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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

"Greedy Point" and Entitlement

I was having a discussion the other day with my wife and we were talking about how deaths sometimes bring out the worst in people. Sometimes people who had little to do with the deceased while they were alive will show up and try to get 'their helping' of the spoils of the estate.  Sometimes someone who was there only at the end--and not all along--gets the lion's share  In the 'fog' of activity or distraction that follows, items that were meant for a specific survivor sometimes have a way of disappearing. But, sometimes it's not even that subtle. Often the attempted money or material grab will happen right out in the open as the dubiously entitled survivor will have convinced themselves rightly or wrongly that they should be the one to get the money and/or items in question. Obviously, when a will leaves any wiggle room on matters of the estate, the 'entitled' survivor will likely exploit it as he or she feels a right to the spoil(s) in question. However, the 'entitled' survivor doesn't always necessarily defer to the will even when the will is very clear in what I've seen. Often they will claim that the the deceased 'meant to' included him or her, or that the deceased 'was not of sound mind' when the will was made or altered. Even if he or she accepts the legality of the will, the 'entitled' survivor will find a way to try to pressure the executor and/or the recipient of of the spoil(s) in question into effectively giving up some or all of their rights. For example, say in a person's older years, a supposed friend or companion, 'befriends' or 'helps out' the deceased in his or her later years. The 'friend' may have convinced themselves that they were they are entitled to the spoils, even regardless of indications to the contrary--in writing or understood. Depending on the circumstance(s), he or she might have a legitimate point, but then again, laws aren't necessarily based on what is 'fair'. However, the person in question might be hitting what I call a 'greedy point'. In other words, their covetousness has overwhelmed them. In other words, they so want a particular part (or all) of the spoils, that they have convinced themselves somehow they are entitled. It is at that point they (may) lose:

  • Moral clarity
  • The high ground
  • The better judgment
  • Respect for the process
  • Respect for rights of others in the process
  • Respect for the intent of the deceased.

I write this as food for thought.  When you are in the process of dealing the estate of a loved one and someone in his/her sphere that you think may have hit that 'greedy point', it is best to consider for the situation at large and your own mental health, the following (regardless of what the will says or how the law comes down):
  • Was it your loved one's clear and "of sound mind" intent to leave the 'entitled' one the money or items in question?  
  • Did the person in question add benefit to your loved one's life?
  • Was the person in question's interaction with your loved one colored by the best interest of your loved one or by what he or she could or would get from them upon their passing?  Can you answer this question objectively and/or definitively?
  • If you were in the person in question, how would you feel?  In other words, check your own motives.  Perhaps, your outlook could be colored by your own feelings about that person.
  • Is the point of contention that big of a deal?  In other words, is what is being fought over that significant monetarily or sentimentally?
  • Will conceding on the given point lead to other problems?   Would it be a seen as a sign of weakness by the 'entitled' party?   Would it lead to larger problems with the family at large.
In my own life, my dad had as a benefit a government policy that paid out upon his death.   When going through his paperwork, I stumbled upon this.  Anyway, I thought it might pay out to his kids, so I called and checked on it.  I was told that it had been paid out already.  As his executor and power of attorney, I'm confident that I would have known if it had paid out to family.  It would have paid out to me or all my siblings, but as I hadn't heard anything from my siblings, I was almost positive it paid out to someone outside the family.  This person had not been with him for years and didn't have his best interests in mind.  I was upset.  It wasn't much in the scheme of things--maybe 10K.  I didn't eagerly await my dad's passing to get any 'goodies'.  That being said, I thought it was screwed up who probably ended up getting it.  So, I was bordering a 'greedy point'.   Ultimately, I had to let it go as a) being mad about it wasn't going to change it and b) my dad in a settlement with this person had conceded to letting them be the beneficiary.  But, I can see where people get all bent out of shape.  Part of me was feeling 'entitled'.  After all, I had been there for him for most of his life, helping him run the house after him and my mom divorced when I was a teen and at many points in my adulthood.

While I have centered this post on the risk of greed and entitlement with regard to a love one's estate, it can clearly spill over into other areas.

