‘Some times I take a great notion’: an update

by Bernard Brandt

Nearly two weeks ago, I wrote a rather dismal little essay here. I write this now to inform my six or seven readers that rumors of my demise, or my self-engineered demise, are a trifle exaggerated.

I’m afraid, though, that I did not tell the whole story. What triggered my meltdown was a comment made by my brother, Bill.

The comment, when I asked him for help from my family to pay for my April rent, was: ‘Because of tax problems, I don’t think I can continue helping you. You’ll have to talk with your other brother about that.’

Now, my brother Bill has a heart of gold, and is one of the best and kindest people whom I know. My other brother, however…

Let’s just say that relations between me and my other brother rather resemble those of Prospero and Antonio in Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest.  And so I came to the conclusion that it would be best to look into possible tax issues and to see if there was any merit in what my other brother was telling Bill. There wasn’t.

Yesterday, through a rather extended comedy of errors, involving my car breaking down on the way to church, I wound up at my brother’s place, where he was serving my mother Eggs Benedict for Mother’s Day. Beautifully done, too, with home made muffins, Black Forest ham, perfectly poached eggs, and a gorgeous Hollandaise sauce. He served me, too, and then went out to repair my car.

When Bill was done, and we got to talking, I asked him if he could tell me what the tax problem was. Bill said that he had been told by my other brother that after a set yearly amount, people who gave money to others had to pay 35% in gift taxes, and he wasn’t sure that our mother’s trust could afford that. I told Bill that while that was the case, there was also a lifetime exclusion of more than five million dollars which  could also be drawn upon to keep from paying the 35% gift tax. Besides, said I, my rent could be reduced to the place where we didn’t even get to the set limit, and if so, it would be unnecessary even to report the gift. Bill nodded, and then said, ‘I don’t think there will be any problem in our helping you, then.’

So, basically, I was on the verge of being homeless, because my other brother had given Bill inaccurate tax advice.

FAIR WARNING: I am uninterested in either naming or shaming my other brother. Comments which attempt to do that, either here on my weblog, or on Facebook, will be summarily deleted, if I have anything to say about it. As a matter of fact, when I was severely tempted to make such comments myself, my nephew John quite kindly stopped me, by saying, ‘Remember that maxim of Napoleon’s that you’re always quoting to me? That might just apply here.’

That maxim, by the bye, is ‘never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence.’

Knowing what I do of my other brother, that works. Quite well, as a matter of fact.