When I Last Saw You - Bette Lee Crosby Page 0,1

toyed with the ring on her finger. “No, but it’s only been ten days. Albert always handled our financial affairs. With him gone, I might need to consider using a financial planner.”

Jeffrey hesitated several seconds before speaking again. “Do whatever you think best, but I hope when it comes to your interest in McCutcheon and Schoenfeld you’ll trust my judgment. I’d like to maintain control of the firm, because doing so is in the best interest of both the firm and our clients. While I can’t force you to sell your shares, I will ask that you don’t sell them to an outsider.”

“What happens if I keep Albert’s shares?”

“You continue to receive a percent of the firm’s net revenues commensurate with the number of shares you hold. Of course, revenue share amounts can go up or down depending on the business, but with a buyout you’re guaranteed a lump sum to invest in whatever you like. The stock market, real estate, bonds…”

Beneath the guise of friendship, Margaret heard the silvery sound of lawyer talk. It always came like a mudslide of words to cover a person’s ulterior motive. Albert trusted Jeffrey, but she didn’t.

“I’m not ready to make this decision. I need time to think it over.”

“Okay, but bear in mind your decision should take into account whatever plans you have for the subsequent dissolution of the estate.”

“Dissolution of the estate?”

Eyeing her over the top of his glasses, he gave a nod, reached into his briefcase, and pulled out a folder. “Here’s a copy of Albert’s will, which is what we need to talk about.”

In more than one way, Jeffrey reminded her of the Albert she’d seen at work in the courtroom: sharp-edged and determined, his jaw set firm, his face expressionless until he needed to draw on the emotions of the jury.

Jeffrey’s furrowed brow and look of concern was the same as she’d seen Albert wear during the Robinson trial. Eddie Robinson was a construction worker who’d limped into the courtroom claiming a scaffolding accident had left him unable to work. Thanks to Albert, he’d gotten a hefty settlement and walked away whistling. Afterward when Margaret asked if Eddie’s injury was legitimate, Albert said he believed it was. Still, she had her suspicions.

A few weeks later, she spotted Eddie high footing it along Cameo Street, no trace of a limp. Later that evening, she told Albert what she’d seen and asked what he was going to do.

“Nothing,” he said. “My job was to present the client’s claim, not decide if he’s telling the truth.”

Albert’s answer had irked Margaret and she’d told him so, but he stayed firm on his position.

“Life is not always fair,” he said. “You don’t get to judge another person unless you’ve spent time walking around in his shoes.”

Jeffrey leaned forward, elbows on knees. “I hate to bring this up when you’ve already got so much on your plate, but unfortunately it’s necessary.”

Margaret left the folder lying on the coffee table. “I’ve already seen Albert’s will, and I know he left everything to me. I can’t see why there’d be any questions.”

“The issue is not about the estate passing to you. It’s about subsequent distribution. Albert’s will did not have a per stirpes clause and without—”

“I don’t understand. Distribution of what?”

“Everything. The entire estate, including his shares in McCutcheon and Schoenfeld.”

With what she could almost believe to be a genuine look of concern, he reached across and touched her hand.

“Albert’s will was drawn up in 1941, and, yes, he left everything to you, but he never updated that will so there is no directive regarding further distribution. Without having a per stirpes clause that directs distribution upon your demise, the entire estate could default to the state of Georgia.”

Margaret’s throat tightened. She’d barely come to grips with Albert’s death, and now she was being forced to think about her own.

“That’s crazy.”

“Don’t worry,” he said in a less lawyerly tone. “There’s an easy fix to prevent this from happening. Our office can file the paperwork transferring all of Albert’s assets so they’re registered under your name. Then we can liquidate anything you want to turn into cash and draw up a will designating the beneficiary to inherit your estate.”

Margaret turned away, looking first at the ceiling then toward the window that faced out onto Pine Street. In all the years she and Albert had been together, they’d never spoken of things like death and distribution. They’d talked of planning for the future, but it was always about