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Old 05-28-2003, 09:05 PM   #1
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Help! I have an ethical conundrum!

As most of you know, I am a fundraiser by day. The last charity I worked for was the Humane Society. While there, I met a donor, who is Canadian originally, but now works for the State of Texas. She has a number of investments in the States, and she was originally leaving all of her estate to the Society, but because of the state of their Board, has left most of her money to another charity. I helped her in this process of finding reputable charities.

She has no family (that I know of) except for a cat, and she is planning on moving back to Canada soon. She is a very nice lady and we stayed in touch after I moved jobs. Recently she asked if she could use my address as a reference for moving back to Canada. I said of course.

WELL. Today, I got the following email from her:

Hi there....just a very quick email to let you know what I'm planning. I am going to change the beneficiary to one of my investments which I have where I work to name you personally for all of the funds for this particular investment. Jessica, I would like you to have half of the funds for yourself and the other half to use at your discretion to help animals, namely cats. You are so kind to allow me, someone you've never actually met even, to use your address and to be so willing to assist me. Only a very nice person would do such a thing, and I want to thank you somehow. Please let me know if you are willing to use half of the funds for helping cats (whether it is buying blankets for shelters, food for cats, helping out with animal disaster relief, whatever) and I would want you to keep half for yourself to use in whatever way you desire (hopefully for fun)!

This has totally blown me away. What should I do? On the one hand, I should really not accept this at all, and insist that she leaves everything to charity. On the other hand, I could accept it, and donate all of my portion to charity.

Of course then I fantasize that it will be millions and I could keep some of my half and pay off my house......

But I would never want anyone official to think that I put her up to this, because this is a total surprise to me! Plus, knowing her the way I do, she probably will insist on giving it to me.

WHAT TO DO??????

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Old 05-28-2003, 09:12 PM   #2
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um, give it to me

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Old 05-28-2003, 09:25 PM   #3
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It sounds like it is a nice gesture on her part and I would take it. Make sure there are no legal strings attached of course (I dont know much about this stuff) which would bind you to her in the future or even make you tell her what you did with your portion. If it is a gift, take it.

If that is the case- then do as she says and use half the funds for the cats and half for yourself. From the info you gave (meaning from what I know of the sitch) I would use 1/2 on me!

But it seems she has noticed your shining and caring character and wishes to reward you. What a huge compliment! Definitely do some research and make sure it's legit and doesn't bind you in any way (having to pay her back or anything like that), maybe ask a few professionals you work with their opinions to make sure this is all legal, and all being well i would take 1/2 the money as a gift (to do with it as you please, whether that be more charity or a house!) and use the other 1/2 on helping the cats.

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Old 05-28-2003, 09:26 PM   #4
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That's a toughy.....don't worry about what anybody else *know* you didn't put her up to atleast your conscience is clear on this.
Now the rest I think is up to you. I can't say you should or you shouldn' is entirely your decision. With that said, if this were me in this situation....I think I would say yes. Don't forget the fact that this offer seems to give her gratification so to speak. She obviously wants to you to take her up on the offer. It probably would make her happy....given the fact that she doesn't have family, etc.
UNLESS...she's got a case of dementia...schizophrenia or another she well? Of sound mind? Cuz if she isn't...then I would turn her down.
But if she is well...and aware of what she is doing...then I say go for it.
Take time and think about it if you need to.
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Old 05-28-2003, 09:33 PM   #5
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oh and yah..

what olive said....check into the legal aspect of it all...I know I would....olive made some VERY good points.
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Old 05-28-2003, 09:39 PM   #6
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omg Jess, your avatar!! That is the cutest picture

Okay, as for your dilema...I would say take the money but like Carrie said, check all the legalities and such...make sure you won't owe a gift tax or anything like that. And mmmbono is absolutely correct in that you should make sure she's of sound mind and doesn't have any mental or physical problems.

If everything seems legitimate, accept it as a gesture of what a truly kind, caring person she found you to be. You deserve it
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Old 05-28-2003, 10:29 PM   #7
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First of all, what is a "condoruim"-whatever?

These 50.00 dollar words always irriate me.
Anyway some noteworthy charities would be if you were to decide to donate your portion-
-Children w Aids
-Drunk Republicans For Jesus Society of Esteemed Gentlemen
-Me and Chip
or just
Give it to Brady

legally speaking Olive seems to be correct, good luck in your decision.


also here in the States you get a nice tax write off when u donate alot of money.
Is it that way in Canada.?

And please dont donate it to any hockey rinks, thank u
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Old 05-28-2003, 11:06 PM   #8
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I would say take it...she obviously wants you to have it, and you wouldn't want to upset her by not taking it...and as everyone else said, check the legalities, I'm sure it's fine, as you do have her letter backing you up that you didn't put her up to it...and check into the tax write off that diamond said too.

