she was signing, and they must come in a set because they all had to be done each time. Right.... And keeping with the set of rules, all three times this was done the day before they left on vacation. And I, I stayed home and kept care of the business that my sister said my mother needed help with, from the other side of the world. An eighty year old woman from a little town in Texas alone in Japan with only her daughter to depend on. Private relationship of dependence: CHECK
Next on the list comes the poisoning of the mind and injecting the thoughts of how negative and beneath them our side of the family has become. While at the same time, showing how dependable and caring and fun her side is. How you should give her all the money because she knows how to use it for mom's good. But how I, the son, the one that is making all of the income possible, does nothing, and is spending all of their money on my electric bill, and how dare I make a three dollar phone call long distance. At the same time she was so concerned over spending money for every day expenses, she had over sixty thousand dollars in her personal bank account. Liked a whipped and beaten child obeys and still loves his mother, my mother wanted so bad to believe in her daughter. The one she lost when she ran away from home at age 15 to run off to Mexico to get married and came back pregnant never to return home after that. Unless it was drop off her two children for our family to raise, or to get my mother to sign some evil paper agreement giving her life away. Daughter a princess, CHECK, son a frog, CHECK, Manipulating her thoughts of family members and spoiling other relation ships: CHECK
CONTROL OVER LIVING AND MONEY:
Next on the list, she has to control the money. She did not even have to use the power of attorney for much, that I know about so far, because between her and her son, they were able to dream up such a web of ugly pretty lies turning the atmosphere around her into a storybook land where all of your dreams come true. "Hey Mom, that money tied up in those bonds are just sitting there doing nothing at all, let me have all of that money and I can invest it for us", and anyway, " you know if my brother had it he would just blow it on stupid stuff and leave us all broke", And .................... "You should put my name on all of the bank accounts in case something happens to you, he wont be able to get to all of your money to blow while you are out laying in a ditch somewhere" Control of the banks, check, the bonds, check, and the cash: CHECK.
POSSESSIONS MISSING WITH NO EXPLANATION:
The cast iron firetruck my father gave me was not at my mother's house where it had been since the day he brought it home from a yard sale. The rifles and shotguns that my father and I used whenever we went hunting that became mine when he died were missing from the top of the kitchen cabinets where I put them for safety. At least safe is what I thought. A rather large painting that my grandmother gave me, which was kept at my mother's house ever since my grandmother's house burned down came up missing. That's when I noticed all of my things were gone from my parents house, along with any thing of value that my mother had. I asked my mother about the antique firetruck and the large picture missing as I noticed the disappearance of these items first. My mother did not know they were missing at first, then said that my sister must have taken them when she moved some stuff from her house. She said she would ask for them back, but never did. It was later when I noticed the guns gone that started me thinking about it. When I asked her about them, she said she did not know what happened to them, but my sister had spent the day cleaning out her kitchen. She cleaned it out all right. Then she got mad at me because I asked her how she could let my sister take my things. She started getting mad at me every time I asked her about things like this. So I stopped asking her about those things. Possessions missing: CHECK
My mother's possessions starting disappearing also, but this was not noticed as they were still there. Only the ownership had changed.This action was one of many behind the scenes. Somehow, she was able to convince my mother, or she did it without her knowing, to include her name as the owner of mothers car. Then took out two different loans on her car giving my sister the credit for paying for them, even though the payments came from my business funds. She then acquired the title to my mothers home, then got a $100,000 line of credit loan for it, for less than half of what it is worth. Mom's car: CHECK Mom's home: CHECK
CHANGES TO THE WILLS
My parents created a set of wills in 1991, this will from my father gave me the business and the properties associated with it. Plus it gave me the warehouse with all the tools in it on their home land. It also said about the bonds and the money in the banks. My father died in 1994, and at the influence of my sister and her son, they used a will that had been created in 1978. This will did not include the business or property because they had sold it at that time. This allowed them to claim the business and the properties which kept my mothers name as owner.
They kept the fact hidden from me that the business and the property was mine. But instead created a deed giving me only 1/4 interest in the property. And none of the business or profits. And..........., none of the Trust accounts left from my grandmother.
This allowed them access to any claim that had my mothers name on it, which was everything. They acted like I did not receive anything from my father at all. My sister knew that she would not be able to get anything from me, but could get everything from my mother.
SPEND AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
Right after my father died, there were credit cards opened in my mothers name. Forty-nine of them. The high balance on these cards ranged from $800 up to $30,000. My mother used one credit card which she put travel expenses on. But there was another set of three MC, three AX, three B of A, all of the cards had two to three cards for the same company. And all of the balances due were from balance transfers from some other credit card, not from any purchases. And to seal the deal right on up, I can not get the credit card information on my mothers cards unless I get the letter of authority from the probate court. Which is being tied up by me trying to get just that.
KEEP IT ALL A SECRET
Every change in any of the wills, property deeds, or bank bond or cash transfer, my sister was there. I was not included in any of these changes. Perhaps I am at fault for not checking on things that my mother had handled all of my life, but it's just that, my mother had always done that and I knew of nothing different.
It wasn't until my mother passed away and I went to the bank for my families business which is now just mine, and it had $246 in it, that I came into the realization of the extent of damage my family had sustained. I went to get a lawyer, and that action alone stopped her from getting the executor of the estate which stopped her from taking anything more. After that, I spent a lot of time researching the papers that were left in my mother's house. As far as I can tell now, that is the only mistake my sister did in all of this, was to not take out all of the old papers my mother kept. She did take all of the bank statements from the last few years, but failed to see the value of the older papers from my grandmother and father too. Lucky for me, that was the only way that I was able to establish just where the money came from, and who it was supposed to have gone to. All of the new bank statements ever printed could not have furnished that information. We did not know where the money was, she took it. We did know where it was supposed to have gone to before the interference with the inheritances happened.
PROBATE COURT / WILLS / LAWYERS
If you have any question, or suspicions of doubt about the actions someone in your family has taken, at the very least research it. This can be done pretty easy on the Internet through search engines. If you or you do not know someone that can do this for you, you still can do it the old fashioned way and go to the court house and see it for yourself. If you are not sure what you are looking for, explain your situation to the people at the records department, and they will help you find the documents that you are looking for. If what you see, is different from what it should be, by all means possible, look further. Look until you get some answers. Look until you get some questions. Just look.