Thursday, April 9, 2009

Family Heirlooms

While in Dusseldorf, we spent some time with my aunt. No big deal, right? Wrong!

She is my mother's only sibling. Her older sister. They don't speak. In fact, they are in some kind of on-going legal fight about money and an apartment my grandfather gave them. Some days, I think he must not have known his daughters very well (or was more interested in the tax break than in the future) because no one could think asking those two women to share anything is a good idea, let alone something that involves money.

So, for quite a while I didn't speak to my aunt either, out of loyalty to my mother. Then I decided that was stupid. Their issues are not mine and have nothing to do with me. Right? Wrong!

I started e-mailing my aunt again. I called her once and she called at Christmas. Then, when I visited my mother in January, she told me the aunt had sent my former step-father a letter asking for information about my mother's finances and saying she could have gotten the information from me but didn't want to put me in the middle. Hello!? Just by saying that, she put me in the middle. Needless to say, my mother was not happy. She said I was making it more difficult for them to finalize the apartment issue. Huh?

So, back to this recent visit. My aunt gave me several things from my grandparents who have both passed away. Quite a bit actually. Stuff for me and to share with my two sisters. No big deal, right? Wrong!

One of the things my mother holds against her sister is that she supposedly got my grandmother, who had Alzheimer's and was in a nursing home, to sign over my grandparent's apartment and everything in it to my aunt. My aunt then promptly sold it and kept all the money. Did I mention my aunt has declared bankruptcy twice and is not supposed to have any income? So where did the money go? Where did the furniture, books, paintings, etc. go? That's what my mother would like to know.

I know the answer to some of that now after having visited. Some of the paintings and a little of the furniture sits in my aunt's apartment. As for the other stuff, I can only guess that she sold it. She did keep a lot of knick-knacks: purses, handkerchiefs, eye glasses, etc. Not very exciting stuff, but when you have nothing from your grandparents, even the little stuff means a lot.

My husband and I talked about it and decided the best way to deal with this is to give everything to my mom and let her decide what to do with it. That of course means I have to talk to her about the visit and will also bring up the hard feelings she has about my aunt having all this stuff in the first place. Then, if she goes to the lawyers about it (after all, me having it from my aunt is proof that my aunt had it), my aunt will know I gave it to my mother. How did I get into the middle of something that doesn't really concern me?

I'm going to see my mother in a next week so I have some time to gear up for the argument. Hopefully, it will go better than I think...


  1. My mother and one of her brothers had a similar issue with my grandmother's home and contents. They've since gotten to the point of talking and even visit each other in the now-renovated home. I was briefly involved in the issue because I was the only one of my parent's four children to receive anything in my grandmothers will.

    Sad that such things happen.

    I'm not sure your plan is the wisest. Why did your aunt give you these things? Legally, they were hers to give you and you have no real obligation regarding them. They are now legally yours and you can choose to do with them what you please, but giving them to your mother sounds as if you will just be adding fuel to the fire--getting more immersed in the quagmire.

    Sounds like a no-win situation. It reminds me of a saying I've embellished on:

    If you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, then Damn It! Don't do it!

    The point is that in a noo-win situation, the path that requires the least effort and produces the least trouble is probably the best way to go.

    Not always.

    I'll pray for wisdom for you (and Tom) in this matter.

  2. I like your saying - made me laugh. :)

    You are right, it is a no-win situation. But I feel as if I can't give any of these items to my sisters without getting myself in the middle of everything: why do I have them? why didn't my mother get anything? etc. Plus, I feel as if my mother really should have some of these things if she wants them. They were, after all, her parents...Argh...

    Prayers are always appreciated.