This post has been sitting on the back burner of my mind for awhile so I decided now was the time to get it out.
If there’s anything I’ve learned in this life is get your shit in order. Because once you’re gone it could be a free for all. A bickering wasteland of people who you thought were your family and were looking out for you but are not after you’re dead.
Unfortunately, I’ve learned this from experience.
When I was a child and the grandparents I adored were still alive they always said that one day my sister and I would get their farm. It was always known that we’d get that farm. It was a 14 acre homestead surrounded by 115 acres of farmland that backed up to about 5 acres of woods.
Fast forward years later. Our grandmother signed the farm over to our mother thinking she would outlive her and it would naturally succeed to my sister and I. Nope. Mom died of cancer in ’99 years before grandmother who by then had no power whatsoever over the farm being split three ways between my sister and I and our father – who ended up controlling the land and profits for years afterwards. Our father dragged our mother to a lawyer while she was sick and under duress and she willed everything to him and split the farm three ways and wrote in that our father would receive the profits of the farm during his lifetime. They also wrote in that it was to be joint tenants in common with full rights of survivorship meaning that the last person alive has 100% of it.
This farm has been a contention since our mother’s death. Our father – unbeknownst to my sister and I -tore down the old house and buried it on the property. He also had all the trees taken down in the woods to make more farmland. It’s now a wasteland of corn for profit. The only thing left of the farmstead are the barns and corn cribs. My sister and I only found this out when we went to visit it one day. If it were up to us we would have kept the homestead intact.
In ’09 I was laid off from my job and started my landscape company while I looked for another job. It was then I asked our father to share some of the profits of the land with my sister and I and he grudgingly did. Let’s be aware that he has many other acres of farmland that he owns outright that he gets profits from including those of his mother and 2nd wife. So, he’s not hurting for the measly 120 acres of farm share of our grandparent’s farm. Not to mention he was the sole beneficiary of our mother’s life insurance which I’m sure was somewhere in the six figures.
So, the man ain’t hurting.
As you know recently my step mother passed. For some odd reason she always handled all the taxes including our jointly owned farm taxes. Twice a year she would call and tell me what I owed on the taxes and I would write her a check for my amount. She would put it in the bank and send in a check for what was owed for all of the taxes. I’m sure there are several tax stubs for all the parcels of land conglomerated including our 120 acres. In fact, those 120 acres plus the 14 acres of homestead have about 6 or 7 tax stubs because it’s separated into parcels.
My sister started complaining to me about this a few years ago. She tried to take over that portion of paying the taxes but our stepmother fought it. Plus, we had never received copies of the tax stubs to see what it was we owed we always just went by what she told us we owed. It would have been nice to have copies of the tax bills for our records so I called down to the county and asked to be emailed copies. I then sent the copies to my sister for her records. But, our stepmother continued to pay the taxes and we continued to send her checks for our amounts. When she passed I told my sister that it would probably be a good idea if we started paying the taxes ourselves. Our father (supposedly) by then had decided he was out of the profits and taxes on that farm (I honestly have no idea if he still receives a check for profit or not, but I don’t think so). She then told me that she would have to check with Dad to see what he wanted to do.
That burned me the f*ck up. I told her that we should pay them and he should stay out of it. I mean, the man can barely put something in the microwave to eat let alone pay our farm taxes. But, I shut up about it because since our stepmother had recently passed I didn’t want to upset everyone because then it would be all my fault for stirring the pot.
So, I sent Dad my check for the farm taxes after emailing the county yet again to get the stubs to see what the correct amount for my half was and forwarded it to my sister. (And, let it be known she has never thanked me for doing this). I called Dad weeks later to ask him if he got my check and paid the taxes. He said he did but he had a problem with my check.
Me: What’s the problem?
Dad: Well, I took it down to the county and gave it to them but it was made out to me and they wouldn’t take it.
Dad, you’re supposed to put the check in your account and write another check for the whole amount. Joe (our stepmother) always did that.
Oh, I ended up doing that and going back and paying it.
Well, if you would have told me I would have made it out to the county but I’m sure they don’t want 20 checks for every parcel of farmland that the taxes are due on.
Later, when I told my sister this she said, Why didn’t you make it out to the county?
I explained that I was never TOLD to make it out to the county and that I always made it out to either Dad or Joe to put in the bank and so on.
She then said, Well, next year one of us just needs to pay the whole amount so we only have to write the county one check for the whole year.
I have several problems with this.
- She just wants me to pay the whole damn thing next year and when I ask her for her half she’ll say it was $$ I owed her. (which, I don’t – she thinks I do but I don’t)
- The county taxes need to be paid bi-yearly because that’s what the stubs say. They send those things out twice a year to be paid then. They don’t want a bunch of upfront checks to deal with.
- I have that farm money earmarked for things we need. I’m not paying upfront for something I don’t owe yet.
I told my sister that I wasn’t paying all up front and this was what I was afraid of: Dad fucking up all the farm tax shit and why I said that one of us needed to be in charge of doing this. Then, she cut me off.
Well, I don’t have time to talk about this. I have to get ready and go to work now. We can discuss this later.
This is what everyone in my family does when shit gets too hard. I have to go now. Or, I can’t talk about this anymore. Or even, I’m not going to argue with you about this. Placing the blame on me like I was the bad guy in wanting to start an argument over this. I’m only sticking up for myself which always gets misconstrued of my trying to start an argument.
It’s a passive-aggressive move my sister always makes.
I was absolutely furious after that. In fact, I was so mad I sat in my car and cried before I went in to work that day. It all came crashing down on me – my stepmother’s death, my controlling father and sister to deal with and finally the loss of my mother who I cursed for leaving me this shit to deal with because her and grandma couldn’t properly get a good mother-fucking will done before they passed.
I went into work with red eyes and immediately called my lawyer and left a message saying that I needed to revise my will and that my wife also needed one.
Fast forward to me and Charlie at the attorneys office. I’m asked about my mother’s will and the farm and the language on the deed to the farm, etc. I’m shaking my head and saying, I don’t have a copy of either of those no one gave me a copy after my mother died.
The attorney acted like she was in shock over that. I said, I can’t ask my father because he blows a rod every time I ask about something like that. I don’t know if I’m even in his will.
I was told to call down to the county to get a copy of the deed to see what the language on it was – this was for purposes of whether or not it was inheritable. Which, I later found it was not – because of the language I’m sure my father had put in there while my mother was under the duress of cancer.
Just having to call the county – yet again – to get copies of stuff that is my stuff burned me up. Between my father and sister, no one wants me to know anything. And, next year I’m again emailing the county for the tax stubs and sending my portion directly to them.
So, this is what I’m telling you. If you do one thing and one thing only before you die take care of your shit. Make sure the people you love are taken care of and don’t have to fight off mean family members. Make sure they don’t have something they have to deal with for the rest of their lives because you couldn’t get your shit right before you died. I’m thankful every day that I have a loving wife, step children, in-laws and friends – who gladly stepped in to volunteer to be backup executors and take care of our animals should something happen to us. If it weren’t for them I’d have no one. Many times we create our own families through marriage and friendships. That’s why we need to protect the families we’ve created from the ones we’re born in to – especially, for same-sex couples.