In my younger years, before the lottery was a thing, the only way to really win large sums of unearned money was from a dead relative.  As most of us liked our relatives, we did not want them to die.  Or at least, that was my experience.  Now that I’m a bit older my brother has a few cousins and such that when they pass I’m not flying home for the funeral if you get my drift.  Anyway, I used to use the formula, a rich dead uncle I didn’t know I had providing an inheritance.  Life is stranger than fiction, so it is little surprise to me last year that I found myself in almost that exact situation.

My wife’s dad was Chinese.  His parents were part of the Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist government and apparently were in the diplomacy game going back several generations at least.  The family, in general, has a colorful history.  Allegedly, the grandparents were around when Anastasia screamed in pain, to steal from the Stones.  As there is jewelry that’s been spread around amongst the cousins, supposedly traded by some Russian Princesses for Chinese Visas to escape the whole March Revolution thing.  The wife’s ring has been authenticated as being made by the jeweler who worked primarily for the Russian royal/noble families.

There’s also the family tale that after WWII when the family was escaping the ancestral homelands and the Chi-Com’s, my wife’s grandmother almost had to smother my wife’s dad to death.  The family was hiding in a ditch, and dad-in-law who was an infant drew in a breath and was about to start crying so his mother had to cover his mouth and keep him from doing so, because if the family were found, they’d have at best been executed on the spot, at worst been put in some sort of camp.  Tough decision for a mother to have to make, but I guess you can always make another kid.

After they escaped, part of the family stayed in Taiwan, and part of it spread out into Hong Kong, Canada, the US, and South Africa.  There’s a cousin who dated minor European nobility and then simply disappeared one day like 30-35 years ago and has never been heard from since.  There’s speculation that he was some sort of espionage agent, that he was kidnapped for ransom and then killed because the nobility wouldn’t pay up, or that he got sick of the Euro-trash bullshit and faked his death while financing it with money he scammed.  He’s sort of a family DB Cooper figure.

It’s a different cousin that this is about though.  My wife didn’t even remember he existed.  He was an ‘Uncle’ that visited once when she and her brother were young, and then went back to his residence in Hong Kong and Vancouver, BC, Canada.  Basically, everyone forgot about him because he didn’t stay in contact.

Turns out this was because he was a no-shit hearing voices psychotic who despite that had made enormous amounts of money.  He died intestate last year and we were notified because my wife, her brother, and two cousins of theirs are the only living relatives of his and thus they were in line to receive the money.  Like an 8 figures estate worth of money.  However, they were warned that they might not get all of it.  As my wife put it originally, “This could be anywhere from a nice dinner out to quit our jobs.” I was more bemused than greedy.  It’s a true windfall.

Of course, even free money comes with strings and we found out what those strings were.  A woman named Vivian* was the strings and hoooo-boy was there some strings.

Auntie Viv, as I began to sarcastically refer to her, was a piece of work.  Good old Uncle Kevin** [Sidebar: my wife’s father’s generation of kids all hated the commies so much that most of them who moved to America quit speaking Mandarin and named all their kids Anglo names for their first name.  My wife despite being fully half Chinese knows less than I do.  And most of them won’t travel to China because they may still be on lists somewhere and wouldn’t be able to come home] had gotten himself a younger lady.  She had moved in with him, and become his common-law wife.  Or so she claimed when it turned out Uncle Kev was dead.  It was a bit more complicated than that and thus ensued a year’s worth of haggling.

See, when Uncle Kev passed away like Elvis (on the toilet) the health care agency guys he had hired to come in on a regular basis had found him.  They were there daily to make sure he took his meds and help him deal with a physical health issue he had as well.  The same 3 guys had worked for him for several years and they’d never so much as seen Auntie Viv.

Because she had moved out several years before, which according to Canuckistani law meant she was no longer his common-law wife for purposes of divvying up the loot and taking his stuff.  So she tried to insist that she’d been living there just in a different part of the house from where the health workers had been.

Our law-talking dude then discovered that when she filed her taxes, she’d listed a different address altogether.  So for her to pursue it in court, would mean admitting to tax fraud multiple times.

So her story was then, well, Uncle Kev would sometimes not take his meds and would get violent.  Not directly toward her, but in general and so she left because she didn’t feel safe.  The other residence was her place to run to when Uncle Kev was hearing the voices telling him to do crazy shit and him destroying things to keep from obeying them.  She even cited a police report to explain it.

Only, when the lawyer dug further, turned out, there was a previous police report where she’d gotten violent with Uncle Kev when she found out he had gotten himself fixed and thus all her attempts at not taking birth control to secure him a child were for naught.  See, Uncle Kev was crazy, but he knew it, and didn’t want to make a little psycho Kev with a woman he suspected may have had motives besides how gooshy he made her loins.  He’d ridden that rodeo before apparently.

Eventually, she claimed that what she wanted was to establish a mental health charity with the money and that’s why she was fighting for.  And also to keep the house which she could use to run the charity out of it.

So we made her a proposal; 1/3rd of the estate to her, 1/3rd to the charity, and 1/3rd to us.  She balked at first until her lawyer said, “Look, lady, this is the best offer and if you go to court you’re getting jack shit besides maybe a jail term for the tax fraud. They are being generous so you’re lucky none of them were close to him.  Take the fucking deal.”

And that is how a Rich Dead Uncle*** I Didn’t Know I Had helped my wife and me pay off our house and set us up to retire much earlier than planned.


*Not her real name

**Not his either

***Not really an Uncle as described was more of a cousin who was old enough he seemed more like an uncle.