Author Topic: My Fight Against Adversity  (Read 456 times)

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My Fight Against Adversity
« September 13, 2017, 04:19:16 »
Some of this I have mentioned before - if you can remember it - just skip over that paragraph - but this is the whole story all put together.

So pin back your lug holes and listen up.

For the past 10 years or so I have been looking after the affairs of an old war veteran who has steadily gone blind over the period. He tried valiantly to care for a wife who battled Alzheimer’s for 8 years until she died 5 years ago, having spent the last 4 years in a nursing home. He had no children - his family being an ailing brother in his 90's and a few nephews and nieces of which only one kept in touch with him. Hence, me, Libby (my wife) and an old lady friend of him and his late wife,  jointly "looked after" him.
 
FUNERAL PLAN - A Salutory Lesson

Albert and his wife had funeral plans provided by Age UK.
When his wife died in a Nursing Home, I arranged for a funeral director nominated by Albert to take her into their funeral home and carry out the funeral. I took Albert to the funeral directors the following day to organise her funeral, where we were told they did not accept Age UK funeral plans – they had their own. They offered to move her body to an alternative Funeral director who did accept the funeral plan at no cost.  After some discussion, Albert decided to pay for the funeral himself and I had the task of getting a refund on his funeral plan from Age UK – which took considerable time and effort - but was successful.

Albert then decided to make a new Will and asked me to be an executor – I agreed - but suggested that we should get a refund on his own funeral plan and organise one with his chosen funeral director to avoid a repeat problem. Which we did – he bought a funeral plan from them backed by a company called Golden Charter which listed his preferences including wanting to be cremated in Solihull and having his ashes disposed of on the family grave, to replicate his wife’s arrangements.

In early 2015 it was clear that Albert was struggling to live alone and he was persuaded to go into a care home. Being a Navy veteran and blind, he was able to secure a place at the Blind Veterans Care Home in Brighton which is 180 miles from Solihull where we live. He moved there in June 2015. It is a magnificent place – with a large swimming pool, hobby rooms, IT room, exercise rooms, a huge hotel style lounge, nice restaurant and a well-stocked bar. The bar is going to miss Albert – they will suffer a distinct drop in their takings. 5 star is not an inaccurate description of the Bind Veterans Care Home.  Over the time he was there we visited him many times - it was an excuse to extend each visit to make it a mini break.

When Albert moved, I held his Power of Attorney and it fell to me to sell his flat, dispose of all his belongings and notify all his contacts of his new address in Brighton – which included the Golden Charter funeral plan people.

In September 2016,  Albert, now 94, was suddenly taken ill and I was advised he would only live for a few days. Since I had the task of organising his funeral and his affairs – I visited the Solihull funeral director to advise them of his location and the need to uplift him from Brighton when he died and carry out the funeral in Solihull using his funeral plan. I expected the estate to pay extra for moving him from Brighton. They declined - because 6 months ago they had sold out to a National Chain of funeral directors who have their own plan – and had cancelled the Golden Charter funeral plan which he bought from them. I was horrified.

Albert then died and Libby and I went to Brighton to clear all his personal stuff from his room and we discovered that when I had notified Golden Charter of his change of address, they had re-allocated the funeral plan to a Brighton funeral director.  Furthermore, they had taken it upon themselves to change the funeral venue to a local crematorium.

It transpired that the Blind Veterans Care Home have an arrangement with a local funeral director to uplift and take people who have died to their premises. Hence Albert's body was there.

Libby and I took ourselves off to the Brighton funeral director to arrange the funeral – but he flatly refused to move the cremation to Solihull even if we paid extra. Hence lightning had struck twice with Alberts funeral plans. After a verbal and unpleasant tussle with the funeral director we resolved the problem by me contacting Golden Charter to get them to move the plan to a Solihull funeral director who would honour it. It took a few frustrating days, but it all came right in the end. The Solihull director made a splendid job of the funeral in Solihull which was attended by standard bearers from the Royal British legion and a bugler to play the Last Post and Reveille.

