Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 20, 2012

'Blood Money' should be handled carefully


CNHI

— Kathy Trant attracted worldwide attention a few years ago by quickly spending the $4.7 million she received for the death of her husband who was killed in the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center attack.

I'm not surprised by Trant's story. I have seen the same story played out hundreds of times with larger and smaller sums of money.

Trant called it "blood money." Her spending sprees are a sub-conscious and probably sometimes conscious effort to run through the money.

It is a common feeling amongst widows and widowers. Some people use drugs and alcohol. These people use "blood money."

Many people think that if they get rid of the money their lives will go back to normal.

Often, I see a grief-ridden person influenced by family and friends. I have had a number of widows and widowers remarry quickly and then turn all financial decisions over to the new spouse. Usually, the new spouse and the money run out at about the same time.

Many years ago, I had a client whose wife was killed in a car accident. He received a $500,000 settlement. I invested his money, but every month, the new wife would come to my office wanting to withdraw more. Each time, she was sporting new jewelry, a mink coat and other expensive items. I finally went to their house and told them they were going to run out of money.

They moved their money to another broker.

Within six months, she had spent the entire $500,000 and left town.

Putting money in a structured settlement and giving victims a monthly payment is the only real solution I have.

I started out using structured settlements as a financial planning tool and became a true believer.

It is hard for someone who has gone through hell to think clearly about their money. Someone who has just lost their spouse has no chance.

There is a small window of time before people actually receive money to set things up right. After that, pressures and people get in the way.

I feel sorry for everyone involved. I feel sorry for the widows and widowers. Not only have they lost their spouses, but after they run through the money they are worse off financially than ever.

I also feel bad about the spouses who died thinking that their families were taken care of. People buy life insurance because they want their loved ones to achieve life goals. They don't pay for life insurance so someone can take six "friends" to the Super Bowl.

A lot of widow and widowers wake up every day asking "How can I live without you?" I'm not sure how, but they eventually start to cope with their situation.

Kathy Trant has been through hell. If her attorneys, advisors, or friends had insisted that she needed to put her money in a structured settlement or a trust, she would be able to live a comfortable life; now she won't.

She can't get the money back from the six leeches that she took to the Super Bowl. People who prey on grieving widows don't have the money or conscience to help her. I suspect she subconsciously thinks that getting rid of the money will bring back her husband and her old life.

Her husband is not coming back. She, and others like her, need to answer the question, "How do I live without you," by answering, "With great memories and the money you left to help me through this."

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Don McNay is a columnist for the Richmond (Ky.) Register. Contact him at don@mcnay.com.