You never know where your loved ones will stash their valuables

Don’t keep the secret stash too secret

By  Quentin Schesnuik, Catholic Register Special
  • November 1, 2014

Many people are so worried that thieves will break into their homes that they hide their valuables. And sometimes they neglect to let anyone know where things are. 

I am constantly amazed (and entertained) by the stories parishioners share with me. I’ve learned a simple lesson: If you have hidden valuables, let your loved ones know where (and what) they are. Consider writing down where you have hidden them and keep the list in a safety deposit box with your will. This way your estate trustee will be able to find them when the time comes. Otherwise, you run the risk of having them accidentally thrown out or given away. 

As you read what follows, bear in mind that the solution to each situation entails a simple conversation. 

• Perhaps the strangest story I’ve heard was about a man who, after his first wife passed away, had her cremated and the ashes placed inside a green frog which he placed on the fireplace mantle. What he neglected to do (besides burying her in accordance with Church teaching) was to tell his second wife about the contents of the frog. 

One day he went on a business trip. While away, his second wife decided to have a garage sale. Along with the old tennis racquets, hockey skates, VHS tapes and Mother Goose nursery rhyme books was a green frog. She got $2 for it. 

The next day, the husband came home. 

“WHERE’S WILMA?” he cried. 

“What?” 

“WILMA! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH WILMA?” he shouted, pointing to the mantle. 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she replied. 

“The green frog on the mantle. Wilma was in there!” 

“What are you talking about?” she asked. 

He had never told her that his first wife’s cremated remains were inside the green frog. He likely feared it would make her uncomfortable. Three hours later, and after much explaining, he called the local radio station. 

The radio station said they would be happy to help. They loved the story, simply because it’s the kind of story that radio stations love. They aired it throughout the course of the day, the DJ repeating over and over again that whoever had bought the green frog at a garage sale at 55 Wibensdale Dr. to return it as soon as possible. A man’s first wife was inside. 

• Then there’s the priest who once shared with me that, after his grandfather had passed away, the family gathered in his grandfather’s personal library. The deceased had a lot of books. He loved to read. One of the grandchildren was flipping through a book and found a $100 bill tucked neatly inside. 

Everyone looked at one another. “I wonder if there’s any more money inside the books?” someone asked. 

When they were done, there was almost $10,000 on the floor. 

• A couple was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and, to celebrate, their children decided to send them on a cruise because their parents had never travelled anywhere. As a bonus, after the parents left, the children decided to buy them a new bedroom set. 

When the parents returned, the mother almost had a heart attack. 

“WHERE’S THE BED?” 

The poor woman had stuffed all the family valuables into the mattress, which had gone to the landfill. The valuables were lost forever. 

• A deacon shared a story about what happened to his mother shortly after his father passed away. No one knew where his father had hidden the family valuables. His mother was distraught. She phoned all her children asking them for financial help. The deacon said he would be happy to help, but also recommended that she seek the intercession of the Virgin Mary. She agreed. 

The next day, she called him back. While sorting through his father’s possessions, someone accidentally knocked over a large statue of Our Lady. It broke and out spilled all the family valuables. His father had hidden everything inside the statue. 

The moral of these stories is to be sure to tell loved ones or leave a record about where valuables have been hidden. We don’t want the landfill or a stranger to become an unintended beneficiary! 

(Schesnuik is the Manager of Planned Giving and Personal Gifts for the Development Office of the Archdiocese of Toronto. He is available for estate planning presentations by phone (416-934-3400 ext. 561) or e-mail: development@ archtoronto.org.) 

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