I have told you this story as a note of caution – if you have a funeral plan - do check that your preferred funeral director will honour it. It will avoid awful problems at a time when people least want them.

THE SAGA OF PENSION CREDIT - and Shoddy Performance By the Pension Authorities

When Albert's wife died in 2012, I helped Albert to organise her funeral and the administration of her Will. His change in circumstances meant that he might qualify for pension credit so I applied on his behalf.

They sent an officer to his apartment to interview him and collect the necessary data - I was there to assist. She asked him for his bank details.  I found his HSBC bank statements amongst piles of correspondence in his attache case kept under his bed, and the pensions officer made a note of his current account and savings account balances

She asked him if he had any other bank savings and he told her "no".

A couple of weeks later they awarded him Pension Credit and Attendance Allowance totalling about £120 per week back dated the maximum allowed 3 months.
It was clear that his paperwork was in a mess and I offered to get it organised for him, to which he agreed. Hence I bought a lockable document box with suspended files and set about filing all his paperwork properly.

During this activity I discovered 3 Post Office Savings Bonds amounting to £43,000 which Albert had not declared and asked him why. He replied that he was asked only for Bank details. I explained to Albert that whilst the Post Office Bonds were not "Banking" in the literal sense, we would have to declare them because it would affect his pension credit. So I wrote to them on his behalf explaining the oversight.
They did not reply, so I wrote again,
They did not reply - so I phoned them - they promised to reply.
They didn't - so I wrote again to advise them that if I did not receive a reply within 7 days I would put the matter in the hands of our local MP.
I immediately got a standard letter stating that when Pension Credit was awarded the recipient is not required to declare any change in financial circumstances for 5 years and to bugger off and leave them in peace in so many words.

Fast forward to September 2016, Albert has died and as executor of his Will I go to Brighton with Libby to clear his room of all his effects. In a small box file containing his war records, medals, family photographs etc, Libby found a tatty envelope containing 3 Nationwide Building Society Pass Books with savings totalling £78,000 which had not been updated for 5 years. I held his Power of Attorney, so before notifying them of his death, I went to Nationwide to get them updated (OK - I bent the POA rules a bit because upon death a POA dies with him). Sure enough the 3 accounts were valid and the interest accumulated was added.

So now I had another problem - he had been sitting on almost £80,000 savings not declared to the Pension Credit people. So I wrote to them to notify them of his death, explained the £80,000 oversight and asked them to confirm how much the Estate owed them so I could calculate the net value of his estate and apply for probate.

Here we go again - no reply
14 days later, I wrote again
Another 14 days go by without a reply. So I phoned their bereavement service who said I must answer some security questions before they can talk to me.
Q1 - Full name of the bereaved.  I give the correct answer
Q2 - National insurance number. I give the correct answer.
Q3 - Date of birth - I give the correct answer
Q4 - Marital status. Widower is correct
Q5 - Date of marriage. I explain I needed to look it up in his records. Never mind she says - we will use a substitute question
Q6 - Date of birth of his late wife. Again I need to look it up in his records.

Sorry she says - you have failed the security test and I can't talk to you.
 
That evening I went through Albert's records and wrote down all the data I could find about Albert and his wife. I phoned them again the following morning.

Q1 - as before
Q2 - As before
Q3 - Place of marriage. I get this correct but it was guesswork
Q4 - Date of marriage. I get this correct (We are on a roll here)
Q5 - Previous address. I give the address of Alberts care home. Wrong - she was looking for his previous apartment - silly me.
Q6 - Late wife's maiden name. I didn't have a clue.

Sorry she says - you have failed the security test and I can't talk to you.

"Hang on a bit" says I - "can you at least look at your records and confirm that you have letters from me going back 2 months which you have not answered. If not I will put the matter in the hands of my MP"

She huffed and puffed (Note : this is a bereavement service we are talking to - I could easily have been a distraught spouse) then confirms that they do have letters waiting for their attention - which will be dealt with when they can get round to it.

My problem was that to apply for probate you need to establish the net value of the estate. To do this I needed to collate the value of all debts and I was therefore not able to apply for probate.
 
