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PLEASE DON'T READ THIS THREAD UNTIL I HAVE FINISHED EDITING WHAT MY HUSBAND WROTE AS IT WAS WAY TOO CONFUSING TO FOLLOW.
Hello, I am sorry for the length of my post but I believe all the details here are pertinent. This battle comes at an already difficult time for me mentally and financially as I was on unpaid medical leave as an underwriter with one of the big 4 banks; for personal stress-related issues beginning in mid-October. I am an only child, and my father passed away a few weeks ago of a sudden heart attack (no autopsy was performed, nor was I asked if I wanted one done). He died having no will so that makes me next of kin in the eyes of the law in every state of America. My status as next of kin has apparently meant nothing to several people in positions of trust whom I turned to for help during this time of great personal loss, as I have no prior experience in dealing with such matters to draw upon. These breaches and betrayals will be outlined in the following paragraphs.
About 6 years before he passed, my dad had been living with me, my husband and our two daughters, his only grandchildren. He had to move out of our home in Connecticut because he had lost his driving privileges in our state following a one-vehicle fender bender (his own car only) where he refused a breathalyzer test; and he feared his license would take years to regain. He had a half-sister, Audrey, who lived in Maine (same mother, different fathers). She offered to take him in until he could got himself settled in Maine. Dad and Audrey were practically strangers as they had been raised in different households and then separated in their mid-teen years by 600 miles after my grandfather moved his family to CT. Audrey already had 2 kids of her own in Maine at the time, and was left behind. She was estranged to the family to such a degree for the following 40+ years that I had no idea that I even had an Aunt Audrey until I was a grown woman myself. I met her in 2005 when my grandmother (their mother) died. After that, my father and she started getting to know one another by phone. She seemed to be extremely sweet and I wondered why the family had somewhat cut her off for all those years but I never asked about it. My father didn't have many other choices that appealed to him at the time, so he accepted her seemingly gracious offer to move up to northern Maine. While I stayed home in CT to care for our two daughters, my husband drove Dad and his belongings up to Maine, helped him move in at Audrey's and made the 600 mile trek back to CT by himself. Soon after moving there, Dad started having conflicts with Audrey's common law husband, Mack, so he moved in with his new friend across the street from Audrey and Mack. I was surprised at this because my father was a very amiable person. He occasionally would get ticked-off at someone, but he had a very forgiving heart and a lovable character that no one could hold a grudge against. This thing with Mack was something different, and I feared for his safety a bit since I knew Mack was much bigger than Dad and my father said Mack was a very malicious and mean person when he drank, which was often. To my relief, Dad eventually found an apartment in town and moved in on 1/1/09, according to the lease I found (remember this date).
Meanwhile, my husband and I moved south to NC for work after the financial crisis that took away everything we had ever worked for. I hated moving even further away from my dad but he and I made the most of it. We mailed each other care packages often and talked on the phone for hours few times a week, as I had lots of time on my hands for the years between 2008 and late 2011; not being able to find work in the mortgage industry which had been my only career path. We talked often about moving him down to NC with us and finances were the only thing that prevented this from happening. He and I enjoyed a very open and accepting relationship and he was my closest & most trusted confidant. He supported me vehemently, right or wrong - my dad was my touchstone. We talked about everything under the sun. We even had conversations about uncomfortable things that most would have trouble discussing with a parent, even as adults. In short, my dad and I were as thick as thieves.
