Some Family!

What Some People Will Do for a Buck

This tale is purely fictional, any resemblance to actual characters is coinckydinkal.

Someone I know is in a long standing shared property ownership situation with relatives. The potential value of the asset is not insignificant. I want to post his recent response to his partners as an example of the kind of comlications that crop up when double dealing has a family name. Clearly there are two sides to every argument. But, also clearly, whatever filial affection that should be in the mix among this group has evaporated.

To my point of view, his partners are either acting like crooks, out to take advantage of him in a down situation, or they are deluded idiotic schmucks. But what would a deluded idiotic schmuck do but try to take advantage whenever and wherever. You can form your own opinion.

Names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.

Dear Family, 

Since the Grasly’s have made such a strenuous case apparently assuming the lion’s share of sacrifice and having a high (the higher?) level of responsibility in the long history of our joint holding of the property, your partners want to share their perspective and clarify on some of the facts.

Please understand that we are not looking to come out right in any of this, nor are we making anyone out to be wrong, nor are we inviting argument. If the shoe fits, you can wear it. The whole enterprise of fighting over who’s right, who’s wrong is just so old paradigm and not in the spirit of the new inclusive view that acknowledges the real situation in the world.

The Grasly side has been kind enough to extensively share their perspectives, as self-serving as they seem to us, and we want to give them the benefit of ours. Since we are family, we believe we have the space to talk freely, without recrimination should what is said not be agreed with or easy to hear. Your reaction, should you feel the need to have one, will be the test of that. Agree, disagree; we allow for either. Go with our blessings. But know, there is no room to support haters. Most certainly, if we indeed want to move forward on a mutually profitable basis with our jointly held asset.

As they say, you have a right to your own opinion, but you don’t have the right to be ignorant of the facts. So we offer our inputs in the spirit of keeping the conversation accurate from all perspectives.

We also have it from reliable sources that the Grasly's have freely shared their opinions with others, family and friends, about their assessment of the integrity and honor of their partners. This defamation of character has a price that should be weighed in any consideration of tangible values. Perhaps, apologies will be required. At very least, to share this side of the matter with those who have had to absorb your calumnies in support of your clearly selfish aims.

I also want to take this moment to observe that there is a hint of an attitude of having some kind of higher moral standing operating as a result of having had to step forward to aid the Wrongly’s in meeting an asset expense they were not able to pay. This is not an unusual position in social commerce, and historically is very typical for the so called “haves” to adopt this stance vis-à-vis the so called “have not’s”. Exacerbated, when the former feel that they have no choice in having to come to the aid of their fellows. We cannot say whether this is in fact in play, though it seems so. Plus, a good deal of moral indignation added on top. So much so that one partner is virtually in a time out/incommunicado status now coming on a good handful of years. And this toxic attitude may now still also be in place as a result of the Grasly partners themselves not finding a way to resolve differences within their group. Simply put, not on speaking terms. We strongly urge, if any of this in fact is operating, to let go of these toxic attitudes. They are entirely self-created, have nothing to do with the parties that the negativity is directed toward, really hurt the one(s) holding these judgments, and may in fact be causative in the apparent paralysis in the process of liquidating the shared asset. Ego is a dangerous thing to hold onto under any circumstances. Deadly, when holding a position is justified for thinking that one is in the so-called right.

I need not have to remind anyone that we are family. But, it appears, maybe now in name only. Money trumps everything with some people.

The Grasly’s, in taking ownership of their sense of high level of responsibility, should also not omit responsibility for their handling of the property prior to Wrongly’s Trusteeship; and, specifically, allowing the land to overgrow into a condition which by default is now a wetlands in a substantial portion according to an expert selected by the Grasly’s themselves. This has rendered the land virtually unsellable, a situation which was well in place by the time Señor Wrongly came into the picture as Trustee to handle his mother’s affairs. We have gone along in the Catch-22 situation—we think it’s a wetlands but don’t want to have a formal study because then it would be on record—and, even when we found a buyer who would look past that obstacle, the Grasly’s shot that deal in the foot on purely ego-based undisclosed grounds, the justification for which is still completely inscrutable. One Junior Grasly should still answer for that. In this life, or in the next. My psychologist friend submits it is just a transference from the days when that blue blanket (Schnoodie, was it called?) was the big emotional attachment and so hard to give up.

It should be clarified that up until the time Mrs. Wrongly’s health began to seriously fail, my brother Leopold and I were not included in any way in her dealings with the land. It was not for lack of interest or willingness on our part, but entirely due to her penchant to keep her affairs private and secret. During that time she gave her complete trust to Junior’s stewardship of the affairs concerning the property.