Another two weeks go by - still no response, so I write to our MP. Four days later I get a grovelling phone call from the Pension Credit customer relations manager to confirm she has made it a priority and will personally follow it up. I ask for, and surprisingly get, her direct phone number. The 0845 numbers are becoming a major expense.

Another 2 weeks go by and I receive no response so I phone her. Her assistant says she only works 3 days a week and will advise her of my call. 4 days later she calls me (the boss I mean) to confirm that the matter has been passed to their debt collection department and they will write to me. She tells me that the letter will be a standard demand and, in the circumstances, not to be upset by the unfortunate wording which will demand payment within 14 days - or else.

Two weeks go by without the promised letter so I phone her again. She is surprised that it has not been done and promises to call me back that afternoon. She did call me back to explain that the delay was because they had sent the paperwork to the debt collection department - but in the case of bereavement it should have been sent to a different department in another town which will now be done.

A week later I phone her again - we are now into having regular Monday chats but this time she is not at work - her assistant gives me the name of a contact and a phone number at the Recovery from Estates department, whom I then phoned. They have no record of the problem.  I phone my telephone friend the following day and she is shocked - she promises to look into it and call me back. She does an hour later, to tell me that the debt amount is £4.628 and that they did sent the paperwork to the correct department speculating that it must have been delayed in the Christmas post.

I renewed the battle after the New Year holiday and notified our MP of the saga.

This produced another phone call from my telephone friend who said that she had asked for the information to be sent again to the Recovery from Estates department and to grovel again about their poor service which she assured me was not typical.

To cut an even longer and more frustrating story short, the information did not reach the correct department until February 27th and it took them a further 5 weeks to write to me. Hence I was not able to send them a cheque until late April 2017.

I can sort of understand the appalling delays if they owed us money - but in this case we owed the government almost £5,000 and it took them 6 months to recover it.

What a shambles.

 
CARE HOME FEES - A Tale of Woe.

When Alberts wife died, I discovered that during the time she had been in a care home, her savings had been completely exhausted to meet her care home costs. Albert had then been paying the fees out of his savings (which he was not required to do - but he had paid out £98,000).

Whilst his wife was in care, Albert was being helped by Age UK and the Alzheimer Society to submit a claim to get the excess fees refunded, but the claim had been rejected by the NHS Trust and they had not appealed against the rejection. More than 12 months had elapsed so it was now theoretically too late to submit an appeal.

I contacted a leading and respected firm of solicitors who specialise in care home fee claims and they were adamant that Albert had a strong case to re-appeal and offered to represent him on a contingency fee basis - when they won, they would retain 17.5% of the winnings, if they lost Albert would pay nothing. There was a clause in the contract that if Albert cancelled the contract before they had been given time to resolve the matter - he would pay their accrued expenses at the rate of £250 per hour and £50 per letter or Email.
 
The NHS trust played a waiting game and despite much urging by our solicitors didn't review the appeal until 3 weeks after Albert died - and rejected it on spurious grounds. The solicitors then treated Albert's death as withdrawal from the contract and sent me a bill for £23,000 for their expenses, in strict accordance with the terms of the contract.  They offered to not apply this if I agreed as executor to sign a new contract with them, on the same terms, so they could re-appeal. There was no way that I would do this because if I were to fall off my perch, my executors (family) would have to meet even greater costs or themselves sign a contract with them - so I went to war.

This has taken several months of argument and negotiation whilst I contested every entry in their billing records. Managing to delete some of them one by one.  I have kept hard copies of all their correspondence from day one  - which was considerable - and filled two lever arch files. Over the years they have had four successive solicitors work on the case and with each change, I noticed there was a huge spike in billing hours as each new solicitor swatted up on the case. I was able to highlight all these excess hours as inadmissible and robustly contested a large number of letters they had written to third parties that were already answered in the file I originally provided (or I could have answered easily). I finally drew up a detailed schedule of the costs I would accept which came to £10,310. They have now accepted this - which made me wonder whether they would have accepted much less if I had pushed harder. However - we will never know.

