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Deputy Stassin sat in a fancy conference room with the name Beatey, Shemanski, and Dwyer on the wall. It housed the law office of Sarah Koehler’s lawyer Harry Shemanski. Stassin had decided to “follow the money” and obtained a subpoena for financial records, tax returns, and the Sarah and Grant Koehler Living Trust. He wanted to determine the financial benefit to Sarah if her husband were gone. Shemanski agreed to talk with him after Sarah gave permission. Slouched behind his desk, Shemanski was a skinny man about 6ft 4’’ tall. He appeared to be in his 60s with gray hair, dark glasses, and a wrinkled face. Stassin started the meeting as soon as Harry opened his files. “We noticed when we looked at these documents in our office that Grant did not have his wife’s name on all his assets. For example, Koehler Iron Works is held in Grant’s name only. Why is this?” Stassin inquired.

“That’s easy to explain,” Shemanski responded. “My client Sarah and her husband mutually decided it could open their marital assets up to lawsuits if they treated Koehler as a marital asset. Koehler Iron Works is a limited partnership, but cases still exist where personal assets have been dragged into business lawsuits. We decided it would be best for Grant to hold this asset alone in the LLC.”

“So Sarah had no direct claim on this substantial asset prior to Grant’s death.”

“That’s technically correct.”

“Is it true your client is now negotiating with a venture capital firm to sell Koehler Iron Works?”

“There have been preliminary discussions that I have been privy to. Nothing has been finalized, nor could it be until Grant’s estate settles.”

“But that’s the plan, right? Your client does intend to sell it.”

“Well, I can’t see my client, Mrs. Koehler, wanting to run an Iron Works facility. That would be something she lacks the expertise and desire to be involved with.”

“Tell me about the life insurance policy Grant took out 18 months ago,” Stassin asked.

“There’s a $2 million policy that exists. Grant insisted on this to ensure Sarah would be taken care of. Even with an asset as substantial as Koehler Iron Works, liquidating a business can take substantial time. This could cause a cash shortage for my client that her husband wanted to address.”

“So she will be receiving that $2 million quite soon?”

“The claim has been filed, but I don’t expect any payment until the criminal case is wrapped up.”

“Lastly, how is Grant’s daughter Julie affected by this death from a financial perspective?”

“Grant and Sarah set up a trust fund for her that would activate upon the death of either parent. It’s funded in the amount of $500,000. With her father’s death, Julie will receive $8,000 monthly until the trust expires, which should occur in about six years. This will help her establish her career in NY design circles. Anything else I can help you with?”

“No, sir, I think I have what I need for now. I may be back in touch at some point, but I appreciate your time today.”


Cyrus Campbell and his wife Martha had not left the house since they attended the funeral service for Grant. Today they finally ventured out to Petoskey, where Martha had an appointment with her oncologist. The pancreatic cancer advanced more rapidly than expected. When the doctor completed his examination, he saw no evidence of remission in her stage four diagnosis. He raised the issue of hospice to make her more comfortable. Cyrus dreaded this day but would do anything to make her last days bearable.

He helped her into her favorite chair in the living room when they returned home while he went upstairs to pay some bills. Cyrus wouldn’t have worried too much about his growing expenses years ago. He earned more than double his current monthly payments when oil was first discovered on his land. In the past year, the proceeds from oil were down over 50% as the pool diminished. Gar Cherington had warned him that a lawsuit against Superior could devastate Cyrus if successful. Many of Superior’s clients were at serious risk. Cyrus had a lot less money than everyone in the county thought. Superior deducted increasing expenses from his monthly payments as the remaining oil in the pool became more expensive to extract. Cyrus could no longer sleep soundly at night because of worries about money and Martha.

Cyrus’s son Vince had returned home to Norton Shores with granddaughter Ashley. Cyrus missed having them around because they added much-needed positive energy to the home. He hoped they could come back and see Martha at least one more time before she passed. Having them around kept his mind off his financial problems and worrying about his beloved Martha.

It was now late in the afternoon, but Cyrus still had one more important meeting coming up this day. A black Ford pickup truck pulled up in front of his home, and Eddie Koehler stepped out of the truck and greeted Cyrus warmly. “Hey Cyrus, you old coot, it’s great to see you.”

“Always good to see you too, Eddie.”

“How are things going here at home? I hope everyone is doing well.”

“I am doing as well as expected for an old farmer who feels like he just got run over by his tractor. Martha is inside, sleeping, and not feeling well today. I hoped we could talk inside the barn to avoid disturbing her.”

“That works fine for me, Cyrus. I’ll follow you over there.”

They proceeded to the large barn behind the house. It contained a tractor and various other pieces of farm equipment. A black cat scurried away as they entered. The cat lived in the barn and embraced his job of keeping the stored grain free from mice. The barn felt cold and grimy, with a small table on one side. It smelled of dust and grain mixed with diesel fuel from the tractors. Eddie grabbed a bucket to sit on while Cyrus sat in the only fold-up chair in the barn. Eddie started the conversation out. “Thanks for meeting with me, Cyrus. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I should do since we last met at the Coyote Grill. With the death of my brother, I’m obviously not going to be able to get the money I need from Grant. The casino is still pressuring me to clear up my $100k debt. I need to do something fairly quickly, or else I am in big trouble. Before I go any further, are you still saying you wouldn‘t be able to give me a straight-up loan for the money?”

“Eddie, here’s the deal, as I explained at the bar. I can’t make loans in this community. Everyone thinks I have all this money, which isn’t true. Once word gets out, and it always does, every yahoo in the county is gonna hit me up for money. Also, my tax guy says I can’t do it either. Something about capital gains and earned income that I will admit I don’t fully understand. A direct loan is not going to work.”

“I understand, Cy. I just wanted to be sure nothing has changed. Jeff doesn't have that kind of money, so I didn’t mention it to him yet. I feel bad even asking for help. You and Martha were always like a second set of parents to me growing up. Vince and I spent almost as much time in your house as I did in my own home.

That second option we briefly discussed is one I think we can do. We talked a bit about it last time. I also spoke with that lawyer, Clay Thome, about partitioning our Roads End property.”

“Tell me again, Eddie, what Thome explained to you about a partition action. I want to make sure we’re on the same page.”

“Ok, here’s the summary of what he said. A partition action is a process that allows an owner to split up jointly owned property so a portion can be sold. It’s common when multiple family members inherit a cottage or home, and only one wants to sell. Once it’s partitioned, I could sell my acreage to pay off my debt. Thome says I can definitely do it now following Grant’s passing. While Grant lived, it wouldn’t have been possible since I only owned ? of the property. Thome told me Judge Harrison, who would have to approve it, would never agree without Jeff and Grant buying in. It also didn't help that Judge Harrison liked Grant and sat on the school board with him. Harrison would want to see at least 50 percent of the property ownership agreeing to the partition before he would approve it. I know my brothers would never even hear of it. However, now I own half of the property. That’s why Thome says the partition action would surely be approved by the judge. Are you with me so far, Cyrus?”

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