At one point in my life I was got a settlement.  I wasn't 100% sure that I was entitled to it.  Now we are talking in the hundreds, but still..  Anyway, I wasn't 100% sure on it.  In getting the point of determining if I was entitled, I felt a pull to answer questions in a way that would maximize my chances of getting it or getting the full amount.   Looking back, I probably was entitled to it, but I could feel the 'greedy point' kicking in.

I think another common 'greedy point' is with taxes.  There is a push or incentive to maximize claims of deductions.  It would be easy 'justify' claiming a deduction you aren't necessarily or sure if you are entitled to if there is a little wiggle room on the tax statute in question.  So, I like countless other taxpayers, have to check myself on it.  We have to make sure not too 'excited' when we think there may be a possibility to claim a deduction.  To ensure that I am not over-claiming, when in doubt, I do all the research I can on it until I get a definitive answer, good or bad.  The IRS may not catch all incorrect deduction claims and perhaps they'd miss out on a claim that I had convinced myself that I could take or was entitled to, but for me, it is more important to be accurate with them.  Sure I could justify in my mind doing otherwise by pointing at the inherent unfairness of the tax system.  In the end, even if I had a legitimate point, whom would end up being hurt the most?  Not the IRS and not others.  

A few parting thoughs...

  • Do not let your self-interests get in the way of your better judgment.  While your conscience can be misguided or oversensitive, it can also be a powerful tool on your behalf.   Listen to it.
  • While you need to protect your interests, don't assume someone who seems to be opposed to your interests is just being greedy or selfish or trying to screw you over.   Their POV may have SOME validity to it.  Try to learn/understand their perspective.  You may find that they have legitimate points and it is time to find a middle ground.   If not, then at least you know better what you are up against and whether it is driven by actual greed or an inaccurate perspective.
  • While sometimes you have to fight on principle for your interests and to ensure other parties know you are serious about protecting your interest, often times fights devolve into who gets the worthless trinket or something on that level.   In other words, choose your battles.

Hopefully, this post helps give food for thought for those involved in (or who will be involved in) a current or future fight over an estate, food for thought into whether their motives or pure and food for thought into other perspectives.

That's all for now.


Saturday, June 1, 2019

The reflection across the pond: Hello from the Other Side

You know sometimes, you are just minding your own business going along with your life and you hear something which you may or may not have heard before and it hits you like a ton of bricks.   I've heard the song Hello by Adele before.  I knew it was powerful the first time I heard it. I knew she was saying something profound and there was regret imbued in it.   But, I heard it again on a calm and extended drive home from work.  There was no trying to rush into work, no trying to beat traffic, nothing hanging over my head from work or the like.  In other words, I had a pretty clear mind at that point.

So, I hear her song and it seems to be about a relationship and regret.   I've read where she indicate that was it was about being on the other side of childhood including regret about missing things from earlier in her life.   But, as I was listening to it, I realized that it really can apply to numerous circumstances or situations.  Dennis DeYoung had a falling out with Styx and he no longer is part of the group, yet I've heard him express time and time again wanting to be part of the mix with them.  He's had a good life overall so far and has had a good marriage, but there seems to be something missing.  For fans of Styx, it really is a tragedy as the band is so much more complete with him.   I can imagine current day Dennis DeYoung talking to his younger self, telling himself to back off and later his bandmates from the future expressing what he'd learned from over time.  I kind of reflected on the situation in Heartache: Wanting the one thing you can't have.

From my life, the lives of others around me and having a front row to society here is a list of those who you can say "Hello from the Other Side" to (not in any particular order)

Hello to
- Your childhood and yourself
- Your friends
- Your family of origin
- Your exes, significant other
- Your children
- Your Higher Power
- Your strangers
- Your teammates
- Your neighbors/community/society

