I wasn't going to start this story tonight as I am far too tired. But then an email arrived and, after reading it, I thought if I didn't start writing the story I would forget some of the details. I'll tell you right now, some names have been changed. I'll also add that I'm not going to delve into details of family history...the who, what, and whys of the characters of the story.
When I arrived home from volunteer work at the historical society on December first, my mom had some startling news. She had received a phone call from the coroner in Remote County, South Carolina. My 65 year old cousin, Paul, had been found dead in his bedroom. While of itself shocking news, for me it began an exploration in to probate law and elder care that continues one month later.
When my uncle died, about 15 years ago, Paul had moved from Connecticut to Florida to help out his mother, my Aunt Marion. Several years later, Cousin Paul and Aunt Marion decided to have a house built in Remote County, South Carolina and moved there from Florida. My aunt and my dad (sister and brother) were quite close and even though there was then some miles between them, my folks would stop to visit twice each year when they traveled the cyclical follow-the-sun of 'snowbirds'. Additionally, my cousin and my aunt would visit my parents here in the north or spend the Christmas holidays at my house in Florida.
In recent years, as my aunt aged...she's going to be 94 in February...Paul had to find 'day care' for his mother while he was at work. A few years back she had suffered a stroke and that, plus other conditions, have meant that Marion is unable to care for herself. She needs someone to do the cooking, to help her with bathing and dressing, and to help her get in and out of bed and up out of a chair. She uses a walker to get about once she's on her feet. There are some other details of care needed, as well. With limited funds, Paul hired the wife of a co-worker to provide that care while he was at work. Her name is Ann.
So now, just a month ago, Paul dropped dead of an apparent heart attack leaving his 93 year old mother. A situation he never expected would happen. Who would? From my phone conversations with him over the past couple of years, he was trying to get everything sorted out legally. And while his mother was primary beneficiary in his will, he asked for all legally necessary information making me secondary beneficiary. Two years later and all of that became irrelevant. More irrelevant than I could have imagined, and it has led me to a new level of understanding on what is needed to see that your wishes are indeed carried out after death.
This is not a story of inheritance. It is a story of the failure of at least two systems. The legal system and Adult Protective Services.
More to come in the following days....