During one of our conversations, he told me about a disagreement he had with one of his sisters (of full blood) in CT, Samantha, over a guitar his father left him when he died. My father had lent it to Samantha's son years ago when the boy expressed an interest in taking lessons. His nephew never wound up taking lessons but Samantha refused to return the guitar, knowing its value as a Gibson from the 1950's or 60's. The reason my dad wanted it back so badly was because my daughters Hope & Nicole had started teaching themselves to play the ukelele and he wanted them to have it as part of their inheritance from him. He was upset enough over it that he told me he did not want Samantha at his wake when he died, but I appealed to his sensibilities and told him it wasn't a big deal and convinced him to let it go. This began one of those morbid talks everyone hates to have - about each of our wishes when we die. He told me he wanted to be cremated and for his ashes to be mixed with his "mum's". I told him I wanted to be buried in the dirt without a casket and that at my wake I did not want people to view my dead body. I said I wanted to be remembered alive, so there were to be lots of pictures of me around and my favorite music playing. My dad loved that idea and he incorporated it in his own 'final wish list'. In a later conversation, he surprised me when he told me about a small insurance policy that he bought that I was beneficiary to, so I wouldn't be burdened by his final expenses; and that he had already gone into a funeral home near him and discussed all of his wishes with them so I would not have to make decisions during my grief. I asked if he was sick, because he seemed so determined to get his affairs in order. He promised me he was not, but said that he knew his years of smoking and drinking were catching up with him and that he was not going to live to be a very old man. He also had a sense of urgency about building an inheritance for his granddaughters that would serve them with the start in life that he was never able to provide for me, and he made it clear to me and several other people that this was a big priorty to him. Since he was living then on only about $800 a month, he realized he could not afford to leave them any sizable cash inheritance, and he could not afford the premiums for a larger life insurance policy. After doing some research, he started a coin collection in 2008 as an investment tool for the girls' inheritance. He believed the coins he was buying would appreciate well above what he paid for by the time my kids were grown. He talked about the coins often, and it seemed he bought a few more every 3 or 4 weeks until he died. He was pretty excited about them and I was proud of him for making such a sacrifice for my girls out of his meager budget. I was so touched by his efforts and enthusiasm that I secretly felt that even if the coins never appreciated as he had hoped, they would always be treasure that came from his heart. That to me was worth much more than any amount of money. Then In 2010 or 11, he started whole life policies with Globe for the girls as another investment tool, and most recently in 2012 he opened savings accounts for them also. My father consistently demonstrated during his later years that leaving behind as much as he possibly could for his granddaughters was his largest priority. At the end of 2011, I started my job with the bank and worked many 60-75 hour weeks and sadly our conversations became much less frequent. He understood and was happy that we were finally rebounding financially. There was talk about buying a ticket for him to visit, and then my husband sustained a serious injury that required 2 surgeries and put him out of work for months. The pressure was on me to keep up on our bills, the housework and to care for my husband as he could not even walk for 2 months. Dad knew about everything I had on my plate. We didn't get to talk for about 4 months before he died so suddenly, but in mid-December I had sent a note to Audrey on Facebook asking her to tell him I was thinking of him and needed his number again as I had lost all of my contacts in a cell phone mis-hap. She never responded. I didn't know then that his remaining days were so limited; he was just 64 years old.
He died on 1/13/13 and within hours of his passing, Audrey morphed into a different person. She was cold and short with me, and told me that my father had no money or life insurance to pay the funeral home, but that she was going to pay for it herself. She told me there was to be only a viewing the next evening with no wake or other calling hours (allowing none of his family from CT or myself in NC time to get up to northern Maine to attend) followed by cremation the next day; no formal or informal gathering of any sort, claiming that these were his wishes. She said my father owned almost nothing of value and that there was no reason for me to bother even coming up to Maine. I tried not to take her insensitivity personally, since I know everyone reacts to grief in their own way. When I asked her to set aside his coin collection for the girls, she became irate and started yelling at me over the phone. She told me my father had become very angry with me and had written me off because I didn't call him, that he cashed in all the coins, and that he didn't want anything to do with me or my kids. That's when I knew without a doubt that she was a liar and she was trying to steal whatever he had set aside for us. As upset as I was at this thought, the idea of having NO sort of closure for the loss of my father, who was one of my favorite people in life, was impossible for me to accept. Furthermore, I knew that she was disregarding what his final wishes to have a wake WITHOUT a viewing, and I knew he had life insurance to pay his final expenses that I was beneficiary to. I asked about his life insurance and she told me he hadn't kept up with his premiums and that she was doing me a big favor by paying for this herself. Still not quite believing what was happening to me, I asked her why he had just sent us Christmas cards within a few weeks prior to his death if he was so mad at us. That's when she hung up on me.
