“Be nice to your aunt,” warned the wagging finger of the headline, “or her fortune will go to the dogs.”
The piece follows a story* that was in the press last week, quoting a wills expert, Nicola Marchant, at law firm Pannone, who’s said that there’s been a threefold increase in the number of families contesting wills over money left to pets and animal charities.
Today’s article went on to say that in this straightened economic times, maybe a few extra visits and a little more kindness shown to Great Great Aunt Betty before she pops her clogs will disincline her to leave her worldly wealth to the local donkey sanctuary.
Quite frankly, I’m inclined to think that if you’ve got to the end of your life with a covetable pot of cash that you’ve managed to conceal from grabby family members and grabbier HMRC officials, then you deserve to do with it what the hell you choose – whether that’s your daughter or the donkeys.
But the story reminded me of a tale a friend used to tell at university, of the way his grandmother would lure younger relatives to visit on a regular occasion.
When visiting at her large London home, relatives would be encouraged to place small, discreet, coloured stickers – akin to the small discs, no bigger than a fingertip, that denote ‘sold’ items in art galleries – on the back of objects they’d taken a fancy to and would like to inherit upon the occasion of her demise.
The catch was that there was no limit on the number of times a particular piece could be claimed – if your visit happened to be the most recent, and you fancied the Grandfather clock which had already been claimed, you’d simply peel off Uncle Bob’s blue sticker, and replace it with your own green one. Whoever’s coloured sticker was on the object when Granny eventually popped her clogs would be its ultimate owner.
Of course, it absolutely did the trick. Relatives would be popping in and out all the time to check on the status of their chosen heirlooms – with the result that Granny got all the family visits she could ever possibly want.
I think it’s genius – if I’m ever old enough, with the covetable possessions to make the scheme work, I shall be doing precisely the same. The donkey sanctuaries will just have to come and visit.
*Yes, it’s quite clearly a PR-placed story. No, that doesn’t make it any less engaging.