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Sharon was at her desk and she hopped up to give Billy and me both a big hug. She got her kiss on the cheek from Billy and I thought about doing the same, but then let it go. I didn’t want to freak her out or anything. She was wearing a navy blue pantsuit today with shiny gold buttons down the front. It looked kind of like a sailor’s uniform to me but she looked good in it. She had gold hooped earrings and a bunch of gold bracelets of different kinds on both her wrists. She jangled whenever she moved her arms around.
“Jack, it’s good to see you today. Looks like you bounced back alright. How was your evening last night?” I told her, leaving out the bit about flirting with Trevor the waiter, and ended with my reading of Amanda’s letter.
She was full of questions about the letter, and I thought about it for a few seconds and then asked, “Would you like to read it yourself? In a way she wrote it because of you.”
“Oh, Jack. I wouldn’t want to intrude on something so personal.”
“It’s okay. Really, I don’t mind. Actually, I was hoping to talk with you a little about some of the things she said, so you’d be helping me out if you did read it.”
My reasoning convinced her, and I handed her the letter. She carried it very carefully to her desk, sat down and put on her half-rimmed reading glasses. I sat in a chair in front of her desk and watched her as she read the last words of a woman who had called her a friend. At one point, she reached for a tissue and dabbed at her eyes.
When she was finally finished, she needed a few more tissues and a few deep breaths to refocus. She returned Amanda’s letter with a trembling hand. “Remarkable woman. So much pain, so much trouble. I had no idea. No idea.” Sharon sat there shaking her head and I knew she was silently wishing she could have done something more for Amanda, found some way to ease her burden. I felt the same.
I hadn’t seen Billy disappear—where he went to I had no idea—but I knew he would reappear when needed, kind of like a superhero of sorts. My superhero. I pictured him wearing one of those tight, red and blue spandex superhero suits. I bet his ass would be a whole new kind of magnificent in such a getup. He would be mortified if he knew I was imagining such things. No matter, they could never find one in his size. His heart was too big.
Our silent reverie was broken by the arrival of Clyde stepping out of his office. “Oh good. You’re here, Jack. Welcome back, my boy.” He came around Sharon’s desk and shook my hand. He seemed to have recovered himself overnight and his mood was much more relaxed today. His dark charcoal suit looked freshly pressed and he had on a fantastic gray and white striped tie, making his gray-blue eyes pop. He looked good.
“Good morning, Clyde. I didn’t get a chance yesterday but I want to apologize for falling apart like I did. Not my best day.”
“Nonsense, Jack. Perfectly understandable. We threw much too much at you at one time. Woulda happened to anyone. But I’m glad you’re here today. I thought we could sit down, see what questions you have and then figure out where to go from there.”
He made perfect sense to me. “I think I can do that, Clyde. But can I ask a favor?”
“Could Sharon join us? I want her to know what’s going on and maybe help me get my head around all of this.”
“Sounds perfectly fine, Jack. A splendid idea. Sharon, is it alright with you?” asked Clyde.
“I’d be honored.” As she got up and we all made our way into the conference room, I watched her closely. She really was honored by me including her, I think. I was starting to care for this woman a great deal.
We got ourselves situated at the table–I chose a different seat at one end, hoping I could forget the disaster of yesterday. Clyde got some coffee for Sharon and himself and a bottle of water for me. I thought about what I wanted to ask first.
“Well, before I ask any questions, I would like to tell you both I appreciate all you have done for me so far. I told Billy this morning I would have been lost without your help. You have been so generous with me and, despite me losing it yesterday, I really just want to say thank you.” They both nodded, accepting my thanks humbly.
“Finding out about Amanda was a shock, to say the least, but I’m grateful a significant part of my life has been explained and I now know where I came from. Clyde, in her letter, Amanda told me about my birth father–unfortunately he passed away before I was born, which was partly why she gave me up for adoption in the first place. She also told me why she gave me all the money, which was really the most confusing part to me. Who gives a total stranger everything they own? It made no sense.
