Children of a recently deceased client learned an expensive lesson not too long ago after their mother’s passing. To prepare mother’s residence for sale, her adult children spent the better part of a day throwing freezer-burned food in the dumpster and cleaning out perishables from the pantry. It was late in the day when a granddaughter decided to make herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “There’s a diamond ring here in the peanut butter!” Obviously this was not at all like the surprise that one finds in a box of Cracker Jacks at the ballgame.
Apparently the dearly departed decided to fool potential burglars by hiding expensive jewelry inside of foodstuffs and containers. At this point in the day several industrial size garbage bags had been thrown into the complex’s dumpster bin. The children had no choice but to climb into the dumpster to retrieve the trash, go through all of the old flour bags (complete with hatching insects), Ziploc bags of frozen perishables and a host of jars and other items to search for valuable keepsakes.
It’s my understanding they found several other items (care for a gold bracelet in a bag of frozen peas anyone?). But they also wondered how many were missed.
I would hope that most people choose not to hide valuables within real food packaging, but I’ve also seen online retailers offer containers for valuables that look like insect repellant, window cleaner and the like with the idea that you can place your jewelry (or even cash) inside of what appears to be an every-day household item, going completely unnoticed by thieves.
It isn’t therefore unreasonable to assume that those same household items might be considered valueless junk to be disposed of following your death by unknowing relatives. It was lucky in my client’s case that the granddaughter got hungry and decided to make a snack or else all of those valuables would have been lost.
Which brings to my mind another true account about a man that ran a largely cash business. This was not a client of mine, but was of another family member so I take his word on the veracity of this account. This particular business owner did not deposit all of the day’s cash proceeds into a bank account for reasons one can only conjecture. Instead, he buried it in and around his home.
Whenever he would have a carpenter, painter, plumber or other serviceman work in his house, his wife would sit in the room with the individual to make sure that no stash was uncovered and stolen. They had so much cash around the house that he said he forgot where it all was. Some of it was buried in the backyard.
When a sinkhole opened up in a neighbor’s backyard one evening, he panicked. He spent the better part of the next day and deep into that night digging up his cash in order to save it in case the sinkhole spread.
In so doing he suffered a heart attack.
The good news was that he survived the heart attack. The obvious bad news is that he had a real “cash flow” problem that had to be addressed.
I instructed my family member that if this individual ever died and the house went up for sale to buy it no matter the price! This was an asset that could very well “pay for itself”!
So if you’re engaging in similar clever activities such as hiding valuables in perishables or in what appear to be every day household containers, or should you act like Blackbeard burying hidden treasures in the yard, at least leave a map behind for those that follow you.
And a bottle of rum.
The Sheppard Law Firm is located in Fort Myers and Naples by appointment.
© 2017 Craig R. Hersch. Originally published in the Sanibel Island Sun.