I could not go on with my life without closure or acknowledgement that my one and only father was gone. I experienced deep sorrow over not having been in close touch with him during his last year of life, even though I knew (as did he) that it was caused by circumstances beyond my control. I became angry that she was apparently trying to manipulate my guilt over this and that she was planning to steal the coins from his apartment because she thought they were valuable, and trying to defraud me and my children of our small inheritance. I immediately called the local police in Maine and discussed the issue, and asked if they could padlock the apartment to keep Audrey and anyone my dad may have trusted w/ a key out until I got to town. The officer on duty suggested that I call his apartment manager first thing in the morning for a change of his locks (it was late on a Sunday night). At 8 AM I called So & So Estates and they agreed to perform my request and I offered to pay them for this service. They declined my offer to pay, but agreed to get maintenance to change the locks right away and also agreed to allow me to stay in dad's apartment for the few days it would take me to clean it out. I thanked them profusely and continued making plans for my trip. I then called D. Funeral Home where the police station said my father's remains had been sent to.
The funeral director told me Audrey had just left and that she had signed a contract with them and an assignment for my father's life insurance policy that she was the named beneficiary of. He informed me that my father had indeed gone in and discussed his wishes with him prior to his death, and that there was NO viewing scheduled, per his wishes. When I asked him about the viewing Audrey claimed was scheduled, he denied any such thing. I told him I would like to write the obituary, but he told me that my father's granddaughter had just left with Audrey and that she was writing it. I knew this was impossible, as his only granddaughters were here in NC with me. Audrey was passing her granddaughter off as my father's grandchild. I was disgusted, and expressed this to the director. I told him that I wanted to write my father's obituary as his only next of kin, and said okay told me it was due by 10 AM the next morning. I asked him about the life insurance, he confirmed that he had a copy of the policy naming her as beneficiary. I asked him when it was dated and he told me 2009. I figured maybe dad changed it to her to make things easier for me from such a distance away, but I didn't have his SSN or the policy number and knew I would not be able to get any info from AARP without them. I had to wait until I got to Maine to figure this out. My next call was to Audrey, to put her in her place and let her know she could not just cut me out of my legal rights and responsibilities as his only child and heir. Before I could get a word in, she began screaming at me for having her locked out of his apartment. According to her own description of events to me, she was already there at 9 AM filling up boxes of my father's belongings along with 2 of his neighbors when maintenance came and made them put the boxes down and leave the apartment. She was infuriated by this and demanded to speak with management, so Ms. Black of So & So Estates spoke to her on the maintenance man's phone, telling her that she was sorry but that she had to follow my request as next of kin because she did not want to get sued. After she told me this, I apologized to Audrey for any embarassment she suffered and tried to calmly explain that I understood her pain over losing her brother, but that I lost him too, and he was my father. She became even more venemous then, screaming at me that I was never a daughter to him, I never had a relationship with him, and that I meant nothing to him. Then she hung up on me again.
