I wouldn’t normally make something like this public, but in order to reach the extended family I want to reach, this is the best way I know, especially since the narrative has been carefully controlled. I know a lot of you who read my blog are writers; you’re welcome to use whatever pieces of this you choose to in your own writing. There’s quite a few novels in this post.
You know me, always the Klingon Diplomat.
It’s really time I spoke up, and I’m not going to be as polite as either Rick or my mom.
There are four things you’ve said over the years that have really had staying power, defining your character to me.
“Make My First Million”
I can’t remember exactly what it was that you said you’d do (some sort of vacation, I believe), but you said you’d do it, and I quote, “after I make my first million.”
Now, you’re eight days older than I am, but my numbers brain was off calculating. Gosh, this year was really great, and I made thus-and-so at that job, and this other thing paid pretty well, and what did I make over there—I was trying to calculate whether my lifetime earnings to date were closer to two million or three.
In doing so, I completely missed the meaning of what you said. You didn’t mean you were going to get a job. You didn’t mean you were going to start a company.
You meant your mother had to die so you could inherit.
The horror of that just rattled around in my head for months.
“And sleeping in the room she died.”
Longer excerpt: “And goddammit I hate this cause I miss her every day. And sleeping in the room she died. It’s not all pretty.”
See, here’s the thing. You hired an attorney, went to court so you could stay in your mother’s house and live in the room where your mother died. Faye’s will and trust documents directed the house should be sold upon her death and the proceeds put in your trust. If you met the reasonable constraints, it’s about as much money per year, for the rest of an average life expectancy, that the average American household earns.
But nooooo, you wanted to continue to live there. How dare you whine about it.
Granted, you probably thought five years of free rent sounded pretty awesome. And your son has the epilepsy thing going on, and you argued that the stress of moving would increase his likelihood of seizures, so you wanted to stay in the house.
The thing is, I’m not sure it actually is less stressful. I lived in the house my late husband lived in after he died, and it was far more stressful living there than it was moving on and living in a new place.
There’s also the reasons why it may be stressful for your son to live in that house. You know, the one where he lived with his grandmother and wouldn’t even speak to her—so she disinherited him. Faye showed me, more than once, when he wouldn’t speak to her when she said things like “hello.”
Honestly? That’s on you. He’s a minor, and a teenager, and you failed to stop inexcusable behavior time and time again. Faye could have changed her will at any point between the time she made it in 2009 and the time she died in 2011. To do so, she’d need to have known that the four of you would behave like human beings.
Did I speak to my grandmother after she disinherited me? Yes I did. I wasn’t happy about being disinherited (who would be?), but it was her money to do what she pleased with it.
What the Trust Solved
The trust solved several possible problems, some of which you may not have thought of:
- It’s a disincentive to homicide, specifically homicide against you. Since your heirs don’t benefit from your life trust after your death, there’s an incentive to keep you alive. (Rick and I hope you live a long life, to be clear.)
- The trust income offers you the capacity to leave your husband if that’s what you choose to do. By being in a trust, there’s no possible disagreement about what assets are yours vs. his. Quite a few times you were ready to leave him. Then, suddenly, you flip around and he’s your soul mate. That made my mother literally facepalm when you said it to her.
- The trust’s constraints encourage you to find your voice through career, volunteering, or art. Which, according to the trust accounting last October, you hadn’t been doing. That covered substantively 1-3/4 years after Faye died.
Your Referring to Your Trust in Scare Quotes
Get a clue. Everyone is pretty upset about, well… everything. And may I also say. Lots of it is not about mom dying. People have issues with you! I hate to say it, but clearly it needs to be said. You have offended a lot of the family. Aside from our situation with the ‘Trust’. And before her death.
First of all, since we haven’t seen “everyone” (Rick’s extended family) since Faye died, then it must be you who created those issues, right?
Also: it’s not Rick’s fault that your mother didn’t trust you. He had nothing to do with the creation of the document. Whatever you have put on him is misplaced. You should be angry at you. You should be angry at your husband Mike, who right after the signing, went to go bully Faye saying he “deserved” a share. I don’t even. Honestly, I think Faye had good reasons to structure things the way she did.
Look, I’m not mentioned in Faye’s will or trust documents at all, and I’m not bent out of shape about it. Think about that for a while.
Since all this conversation came about because you asked Rick to take legal action to alter the terms of the life trust your mother’s estate planning created for your benefit, let’s review what the terms of you receiving periodic payments are (quoting verbatim):
(1) The beneficiary is employed full time in an occupation to which she devotes at least 35-40 hour of work per week;
(2) The beneficiary is pursuing a career, which is socially productive on a full time basis, such as a career as an artist or a musician;
(3) The beneficiary has demonstrated independent financial responsibility, including an ability to properly manage money and to provide for herself without the support of trust distributions.
