In my final tale of sluggishness, I turn to the story of Tom and Sally. Tom was shy man and throughout his long life, he kept himself to himself. He had lived in the same two up two down terraced house he had rented in
Oldham since 1960. About 10 years ago when he turned seventy years old, he found it more difficult to do the general household chores and his neighbour, young Sally, started to do the odd job for him.
Sally was divorced in her thirties and after her husband deserted her, she was struggling to bring up her three children. It was not easy making ends meet, but she cheerfully managed and befriended Tom who was grateful for the help and the company.
Tom’s condition grew worse and Sally started to look after him more by cleaning, washing and going to the shops every week. When Tom had to take to his bed, Sally visited him three or four times a day and he relied on her more and more. Sally was now Tom’s carer.
Eventually Tom had to go into hospital and sadly, he died. Sally was his only visitor in the short time he was there. She arranged his funeral, which was attended only by a handful of neighbours, because as far as Sally knew, Tom had no family. Tom also did not have a Will, so he died intestate.
A few years later, there was a knock at Sally’s door. The smartly dressed man asked her probing questions about Tom’s family and past. There was not much to tell except that she thought his mother was born in Rochdale and her name was
. Tom had never spoken about his family or friends. Alice
The smartly dressed man was an heir hunter and he went away to trace Tom’s family tree. The name of Tom’s mother was enough for him to piece together Tom’s family.
Eventually, he found some distant cousins on Tom’s father’s side and he set off to visit them. After validating the family tree, the six cousins three times removed suddenly became interested in the long lost relation they never knew existed. The smartly dressed heir hunter applied to the Probate Court for release of Tom’s estate. To their great surprise, each cousin received £30,000 after the smartly dressed man’s commission.
It transpired Tom had won about £260,000 on the football pools in 1990 and had not spent it.
Sally got nothing. The cousins did not know her and did not feel obliged to give a small token of thanks for looking after Tom and helping the smartly dressed man find them.
It is almost certain that Tom would have thought of Sally as his only family, but his sluggishness prevented him from preparing his Will to transform her difficult life into something a little less harsh. It could also have been Tom’s way of saying ‘thanks Sal’.
Sluggishness leads to intestacy, both of which are completely avoidable.