  • Your Higher Power
    • You didn't trust your Higher Power when the opportunities was presented and obvious.
    • You didn't listen to your Higher Power when you were being 'spoken' too.
    • You didn't value your Higher Power's role in your life. 
    • You blamed your Higher Power instead of understanding that your Higher Power is not there to save you from every possible bad outcome or circumstance.
    • You treated your Higher Power as if your Higher Power's purpose was to serve you rather than to guide as deemed best.
    • You may have cared about your Higher Power, but didn't necessarily love or showed that you did.
  • Your neighbors/community/society
    • You treated them as if they were there just to serve you rather than you being a contributor.
    • You treated them as if you didn't have to follow the rules or etiquette. That is to say you thought that 'rules are for others'.
    • You didn't accept or appreciate your role in the neighborhood/community/society.
  • Your strangers
    • Kind of like society, but on a more individual level.
    • You were abusive and took advantage of others expecting you wouldn't face consequences or have to interact with them.
    • You didn't extend a hand of kindness or friendship when you could have, but instead looked out for your own needs.
  • Your teammates
    • This could apply to whatever team you are part of (band, sports, etc.)
    • You didn't take your role as part of the team seriously.  You were more interested in how your needs were or weren't being met.
    • You didn't appreciate how your teammates were looking out for you and had your back even when you didn't necessarily 'earn' or 'deserve' it.
    • You weren't there for your team the way or time needed: Especially when they needed you the most.
  • Your childhood and self.
    • You were so critical on yourself. 
    • You judged yourself against a higher standard than you were capable of.  
    • You acknowledged the barriers you faced (at least rhetorically), but your actions showed that you treated them as well you should have been able to hurdle them anyway, no matter how high they were.   You acted like you should have been able to deal with anything and everything as if you had an adult's understanding and maturity.
    • You blamed yourself for things that were beyond your control.   When you were hurt, you blamed yourself for allowing it.  You were imperfect and condemned yourself.
  • Your friends, exes and significant other
    • You took them for granted and didn't value them properly.  You expected them to always be there.  Even sometimes ignoring warning signs.
    • You expected more from them than they were capable of and got upset when they, like you, proved to be human too.
    • You didn't always hold up your end of the relationship and sometimes seemed more concerned about what you could get out of it.
    • You didn't bring them in, when you could have or should have.
  • Your family of origin
    • You weren't always the best brother, sisters, son, daughter, or other 'family' that you could have been.
    • You took others in the family for granted, because honestly, well they would always be family.  In other words, you have to accept me because I'm your family.
    • You were too worried about your own 'needs' and didn't take the time to discover, to embrace, to cherish or to even just be part of your family.
  • Your children
    • You treated them like they were a mistake
    • You treated them is if they were there to be seen only.
    • You treated them as if their needs were not serious as only 'grown up' needs matter.
    • You didn't take the time to get to know them.
    • You treated them as if they were there to reflect well on you and not as if how they felt mattered.
    • You were abusive to them and not understanding.

It can be easy to acknowledge on a surface level failures, mistakes and hurts (to you and from you), but really acknowledging your role can be difficult, especially when you aren't necessarily the only culpable party involved, you've been hurt too and life circumstances have led to distrust of others.  My dad made some mistakes as a person and a parent and found it exceedingly difficult to directly acknowledge them or to open up about himself or give background of any sort.  I know he grew up mostly in foster care, was let down by many, had super strict (possibly to the point of abusive) foster parents, probably was judged vary harshly including by himself and just found it hard to trust others.  I've had my own abuse as spoken about in #MeAsWell: For What It's Worth and in being bullied in my adolescence.  I know having to deal with that helps to make you guarded.  Unfortunately part of being guarded means that you don't always acknowledge your role out of distrust how it could be utilized against you.    

To me her song is about realizing, understanding or accepting how the role you have played in the lives of yourself and others.  It is about being willing to really acknowledge and apologize where appropriate for your role in how things have unfolded.  It is about realizing that ultimately that it shouldn't be about you past acknowledging your role.  It is a clear reflection and expression of remorse, regret and sorrow where appropriate.  Sometimes, frankly regarding the time that we are reflecting back on, we think we are doing the right thing(s) with the right motive(s).  Sometimes, you are acting with the best of intentions too.  Sometimes, in reflection, it is clear that we were wrong and that we couldn't have known.  Sometimes, in reflection, we should have known better.  Sometimes, in reflection, we can honestly say we did no better.

While much of this doesn't necessarily apply to my situation, some of it does.   To that extent, to those who I've ever played a negative role in their life (including myself), I'm sorry and I give a big Hello from the other side, realizing my role, failure or mistake.  I hope someone finds these words as meaningful as I have.