Are you managing to keep up with this tale of mystery, intrigue, frustration and woe?  There is more to come.

THE SHOCK HORROR STORY OF THE ROYAL BRITISH LEGION

A few months ago I was able to pay out all the bequests in Albert's Will, which included a bequest of almost £22,000 to the Royal British Legion. I was relieved to have finished my executor duties. All the money had been paid out, Albert's estate accounts were finalised, every expense duly recorded, the Estate bank account was zero and at last Libby and I could have our lives back.

However - I received an unexpected letter from the Royal British Legion's Head Office in London.

They  wrote to explain that  they had been notified by The Probate Service that Albert had left them a generous bequest in his Will and asked when they could expect it, together with copies of the Estate accounts and the Will so that their Estate Management people could verify their entitlement.

I phoned them and advised that I would forward a copy of the accounts and Will - but that I had already delivered their cheque to the local branch of the Royal British Legion in accordance with Albert's wishes.

There was a pregnant pause before the RBL Agent asked what the amount was. I told her. She then said that this presented me with a problem - did I perchance hand it over to the Royal British Legion Club Knowle. Yes says I, in accordance with Albert's wishes.

She replied that the Knowle Royal British Legion is not a part of the Royal British Legion Charity.  Frankly I was flustered and can't recall much of what turned out to be a long conversation but she tried to convince me that Royal British Legion Clubs are nothing to do with the Royal British Legion and I tried to convince her that Albert had been a member of the local branch for 70 years, all his mates were members, he went every week and that was where he had wanted his money to go. She said that because the Will stated "Royal British Legion" and not "Royal British Legion Club" she would contact the club and try to recover the bequest. If she was not successful - it would have to be paid by the estate as stated in the Will.

The Estate of course had now got zero value and the law decrees that executors are required to meet the requirements of a Will - hence, if London won the argument and the club refused to pay me back, I would have to pay it myself.

The following day I went up the road and took a photograph of the local branch of the Royal British Legion building which has their name emblazoned in foot high lettering across its frontage. I also had a chat with their Club Chairman who had already been contacted by London. It was a convoluted conversation because I was determined that the money should end up where Albert intended rather than collared by London to boost the fat cat salaries and expenses of their senior managers.  However - if the law was on their side, I didn't want to fork out £22,000 of my own money.  We agreed to join forces and try to force London's hand. We had a few drinks at the bar and got chatting with some of the regulars who were mates of Albert. I asked a couple of them if they were aware that their club was not a part of the Royal British Legion charity - they merely leased the premises from the charity to run an independent social club. They guys hadn't a clue what I was talking about. One said - "What is happening to all the money we collect on poppy day if it is not for The British Legion". The Club Chairman assured them that every penny collected goes to  separate account held by London. This convinced me that I was not alone in wrongly assuming that all the Royal British Legion Buildings you see around the Country were a part of the Charity.

I wrote to the RBL's head office enclosing a photograph of the local premises to prove that the name in bold lettering would cause any reasonable person to conclude that it was a part of the main Charity. I added that they are complicit in misleading the general population about their structure and that any reasonable person would accept that Albert - a member for nearly 70 years - would want his bequest to go to the organisation which has given him so much support, pleasure and where his surviving mates are members.  I hinted that I had the means to get my story into the press. (This is true. I have a close friend who is a free-lance journalist who could make a few bob out of my story - however it ends). This saga has been going on for some months.

One of Libby's daughters is the Compliance Manager for a major Charity and she was interested in my tale because her job involves recovery from estates. I cannot pretend to understand it all - but major charities have a legal responsibility to ensure all bequests are received and accounted for. Their charter requires them to comply with the Charities Commission and Taxation regulations. She explained that I needed to get the RBL Head Office to accept that the money was intended for the RBL club and not for the main charity. It was my only hope.