If it makes you feel uncomfortable to take a portion of the money for yourself, just donate the whole of what she gives you to charities.
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Old 05-28-2003, 11:11 PM   #9
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Wow that's awesome!! Sounds like she really wants to help the animals.. that is awesome, I love to see this. I'd take it.. or take 1/4 of it or something if you feel bad.. and give the rest to the shelters.
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Old 05-28-2003, 11:27 PM   #10
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give it to the human fund.
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Old 05-28-2003, 11:27 PM   #11
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Take your half and buy yourself something extravagant. She obviously likes you a great deal (who doesn't?), and she wants to do something nice for you.

Let her do it. It will make her feel good. Give the other half to the kitties, and get yourself something very nice that you wouldn't buy otherwise.
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Old 05-29-2003, 04:02 AM   #12
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Wow jess , there you go again.
My daddy wanted to pay for my crashed car, so as to speak, the day before yesterday. Caused me great anxiety. He wanted to give me, what to me, is a very expensive car. It put me in such an awkward spot ( I have 3 sisters). I eventually managed to get him to listen( he said he was going to buy it anyway and park it under a tree and let it go rusty...the old devil)
I managed to convince him not to do it...I feel indebted enough, it just would not have been fair....but sheeessh, a new car.

So isn't funny how these things come along at least expected moments? It sounds as though the lady feels great affection and respect for you. People get bequeathed things everyday. I am sure you could accept the gift and then do with it as you think I would have sold the car, bought a cheaper one, donated a bit to charity and gone on a holiday...a long holiday
You can continue to discuss it with her. Most people like to get their affairs in order, it gives them peace of mind. My dad has been planning his demise for about the past 20 years..he's physically as strong as an ox. He's off opal fossicking at the moment..and he took along his dancing shoes...just in case.

good luck
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Old 05-29-2003, 07:57 AM   #13
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What a weird one Cass. My dad rang the other day to say he wanted to give us his second car. Its not new or particularly flash...but what a gesture!

Everyone's given you the best advice so far Mrs Edge, at least look into it. Maybe ring a lawyer who specialises in deceased estates. Tell him/her what this lady wants to do, and see what you can find out. She may be able to set you up as a sole executor (if you have a business number) so that you can distribute the funds under her name. That's not a very clear explaination. But speak to a lawyer. Maybe find out how much money she is talking about. If she has 3 mil tucked away, its a bit different to a couple of thousand. It sounds crass, but the amount I think is important.

And like everyone said, you got this because she can see what kind of person you are! You should be proud
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Old 05-29-2003, 11:05 AM   #14
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Based on your description, there does not appear to be any unethical behavior that would lead to such a bequest. Your recommendations were for institutions in which you have no personal financial interest. Nothing unethical about accepting her proposal.

Also, by naming you as the beneficiary of one of her investments, it sounds as if she is spreading her estate around to multiple people. You should accept the money and do with it as you feel best.

The only potential (and unlikely) downside to the situation is a legal challenge by some long lost relative seeking "their share" of the money. If she has spread her estate to multiple parties, it will make a challenge more difficult for such a claim. Since this possibility is completely out of your control, I would not worry about it.

Good luck and God bless.
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Old 05-29-2003, 08:40 PM   #15
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Wow guys! Thank you for all these interesting, helpful and very flattering comments! And I totally forgot we have our very own interference lawyer giving his opinion...that is very handy!

I am pretty sure she is of sound mind...she works for the Attorney General's Office in Texas....(but maybe they wouldn't notice if she were nuts? LOL!) and she has always seemed very normal. Because this is a bequest, I wouldn't have to report back to her or anything, but I would certainly honour my end of the deal, even if it meant reporting back to the executor.

Yes diamond, we do have big tax incentives here for charitable contributions, that's the first thing I tell my potential donors....oh after telling them about the cause of course. Actually, the US offers waaaaay better tax incentives for charitable giving than Canada...we are getting better, but still have a lot of catching up to do. This is because the US has had to fundraise longer than we have, as until recently we have had a lot more Government funding....but times are a changin'. Let's hope the tax incentives catch up soon!

But the odd thing is that I think in the US you have to pay some sort of tax when you are a beneficiary of a bequest (as well as tax on lotteries!) which we do not have to do. Wooohoo!

My mind goes back and forth about what I would do with that totally depends on how much it is. One thing's for sure, if I kept my half, I would use it on something really wonderful and worthwhile.

Anyway, I thanked her profusely for her very generous gesture, and asked if the executor was aware of these changes, and was there any family who might want to contest this. I then said that if she feels really strongly about this, I would certainly be honoured to make gifts to help cats in her memory. I stressed that if she wants to change her mind at ANY TIME and put the investment to someone or something else that I understand completely and that this needs careful thought. There is no obligation for her to continue with this even though she's told me about it.

Hopefully that way she will think about it again, and also I have a record that I did not influence her, just in case.

PHEW! Well, thanks again....I'll let you know if anything interesting happens!

P.S. Cass, what is opal fossicking????? You come up with a crazy expression every time I talk to you!

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