At one point my mother in good faith professed to not be able to pay her share of taxes for a portion of one year. The Grasly’s were generous enough to cover for that. Obviously, and without the need for lots of words on paper, the understanding was clear that it would be reimbursed when possible, certainly at the sale of the property. There was clearly a sense of trust among the owners. When I came into managing the accounts I saw that she did in fact have the money, but in an annuity which she had assumed could not be liquidated. We corrected the situation immediately and the Grasly’s were repaid.

We are not at all confident that trust is a high factor in our current dealings. There is no cause to fail in that trust for anything that we have done. Admittedly, we have not been able to meet some financial obligations, but this is not grounds for withdrawal of trust. Unless, of course, the assumption is that we are just holding out. If that is the view, then we lovingly have to suggest that this opinion may be a reflection. Without putting too fine a point on it, just to mention the long history of holding out in the way the Grasly’s have approached coming forward with investment spending to maintain the property’s salability. Search your own hearts on these matters. Trust works both ways.

While we subscribe to the policy of minimally spending behind the investment, the practice by any reasonable assessment has been clearly penny wise and pound foolish. Prime case in point: defaulting to wetlands status. Early on in my dealings with Junior—he was the representative for the Grasly’s on the land—I suggested the possibility of vacating the tenant from the house and demolishing it to improve the “curb presentation”. Also, I stated that as long as the tenant enjoyed his advantageous rental arrangement there was someone 24/7 on the property literally standing for us not selling. At the time every excuse not to demolish came up, even concern over asbestos. To make my point on the spending policy, it was not until the very last moment that we were threatened with a court action by state authorities that the Grasly’s took action on leveling the house. I don’t recall anyone concerned with asbestos then. And at a substantially higher cost than the bid to demolish I had obtained earlier, which also included some tree removal. A similar stalling has occurred on the project of filling the well. For which expense funds previously contributed by the Wrongly’s are still in trust held by the Grasly’s.

At the urging of our realtor it was strongly suggested to clear cut the property to take a substantial step toward moving out of the wetland status. We never took action. I recall a major concern in our last discussions on the issue had to do with fears that dust/debris would negatively impact the adjacent car dealership’s inventory and would put us in jeopardy of legal action should there be any damage. It is impossible to parse what amount is penny pinching and what part realistic concern over adverse consequences. We do see a pronounced tilt toward the former, however. All we know is that endlessly coming up with what-if type objections is a good way to stall, avoid, and postpone.

In the face of unwillingness to investment spend in any project, the “what-if” argument is a particularly nettlesome stalling tactic to counter. And also, rather troubling, since it seems to only be used selectively. As a way of looking at the world it is by any estimation a fearful outlook that could grind one into a halt and cause one to hole up and never leave the house. I am tempted to get into my own set of what ifs, but will refrain out of compassion and not wanting to frighten. Earth changes are all too common right now in the news and we certainly don’t want to see any of our dear family put in harm’s way. But we would be remiss to not mention this as there is a financial asset that could be also adversely affected.

We have no way of proving the dire projections concerning earth changes, but if you research the subject you will see that in addition to the western USA the Michigan region is projected to be due soon for major land/water readjustments. If these events come to pass it would directly involve and adversely affect the property held in common. Simply put, totally wash it away. I don’t want to be in an I-told-you-so situation. You can decide for yourself if such possibilities are worth your concern and should be planned for. But since you are prone to what-ifs, please add this to your worry list. I didn’t just make this up. There is a ton of discussion out there on the subject. I just don’t want us to keep waiting for an improvement in the situation, when in fact—and as the news currently clearly shows—the opposite is just as likely to happen, if not more so.

There has been a lot of insistence on guarantees in recent conversations. I’m sure the people who built the reactors in Japan—and everywhere else in the world—have given their iron clad guarantees. The existential fact is that there are no grounds for guarantees for anything. We do, however, trust in the Lord. But that is also a trust born out of the understanding and faith that whatever comes, both good and bad, is what should be. Not the easy and common idea that all good things come from the Lord, and what we don’t like is from some evil doer or The Evildoer. Trust in the Lord always. All ways. Take it. Or, leave it. Dear Samty in California, true to form, will doubtless dismiss them as mere ravings. You’ve been notified. I have done my due diligence on this. That may not be what you want to hear, but it is out of my own sense of responsibility that I share that with you.