Armed with the knowledge that the apartment was secured, May and I decided that we would use funds we had earmarked for bills, to fund the trip to Maine. We are and were in a financial crisis due to health and surgery issues in the latter half of 2012. May needed the closer and to be near her family, and to settle his affairs, so we figured that the few things of value that her father had, would make it possible to make this journey. We knew he had been collecting and saving a coin collection for our two daughters, his grandkids. We knew he had a few guns, savings accounts in the two girls names, and a recently purchased, paid for, and registered vehicle. I rented a trailer, put the kids in the truck and set out for Maine on Thursday morning, Jan.17, 2013. We stopped in CT to leave the kids with my parents. We arrived in Maine at 10 pm on Friday night, Jan. 18, 2013. We were instructed by Margarin Estates that the only key to the premises would be waiting for us at the nurses station of the retirement home, also a part of the estate. We really started going through everything on Saturday morning and it became very clear that ALL of the valuable things were missing. May posted this fact on Facebook. She listed the items missing including the keys to his vehicle, his wallet, the coin collection, the gun(s), bank account papers, etc. At this time i had seen two vehicles in the parking lot that fit the description of Ron's vehicle. About 45 minutes later, Mary called. She said she had taken the keys and the wallet to "protect" them. The next words out of her mouth were,"you are going to give me $1200, and I will return the keys". We payed no attention to this thinking that the worst case scenario, i could get a locksmith to make me a key and I would put it on the trailer and drag it home to sell. On Sunday morning I found the insurance papers for the car. It had the VIN #'s on it, so i went out to match them to his car. After not finding either car to match, i was approached by a tenant who told me Ron's car was towed away a few days before we arrived. We knew Mary had it. We left a message for her that she had 2 hours to return it or we were going to the Police. She did not return the call, so we contacted the Police. They told us there was nothing they could do except call her. They did...and that was the end of it. She admitted she had it but, said she lent Ron money on some recent repairs and wasn't giving it back until she was compensated. We also found out and have a witness who will testify, that the very man who changed the locks for us...is also the man (Bob) who let her in to that apartment all through the week that we thought it was secure. We also know that the Owners were informed that he did this. They knew while we were there and did not come forward. They do not know that we know this, yet. We left Monday night, actually Tuesday morning at 3am, in order to make it back to CT for the services that May set up for Ron's Ct friends and relatives. We left empty handed besides pots, pans, t-shirts and some pictures. To sum up this saga, it wasn't sitting right with me that the Police did nothing to help us. When I got back to CT, 6-700 miles away, I called the Chief of Police to relate my story. Within 5 minutes he assigned a Detective and told me there was definitely criminal culpability. The Detective took my statement and within a half an hour, he gave me a number at DMV where the title to the vehicle was being held and said he was on his way to "recover" the car. On Thursday Jan. 24, 2013, we were contacted by the Police to say that the vehicle would be returned to the Police Station by Friday at 4pm. I explained that it was a little too late. I needed that help when I was there. I didn't even have enough money to get home from CT to NC. I was told that was my problem. Aside from how do I get the car now, it was stolen before I could see it. I don't know what its value was when it was taken. She had it in her possession for a week. Then she was given another 24 hours to return it. She left satanic sounding messages in her rage that we called the police again. How do I know she didn't do something to the car. An investigation is ongoing for the remaining items but, i was told there isn't much more to be done unless they surface at a pawn shop or something. I have tried close to 10 lawyers in the area. No one will take the case or has conflict with one or more of the parties in my complaint. I don't have money for retention but if someone would help me, I would scramble for it. Ideally I would like to pay out of any monetary award we may be entitled to. Not only were the physical items stolen from my wife but, the emotional and mental abuse we endured robbed her of the peace and time to mourn her fathers death. I don't know what that value is but, it feels worth something. I feel that the Estate was liable for their employees actions when he took it upon himself to judge and sentence us, by letting her in but, now i think they are negligent for not coming to us and trying to hide it. I need help, advice, and maybe even some charity or pity to help my wife get some justice for how badly she was done wrong. I dont know what share if any the Police have with the vehicle situation but, while they are trying to fix their mistake, it does not help me get whole. I already spent almost half of the blue book value of the vehicle going up there once, if i go again there is nothing left, maybe even upside down. .They suggested having it shipped...thanks, thats only $1000 too. I dont know, i am perplexed and feel like the cards were stacked against us from the get go. We never would have went if we knew the apartment was going to be open territory, cleared out, and picked over by a vulture.
Last edited by Jeremy Nodine; 02-03-2013 at 11:14 PM.
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