So I have been conducting a charm offensive on RBL London - using every argument I can think of to support my case including getting the local club to organise a petition by the local club members.  I have found and provided photographs and press cuttings of Albert over the years being standard bearer on the Solihull Remembrance day parade. I pointed out that all those people and the spectators thought they were representing the Charity and not just a local club.

London RBL have now conceded and will put it to their Trust Committee that the money should remain with the club. The local RBL club are delighted - as am I - and steps have been taken to notify all RBL Clubs around the Country of the importance to advise their members that if they want bequests to go to their RBL club the Will and cheque should specify 'Royal British Legion Club {name}' and not 'Royal British Legion' (which was my unwitting downfall)

FAMILY MATTERS

Albert had no children - he had a brother who survived him who has been knocking at death's door for the past 2 years.  He had 6 nephews/nieces of which only one has bothered to keep in touch with Albert ever since his wife died. Other than to attend his wife's funeral and Alberts 90th birthday party which was held of course at the RBL Knowle club.

Albert asked me to get his Will amended when he moved into the care home. His previous Will left a sum to his brother and a small bequest to each of his nephews and nieces. However he decided that his bequests should go to only to those who had provided support during the years he most needed it. This was to include the infamous RBL and the Blind Veterans Care Home. Hence he eliminated all but the one nephew who had always been there for him. He also eliminated his brother from the Will because he was convinced his brother was soon to die and he didn't want the money to find its way to his sons.  I tried to persuade him that he could leave his brother in the Will and state that any bequest would die with him - but he was resolute.

When Albert died it was clear that they were all expecting a bequest and there were demands made on me to show them the Will.  Albert and his brother were close and I admired them both for their friendliness and fortitude. I still considered that it was unfair to strike his brother out of a bequest - but I had a legal obligation to comply with the Will. I therefore decided to gift his brother the money out of my bequest to avoid him from being disappointed and upset. This has backfired on me big time - because one of them obtained a copy of the Will from the Probate Court and could see that his brother had not been left anything, yet had been paid £10,000. He thought that this had been paid out of the estate and if it could be done for one, it should be done for all the "family" . I therefore had no option but to come clean which possibly made things worse because his brother now thought it was charity and not from Albert. To say that I have had a fraught time with Albert's 'family' is an under-statement with muttered threats to contest the Will and all sorts. It only goes to show that death and Wills always bring the worst out in people.

CONCLUSIONS


• If you volunteer to be an executor of a Will - be aware that what seems so easy, straightforward and innocent when you start out , can turn around and bite you. It can take over your life.

• After months of frustration and worry which could so easily have turned me into a nervous wreck - it finally looks as though we may soon get our lives back and I will be able to relax and have some free time to spend on hobbies and my forums.



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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #1 : September 13, 2017, 04:53:37 »
Bloody hell!
Good on you Alan for being capable of sticking to your guns.
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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #2 : September 13, 2017, 04:58:31 »
:whsaid:

I think I'll start up a publishing business, just to serve you :eek:. We could make mi££ions.
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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #3 : September 13, 2017, 05:03:03 »
What a mess. I have been luckyI suppose, having had Tyree funerals to see to,plus probate etc. I have got off light.
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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #4 : September 13, 2017, 05:04:57 »
Wow Alan, what a headache, thanks for that post, very educational. Makes you think twice before taking on that responsibility. I am not sure there would be many people that could have handled those problems. Well done for your perseverance and seeing it to the end . 
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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #5 : September 13, 2017, 06:50:56 »
Jeepers! I'll  have to psyche myself up to read all that!  :Shocked:

...bookmarked for later!
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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #6 : September 13, 2017, 06:58:44 »
Spend all and leave nowt seems to be the answer
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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #7 : September 13, 2017, 07:53:13 »
Happy or sad, easy or hard, you tell a hell of a story, Alan :victory:
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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #8 : September 13, 2017, 18:01:47 »
Far out! You think that was bad! I was three quarters of the way through reading it and my computer rebooted due to windows updates without warning! I had to not only search for the thread, but also find where I was up to! So that puts your "little" saga into perspective!