The Wrongly group had from the outset indicated that continuing to hold the property would be a serious financial hardship for us and that all speed and urgency should be applied toward a sale. We only wonder whether the end game all along was to wait us out until the present situation, and at the very last moment, has become fraught over forfeiture. The option (our own idea) to place the land up for auction was also vetoed on the grounds of expense by the Grasly’s. But now they are more than ready to suggest we simply turn over the property on grounds of their claimed better sense of responsibility and disproportionate sacrifice, or to float an uncommitted and hugely submarket sale to them for our stake in the property for pennies on the dollar.

As you all too well know we had a very favorable deal not that long ago. It fell through in large part because of the failure of the Grasly’s to reach their own consensus on negotiating terms. The sticking point was insistence by Junior to have further direct meetings with the prospective buyer. The Grasly’s offered no indication as to why this absolute requirement was being made or what the intention was for such a meeting. This became probably the deal breaker since the prospective buyer had made it clear that they were done negotiating, and with Junior in particular. (As you know I recently approached that prospect again to see if the deal could be reopened. You should know that they were quite clear that they would not have any dealings with Junior should they be able to “relight” the deal.) It was also during the contract negotiations with that earnest buyer that a for-sale sign was installed on the property by Junior, presumably with support of his siblings. Even after my very strenuous objection, no action to remove was made. Clearly, when you are in good faith negotiation with a buyer, placing a for-sale sign is evidence of bad faith, if even only on appearances.

The Wrongly group has been very cooperative and supportive. I feel it should be mentioned that we have not had a very solid experience of being included in the process. There has generally been agreement on most things. But, like the for-sale sign, when we strenuously objected, or had a new idea, if there was no sympathy for that position by the Grasly’s, no action would be taken. Never once have the Grasly's taken action on an idea suggested by the Wrongly's when it didn't suit them first. Sometimes in the give and take, one side has to allow itself some compromise. But, mostly, the power of the veto has given the Grasly’s arguably the upper hand in the proceedings.

Since responsibility is the big issue in heaping value to one side in the negotiation between the owners, let us factor in the responsibility for dragging/stalling the negotiation to the point where the prospective buyer’s budget window of opportunity had passed. And a very attractive deal went away.

As most of you already know an attorney was hired for the express purpose of advising on options for when a minor stake holder in a partnership is impeding the intentions of the majority interest(s). Also, to possibly be available should legal action need to be taken. The Wrongly group agreed to participate in that expense even though it legitimately fell as a responsibility of the Grasly’s to find their own consensus. We wonder with the tight money policy history whether the willingness to spend would be there if the tables were turned and the Wrongly’s could not come to their own consensus. Unknowable, but given the historical penny pinching approach, highly unlikely that there would be cooperation in a reverse scenario.

Even after I clearly stated that I was putting money up for a consultation on options and to have a professional in place should legal action be necessary to move toward signing of the purchase agreement, while the attorney did give some cursory advice he proceeded to spend most of his hours negotiating the deal itself. All the money I put up was spent with nothing to show for it. I have never to my satisfaction been given the experience of having my wishes represented in this attorney situation. In fact, we had quite the grinding go around over paying yet more to keep him on retainer. If that is not clear to you still, just know… no say so, no peso.

It should be reiterated that the Wrongly’s stated that if one member of the Grasly group was not willing to move forward on the deal, we would accept that as a condition of his rights of ownership. Lacking any agreed upon method for resolving such issues in the partnership, we have always been in a situation that leaves us at the effect of the power of the veto from one of the partners. It is particularly troublesome that there has never even yet been any attempt to include us in the thinking that was behind not going forward with the recent land sale.

There was some surplus money the Wrongly’s contributed and held by Grasly’s against the (still to be completed) filling of the well; which because of further stalling by the Grasly’s will probably be higher than the original estimate.

Last year the Grasly’s covered the Wrongly’s tax liability and were given a promissory note. There seems to be a possibility that since the terms were not all that the Grasly’s would prefer that there is some grounds to consider that the situation gives their side more bargaining rights. In fact, the playing field is level and the proper acknowledgements are in place.

There has been no attempt by the Grasly’s since that promissory note to complete on the open issue of what they are planning after the failed deal due to the adamant deal breaking requirement (to continue negotiating ad nauseum) with the last prospective buyer. Clearly, the responsibility fell to them to advise on their intentions regarding next steps. Instead, and yet again, waiting to the very last moment, creating yet another brinksmanship situation, and forcing all the energy on the immediate urgency of paying taxes and avoiding forfeiture. And, on top of all that, having the audacity to assert that it is all Wrongly's doing that has brought about this situation. Indeed.

Not the most responsible approach, would you say?

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