Thursday, November 27, 2008

Family feud (unedited)

It's like a bad soap opera.

My maternal grandparents were married in the 1940s. They were 18/19 years old and my mother was born soon after they were married. According to my mother she was born less than nine months after they were married.

My Catholic grandparents proceeded to have 10 children, seven boys and three girls.

My grandfather proceeded to build a successful business in the flooring industry. Of his 10 children, eight have worked for the family business. My mom and one of her sisters are the only two who haven't, to the best of my knowledge. Today there are five of the 10 siblings working at the store, as well as one of my cousins who, despite going to college for something other than retail sales, seems to be on the road to a career in the flooring industry. Not a bad gig, I suspect, my relatives live a more lavish lifestyle than I do, although that's not saying much.

In October 2002 my grandmother died. My grandparents had been married for 57 years. Grandpa had been married his entire adult life, and suddenly, without warning, he was a widow. Sure, grandma had her share of health issues over the years, but nobody saw it coming that Friday morning.

It has now been six years since grandma died, and it's about to get ugly.

Grandpa has since remarried. He couldn't stand the idea of being alone, evidently. He married Huggy Bear 16 months after grandma died. Mom was not happy.

He met Huggy Bear six months after grandma died. Things progressed quickly. Huggy Bear is a widow. She has children. She has some sort of lake cabin up north. She didn't seem to be destitute. She's a nice person, albeit a bit odd. She means well.

Mom didn't try to stop grandpa's wedding to Huggy Bear, but she clearly wasn't happy about it. The wedding was a minor debacle, and mom took it as a personal slight. I didn't get it, but whatever.

Grandpa divided his business into 10 shares and gave one to each of his children. He wasn't working any more and planned to live off the rental income from the property on which the store sits. The kids own the business, grandpa owns the building and the property it sits on. Sounds like a good plan, eh?

Grandpa may have been a successful businessman for decades, but he seems to have made a mistake or two along the way. After grandma died grandpa bought land for a new store, a store that didn't happen. I don't know the details, but from what I've heard, it hasn't done grandpa any financial favors.

Huggy Bear must get some form of retirement income. She worked, so perhaps she has a pension. Her husband likely had life insurance. She can't be without income. But grandpa writes her a check every month, a check for $4,000. Grandpa gets a rent check from the store each month for something like $11,000. He left his checkbook at the store one day, that's how the aunts and uncles found out.

Since each sibling owns a share of the store, it has value and they're taxed on it. Although they've received dividends of some sort in the past, they're not seeing anything nowadays, and they still have tax liability for their share each year.

At Thanksgiving dinner my brother invited two uncles to join dinner. Mom and her brothers discussed the situation. It appears they think they need an attorney to represent their interests. Mom doesn't want to give back the shares of the store to grandpa, mainly because she doesn't want it to go to Huggy Bear if grandpa dies. They have a pre-nuptial agreement, but if the store winds up back in grandpa's hands, it would go to Huggy Bear, evidently. Mom is adamant that it won't become hers. Yikes!

At one point it was suggested grandpa is going senile and doesn't realize what is going on. The economy is in the toilet, sales are down and the store is barely breaking even. Grandpa is most concerned with getting his rent check, evidently, and oblivious to the fact that if the store goes in the toilet, he owns an empty building he'll have a really hard time renting. There's also some distrust of grandpa's legal/financial advice, I learned.

It has been six years since grandma died. We miss her more than ever.

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