Also I see see you got Shambles involved halfway through, how come I didn't get a guernsey!   :evil:

Obviously I'm only joking! What an amazing tale of whoa!  :Shocked: :Shocked: :Shocked:

You have incredible persistence and fortitude compared to the general population (let alone somone in his 80's) :hatoff: :hatoff:

I think another lesson to be taken from your story is to not throw any paperwork out until well after the event!  :coolingoff:
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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #9 : September 13, 2017, 23:56:14 »
Dazz,
I think another lesson to be taken from your story is to not throw any paperwork out until well after the event!  

Many years ago, a boss told me to "keep everything,  you never know when you may need it "
When my work damages started  i had to supply the ref number as all the forms had been shredded.
The number was kept with no ref to myself or injury etc, only  drs and physio invoices.  :crazy1:
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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #10 : September 14, 2017, 01:36:45 »
My bill file is so fully of paperwork it is scary. I must go through and throw out some $hit (like my first two marriage certificates. .. )
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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #11 : September 14, 2017, 03:22:53 »
I had an incident am few years back(10 actually), where we had a massive amount of money in a high interest account for a few months and earned quite a bit of interest. This continued with a reduced but still large amount for  a year or more while we sorted out some superannuation.
As the account was in joint names we split the interest earned between my and my wife's tax returns.
Got a notice form the tax office advising I had understated my income because the particular bank account was in my name only.
The bank had ignored my request when setting it up, to put it in joint names.
To cut a long story short, I still had the email I had sent to the bank setting the account up. It had never registered with us that the account only had my name on it, however I gave the tax office a copy of the set up email and they accepted that plus my pointing out that, if the bank had done the right thing we had paid the correct amount of tax.
There were several thousand dollars involved so we were happy.
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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #12 : September 14, 2017, 05:47:21 »
 :coolingoff: That was lucky Trevor!

I used to constantly clear out old files on my computers from old habits when I only had tiny little hard drives. Now I have a couple of 2 TB NAS drives I tend to keep a copy or two of almost everything.  :goodjob:
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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #13 : September 14, 2017, 06:39:52 »
:coolingoff: That was lucky Trevor!

I used to constantly clear out old files on my computers from old habits when I only had tiny little hard drives. Now I have a couple of 2 TB NAS drives I tend to keep a copy or two of almost everything.  :goodjob:
I had printed it out when I set up the account and had it in my banking folder.
I still have my first pay slips from when I joined Goodyear in 1975. And copies of tax returns going back further than that.  :crazy1:
I also have a copy of a forum paragraph apology from Telstra (it was Telecom in those days) after they cut off my phone for "non payment". I had. And I had the bank statement showing the cheque presented and honoured but their guy on the phone told me I had obviously paid with a dud cheque.
Unfortunately for him I had a friend from rallying who was very high up in Telecom. I had no idea just how high up he was until I asked his advice on what to mdo about it.
" Leave it with me" he said.
Phone was back on in an hour and the letter of apology arrived in a few days.
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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #14 : September 14, 2017, 06:50:22 »
Thanks for all your kind words guys.

I hope that my story might be a subtle warning about the possible pitfalls of being the executor of a Will. It can sometimes prove not to be the pleasant stroll in the park you expected.

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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #15 : September 14, 2017, 07:10:06 »
Thanks for all your kind words guys.

I hope that my story might be a subtle warning about the possible pitfalls of being the executor of a Will. It can sometimes prove not to be the pleasant stroll in the park you expected.
It's certainly food for thought.
A real cautionary tale.
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Re: My Fight Against Adversity
« Reply #16 : September 14, 2017, 17:31:28 »
Thanks for all your kind words guys.

I hope that my story might be a subtle warning about the possible pitfalls of being the executor of a Will. It can sometimes prove not to be the pleasant stroll in the park you expected.

I think it is nearly always a pretty onerous task with many potential pitfalls. Yours is not the first tail of whoa I've heard, but it is the worst!  :crazy2:
  • MY18 PD SR & 2014 1.6 GDi Tourer (Prev had 2008  i30 CRDi & MY11 Petrol CW)