This story developed over the course of a few years, finally “resolving” a few months ago.
As my grandmother was getting older, everyone in the family was anticipating the unfortunate yet inevitable day when she would be unable to drive her own car. Since we knew how much she valued being able to run her own errands, my father and aunt held off having that talk for as long as possible.
For most of this time, my grandmother told my sister that she would receive the car when that day came. We didn’t take this as an iron-clad agreement, but we did believe that eventually the car would be my sister’s, barring any mechanical issues. However, word trickled through the grapevine that my eldest cousin would occasionally call my grandmother and ask outright if the car could be his when she couldn’t drive it anymore!
We were all wary of this and hoped that our grandmother would remember that she had promised the car to my sister, especially since my cousins would often get hand-me-down cars from their other grandmother. While neither set of grandchildren was entitled to any car from either grandmother, we thought it was fair that this car would come to our family if Grandma decided.
One night we got the call that my grandmother was in the hospital following a heart attack. She was in weak, but stable condition and we all went to visit her for a few hours. While we sat, my aunt explained that one of their cars had broken down, so two of my cousins were getting a ride from a friend because my aunt had arrived straight from work and could not pick them up. After my cousins arrived, they and my aunt eventually decided to “borrow” Grandma’s car until theirs could be fixed. My family saw warning lights, but kept quiet because the visit was about being with our grandmother and not squabbling over her property.
When Grandma recovered, it was sadly decided that she was unfit to drive anymore. As far as I know, the question of the who would get the car was never brought up with her, although my father decided not to put up a fight for it with my aunt to avoid conflict in an already tense and emotional situation. The car stayed with my cousins even though Grandma, as far as I know, had never explicitly said they could have it. Occasionally she would ask where it had ended up (her memory isn’t what it used to be), and we would remind her that it was at her daughter’s house. We never spoke to her about how it ended up there.
A few months later, we learned that my eldest cousin had never transferred the ownership, and that there had been some minor damage to the car for which my grandmother had been billed. My father reminded my aunt that the ownership should be transferred, and then didn’t bring it up again because a) it wasn’t his business and b) she and her son are adults who should not need to be pestered to take care of the transfer. Fast forward to a few months later, and we learn that the car has been totaled after less than a year with my cousin. I forget if the ownership and insurance had been transferred by then, but I suspect it had not. 0327-14
I think your father is doing an admirable job keeping the focus on grandmother and not making an issue over a material possession. I would caution you to be careful not to get sucked into the drama over property before Grandma dies lest you start to look like a greedy pig squabbling with relatives over who gets what. Dignity and pride should be far more valuable than any car and if the cousins and aunts want to expose themselves as shallow, greedy and petty, let them. You stay above the fray like your father is doing.