“But she told me it was to be used as a tool to make life better for whoever I could. I know I can never be a medical researcher or do the same kinds of things she and Phillip and Patrick did. But I believe I can do something with my life. I want to try anyway. But the truth is, as great as that sounds, I really have absolutely no idea how to handle so much money or how to turn it into a tool like she suggested.
“So I guess my first question is pretty simple. Now that I am the owner or heir or whatever of the Franklin Trust, what do I have to do right away? How am I supposed to manage the money? And how do I learn how to handle all this?”
I knew I was throwing more than one question out there but it all came out in a rush. Clyde, however, was ready for them.
“Well, Jack, I think the first thing to understand is there really is nothing you need to do right away. Part of the paperwork we prepared and you signed yesterday basically did everything necessary for now. Would you like for me to explain what we did?”
“Yes, please do.”
“Okay. Well, the main thing was we needed to establish you as the controlling entity for the trust. It means you have all the authority and final say in how things are handled. It doesn’t mean you can’t have help–it just means as the owner and manager of it all, you get the final word. Good so far?”
Clyde was being very patient with me today. I think he had been advised by someone to take things a little slower for a novice like me. I looked at Sharon and she smiled.
“I’m good. But why did the name change? The paper Larry showed me said it was called the Jack Schaeffer Living Trust now. Why?”
“Well, Jack, I thought since you are not legally a member of the Franklin Family, seeing as you were adopted and there are no other surviving Franklins to speak of, it made sense to change the name of the trust to your name going forward.”
“Okay, I get that. But who knows now this has happened? That I inherited all this money? Besides you guys and Larry and the judge, I mean.”
“Only a few people on Larry’s team at the bank who handle all the investments and accounts for the trust. They have to know because of the name changes on everything. But to them, it’s just a name. They don’t have any idea who you are. And I guess we could include the clerks at the courthouse–I mean they saw the court order naming you the sole beneficiary of the estate, but honestly, they see so much of this kind of thing. I can’t imagine they paid very close attention at all.”
“So...if I wanted to keep all of this a secret so no one knew my identity, for now, is that possible?”
“Sure. I think it’s entirely possible. In fact, I would think it’s highly advisable. The fewer people who know, the less chance you get bombarded with requests for donations to one thing or another. Always a curse for wealthy people.” I tensed at the idea that I was now a wealthy person. I didn’t feel any differently than I did yesterday, financially speaking. And I certainly wasn’t wealthy when I arrived in Denver.
“What about using my name as the name of the trust. Doesn’t it kinda make it obvious?”
“Well, keep in mind, Jack, the trust is a private entity, so there is no public record of the trust itself. The IRS assigns an identifying number to the trust for tax purposes but that number doesn’t identify any person or trustee directly. We filed a name change only yesterday so, as far as they are concerned, the trust is still the same numbered entity. Nothing hits your personal taxes unless you choose to do so, maybe for some tax benefit. You’d have to ask Larry more about the tax implications. If you are still concerned about it, we can always change the name again to something less personal. Whadda ya think? You wanna make a change?”
“Yeah, maybe. I’m just concerned. I have . . . relatives. If they ever found out...oh, man...I would be a sitting duck for every hair-brained notion you could imagine. The guilt would be flowing hot and heavy, everyone expecting me to fix all their problems. I’m not saying I won’t someday help some of them, but right now I want to avoid the whole thing. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I will tell anyone about the money. At least not how much. So yeah, I really don’t want my name on it, just in case by chance someone who knows me finds out. It would ruin everything. I’m pretty sure that is not what Amanda intended.”
“We can make the change, Jack, no problem. Do you have a name in mind?” Clyde had his pen out ready to write the name down. I realized I didn’t know what to call it.
“I’m not sure. Sharon, what do you think?”
