Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Goodbye merit, hello inherit - how crime pays extremely well

The other day, German Zeit published a long article about the ongoing massive wealth transfer through inheritance in German society, currently standing at some 400 billion Euros annually, and growing.

The piece described how inter generational inequality has been on the rise in the country, and how politics is actively promoting this detrimental development through extremely advantageous wealth transfer rules with low or next to no taxes, if done right.

One short line in the article said some people turned to crime to keep up with the Muellers.

The authors meant "regular" crime, missing out on the the vast swath of hidden, yet extremely remunerative crime tied to the act of inheritance itself.

Over the years, the blogster has heard many stories in our picturesque neck of the woods about illicit or outright illegal inheritance schemes by close family or other people.

It* has come to the conclusion that snatching an inheritance, or part of one, is the most under reported and most profitable crime average Germans engage in.

Chances of getting caught appear pretty much zero. Probably on par with money laundering.

Even if a whole town knows.

All you need to have a shot at getting wealthy is a brief hand written note that says an estate shall be yours. Dated, and with some sort of semblance of a signature, and you are in business.

A photocopy is sufficient. So, if you collect a few hand writing samples from the dear relative and invest in Photoshop, you can earn what amounts to an hourly rate of thousands of dollars.

Contest, you said?

German law favors the piece of paper to a degree that creates hurdles most people who are defrauded can not overcome, as long as that paper is more recent than any you may have.

Their paper even beats a nice notarized one you may have been sent from the court because it was kept there.

The demographics of the country only compound the issue. Many Germans get as old as few did even a generation ago. And those old people often have few or no immediate partner left.

The spouse died decades ago, much of the rest of the family is scattered to the winds, just an enterprising middle aged couple is present a few towns over.

It is a perfect setup.

Visit a few times, make nice, get the paper, make sure potential rivals did not sneak in and pull off the same trick, and when the health of the dear, beloved relative begins to decline, get out of the way.

Actually, you don't even have to make nice. You can coax, coerce, threaten, even beat up the person if he or she is sufficiently isolated without fear of prosecution. Elder abuse is part and parcel of the problem, and - again - largely ignored.

Let the helpers swing into action and care for the frail relative until he or she finally passes.

Then pull out the will at the family and town gathering after the funeral.

You may lose a family but you earned the money.

This, by the way, is a true story from a few towns over. And they happen every day all over Germany.

A version of this, even more elaborate, is to let the heir you are going to boot handle all the work that comes with a death, and only then whip out your paper.

While the helper, or as you would call him or her, the sucker, is arranging the funeral, is dealing with government agencies, utility companies, insurance companies and others, you should take a vacation.

This way, you won't be caught letting slip you have a will. Because the law requires you to submit it as soon as you have knowledge of its existence.

Once the sucker has cleaned out the house or apartment of the deceased, you hand the paper to the court.


Okay, maybe not fully done. You may have to endure a few attempts at shaming you into sharing or stepping back from the will.

But you can avoid meeting the others, ignore phone calls, and become aggressive if that doesn't work.

If they go to a lawyer, they will be advised to let go of small inheritances, the peanuts sort of up to 100 000 dollars.

It is a win-win situation.

You win.

And then you can deploy again and win again.

Of course, the sort of thing described above is not limited to Germany, far from it. But unlike the U.S. where elder abuse and wills have been discussed and some actions taken, German governments are turning a blind eye.

[Update 8/20/2017] When people start talking, you will get an earful. The variations on the theme of close and not so close relatives getting their hands on estates big and small are fascinating to someone as trusting as the blogster.

One of the most vile stories we have heard in the past weeks is the drugging of an old lady in the last months of her life. In this case, the niece caretaker and her doctor husband allegedly added sedatives to the old lady's diet. The prescription was  not in her name, so nobody could claim diminished competence. Then the lady wrote a will, again one of those handwritten things that any investigator of a "real" crime would immediately label highly suspicious and not trustworthy.

The friend who told us that one decided to let it go.

Another local recounted how family members converged at the residence of a deceased who had valuable antiques. The obvious suggestion to make a list was shot down by several vocal relatives, and the group decided to reconvene the next day to divvy up the estate. 
The next day, of course, the apartment was empty.

Almost everyone we talked to had bad to evil experiences about inheritances to tell in their families.

* We are gender neutral at this publication.

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