Coastal Post Online

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June, 2003

So You Don't Want To Think About It?


   It was a pleasure to see and hear Gore Vidal being interviewed recently on CNN at a meeting of the New York Ethical Culture Society. His cutting wit and criticisms of the Bush Administration in particular, and American society in general, were as pointed as ever, but at the very end, it was sad and painful to watch him as he struggled to get up for, although his mind and tongue were as sharp as ever, he had aged greatly and could hardly walk
   Old age catches up with all of us and it becomes harder and harder to ignore that we are eventually going to die: a thought that most of us would rather forget. In this issue Terri Alvillar reminds us again (Ice Water In Their Veins) that death affects all of us, family, friends and others in profound and sometimes unexpected ways.
   Who gets a person's assets is an eternal problem. Just this month the US Supreme Court ruled that a lawyer in Seattle who exposed a corrupt judge could be punished for violating his duty to protect his client who was involved in buying a property at a below market price from a dead man's estate. The judge was a trustee of that estate. The lawyer claimed "whistleblower" status, a claim that was diminished by his having waited three years to blow his whistle and then only after the judge he informed on had personally offended him in another case.
   Of course there were no details about the crime against the dead man or his heirs, if there were any.
   Last year Terri brought to our attention the sad, disturbing story of a aged, demented widow who was taken to a lawyer by a county employee to have the old lady's will revised leaving a large part of her estate to the county employee. The family of the old woman sued and the case is set for trial next month in Marin Superior Court.
   Terri also brought to our attention an incredible, complex scandal involving undue influence, systematic fraud and theft of elderly, infirm and incapacitated men and women in Riverside County. A Superior Court Judge resigned, a Public Defender was forced out of office and a professional conservator, whose duty it was to protect the frail and infirm elderly was sentenced to prison as was her attorney. Just think for a second! When, except perhaps for first degree murder, have you ever heard of an attorney getting a sentence of 17 years in prison!
   Most of us, if we are honest, have experienced flashes of selfish greed involving an inheritance Most of us have experienced rancor in our families after the death of a beloved, or perhaps not so beloved family member. We all need to be more alert and aware of our elderly and infirm even if they are sometimes difficult and hard to get along with.
   We are not saying that there is corruption or fraud revealed in Terri's article this month --- you be the judge --- but it just doesn't seem right! It is the position of the Coastal Post that the family, for better or worse is what we are all stuck with, and the family is what our laws and public officials should be supporting. Just the family, in all its magnificent chaos. and confusion.
   The basic lesson in Terri's story this month -- and it is a very interesting story -- is that we should all have a will, a document, signed, notarized and then recorded at Civic Center, on how we want our possessions distributed after our death.
You don't have to tell anyone and you can make all the vague and insincere promises you care to make to anyone, secure in the knowledge that they won't be able to get you when you are gone.
   But then, who wants to think about it!

 

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