The trustee’s determination of the beneficiary’s financial responsibility, taking into consideration the factors in this section 6.1(b) and any other factors that the trustee may deem appropriate, shall be final and incontestable by any person.
In other words: get a job, where job could be something you could do at home (e.g., painting, writing). Paraphrasing the next section, the trustee’s discretion for special circumstances, the exceptions are: (1) if you’re disabled, even temporarily, and that disability prevents a career; (2) you’re pursuing an educational, scientific, or charitable goal that the trustee thinks is in your best interest; (3) you’re caring for elder or dependent family members other than your spouse. Same trustee determination, “final and incontestable by any person.”
So I hope you’re not asking Rick for help with that.
I’m not sure what you’re asking help with, because you refuse to be clear. But the no-contest provision applied to you is quite harsh:
If Michele Moen Strickland, singularly or in combination with any other person or persons, directly or indirectly does any of the following acts, then the right of MICHELE to take any interest given to her under this Will, or by any other instrument designated in this Section 5.6 as a part of my estate planning documents, shall be void and any gift or other interest in the trust property to which MICHELE would otherwise have been entitled shall pass as if she predeceased me without issue:
It obviously goes on from there, but if you’re asking Rick to help you, you’re working in concert with him. If asked by the judge, Rick would be honest about that.
So what would happen? Rick would then inherit the entirety of your trust.
Basically, it seems like you’re asking your brother to screw you out of your inheritance. Which, for the record, Rick is careful not to do. We know of people like that, ’tain’t us.
The Big Showstopper for Me
So you asked your brother to help you retroactively change the trust.
Then he cornered you about our not being invited to family gatherings at your house, and you said:
If you had called I would have greeted you kindly and just explained that I don’t feel it’s a good idea for you and my husband and your nephews to be together. There is still much healing to do.
So: we’re good enough to ask for help with money/legal, but not good enough to invite over to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter?
Here’s a note Rick wrote to Isadora in 2010 after you sided with the abuser:
I got over to my mother’s house last night, to ensure that her third quarter estimated tax got paid. While making an offhand remark to Michael Strickland about how I was looking for the Bank of the West filing bin, Strickland blew up emotionally, walked up to 1″ from my face, and spent about 20 minutes yelling various sorts of rather insane personal abuse at me. (This was a blowup out of the blue, but it’s happened on three prior occasions, with him threatening explicit physical violence against me on two of them.)
Michele Strickland telephoned Moraga PD. Meanwhile, I retreated back to the office to complete the tax papers. When they arrived, Michele commenced lying to all parties. First, she lied to the police, claiming my mother was asleep for the night and could not be disturbed. (This was wholly untrue.)
The Stricklands told the police that they as residents wanted me removed from the premises. (I advised the police that the Stricklands are uninvited free-of-charge guests living parasitically off my mother, who has repeatedly asked them to leave, and they have refused to go.) The police attempted to pressure me to depart. I said that, if anyone attempted to make me depart before I completed the tax prep. work, that ‘There will be one hell of a lawsuit’. Eventually, they backed off, and departed.
I completed the tax papers, and took it upstairs to my mother, who of course was awake and waiting. She wrote the cheques, completing the work at just about midnight. I described events downstairs to her, and said my goodbyes.
As I was leaving, Michele Strickland entered my mother’s room and had the gall to lie to my mother: ‘You know, I needed to call the police on Rick.’
That was the last straw for me about Michele Strickland. I’m done having anything to do with her.
If you want to live with someone like your husband, that’s your business. Pity your son is paying the consequences. Under another situation like that, my mother almost called the cops on your husband. Probably she should have, in retrospect.
I’m glad my mother-in-law no longer has to live under those conditions, though I miss her a lot.
I considered saying that in order have my backing on anything you wished to do, you’d have to invite us to family gatherings and behave. All of you.
Fuck that. I’m done.
I’m glad we don’t have the stress of your husband’s misbehavior any more.
Your mother (technically, both of your parents since much of the money came from your father’s lawsuit) offered you an amazing gift. That offer’s still open.
Instead of looking at it as an opportunity, you berate it with scare quotes: ‘trust’.
I hope your life is worth the money you seem so set on screwing yourself out of so you can get emotional support for your “poor me” narrative. Me, I’ll golf clap from the sidelines.