“Well, Jack. I understand why you don’t want to use your full name. I agree it could cause some unfortunate problems for sure. What about this? Use just your last name. It’s a fairly common name, so it wouldn’t raise any flags or draw attention to you personally. I even found a lot of people named ‘Jack Schaeffer’ out there when I was searching for you, so I think you would be fairly anonymous with just your last name.”
It all sounded good to me and I was much more comfortable with making the name change. I didn’t say it to them but part of why I freaked out yesterday was my name on Larry’s piece of paper. It was like I was suddenly permanently attached to something I wasn’t sure I wanted anything to do with. If the name was not so personal, maybe I could think of it as less about me and more about the money as a tool. I’m not the hammer, I’m just the guy who uses the hammer.
I had a sudden brainstorm. Why not make it look more business-like? Like a company which does things to help people. It was my working plan anyway, such as it was. Clyde thought it could work well, so we settled on renaming the trust as the Schaeffer & Associates Executive Trust. I liked it. I didn’t know who the associates would be but I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be doing this alone. I would still be the sole trustee but I would have the authority to assign other people to manage different parts of it. I wasn’t sure yet what it all meant. Baby steps.
“So, Clyde, how does a trust work? I mean, I only ever had a checking account, and maybe a savings account when I was a kid. I mostly just have bills now.”
Clyde and Sharon both laughed. “It’s a little different, Jack. The trust is really a collection of a number of things,” said Clyde. “There are stocks, bonds, mutual funds, some real estate and a few other assets. I’m sure there is also a way to access funds like you normally would with a checking account. We’ll have to ask Larry about the details of how it all works. He set up everything for Phillip and Amanda and I’m sure he can get you set up as well. In fact, I spoke with him earlier this morning. He wanted to know if you were coming over to the bank this afternoon. I think he wanted a chance to go over some of this kind of thing with you, if you’re up to it. I suppose you don’t have to do it today if not.”
I sighed and looked at Sharon. “This is really happening, isn’t it?”
She reached across the table and patted my hand. “Yes, baby, it is. But you can handle it. Take it slow and you’ll find your way in no time. You don’t have to understand it all in one day.” I didn’t have her confidence.
I thought about Amanda’s words again. Do it afraid. The truth was, I really was afraid. Not of the money itself, but of making a huge mistake with it. I didn’t know the first thing about investments or real estate or any of those things Clyde said. I didn’t want to screw it all up and ruin any chance of using it for something good.
I remembered she had said she left all the money decisions to the bankers and lawyers. She didn’t even know how much there was. Apparently she trusted Larry and Clyde to take care of it for her. Could I do the same? Would they want to? I wasn’t a friend like Phillip and Amanda. I knew they probably got paid some kind of fee for their work. But could I trust them like the Franklins had? I hoped so but I also knew I needed to start learning how to use the tool if it was ever going to be useful in my hands.
“Well, I have to start learning sometime, so I guess I better go see Larry. Hope he’s a patient teacher,” I said.
Clyde sensed my hesitation. “I think you’ll find Larry a real ally and someone you can trust. He can be a little abrupt but he knows his stuff. That man can turn two cents into a thousand dollars in a week.” Sharon nodded her head in agreement.
“Thing is, you’d never know it by the way he lives. Drives a ten year old car, lives in an old musty apartment building when he could choose any penthouse in the city and eats frozen dinners most nights. Man is worth millions and lives like a pauper. I asked him why he drove a beat up car one time and you know what he said? It’s the making of the money that excited him, not the spending of it. Wish he could convince my wife of that. Of course, if he did, the shopping malls around here would go broke.”
Sharon and I laughed at Clyde’s backhanded endorsement of Larry. He seemed like a financial genius–hopefully he could put up with a total beginner for a while.
Clyde suggested we firm up an appointment with Larry for the afternoon, before asking me out to lunch since he didn’t get to yesterday. Sounded good to me. He excused himself to make the call to Larry and start the name change paperwork.