Where there's a will, there's a family fighting over it...

By Will N. Testament

Questions regarding a well-known Little Vatican resident’s seemingly drastic death-bed decision to draft a new will have made their way to the Frank bunker.

Malcolm Edward MacEachern, 91-year-old widower and former chief of the old Antigonish Town Police Force, died November 11 at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital.

Affectionately known by friends as “Malcy,” his obituary notes he is survived by six children, 10 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren, along with one sister. His wife Joan died in 2017 at the age of 83.

The publicly available will, dated October 21, names his son James MacEachern as sole executor and trustee, and sole beneficiary of an estate which probate records value at $276,616 ($255,000 in real property and $21,616 in personal property).

Property records show that Malcolm’s property, which includes his long-time home at 154 College St., Antigonish (2020 tax assessment: $137,900) and 260 acres on Marsh Road in Ballantynes Cove ($33,900 residential; $86,200 resource forest) was migrated into James’s name on December 23, five days after the will was granted probate in Antigonish on December 18.

James, early 60ish, is the owner of James MacEachern Boom Truck Services.

One of the family’s many concerns is that several family members reside on Malcolm’s former Ballantynes Cove property, also the location of the patriarch’s woodlot. Although the expectation was always that Malcolm would leave his daughter Darlene, his son Carmen and Darlene’s daughter Holly their own plots of land when the time comes, the fear now is that tension within the family is so high that James is liable to evict them.

Some family members believe that during his final months, James and his wife, St. Martha’s cardiac nurse Veronica, coerced Malcolm into bequeathing the entire estate to James.

One MacEachern family member tells me that nearing the end of his life, his greatest wish was to die at home. Diagnosed with rectal cancer and admitted to St. Martha’s in June, by early October he knew death was imminent. According to the family member, who requested anonymity, Malcolm said that James and Veronica told him he could go home if he signed everything over.

Reached at their Lakevale home (4861 Highway 337, 2020 tax assessment: $88,000), Veronica says she has no idea why her father-in-law made a new will, but she knows that save for a change in executor, the new will and an older version contain the same instructions.

When I tell her that family members are insisting that the newest will superseded a different document naming various other family members as beneficiaries, Veronica says those family members are lying.

But the existence of such a document clearly makes her nervous, as sources noted that following our conversation, Veronica spoke to various family members, warning that any copies of Malcolm’s will in their possession — aside from the latest one, of course — are invalid and should be destroyed.

Although various other family members are named as beneficiaries in the previous will, even then it was far from an even split, owing to Malcolm’s concerns that any inheritance might ruin those of his children with addiction issues.

“It was something that (Malcolm) struggled with,” notes a source familiar with the lay of the land.

For her part, Veronica is adamant that her husband would never evict family from their homes.

“He would never do that. I would never allow him to do that,” she tells me.

“If that’s what they’re worried about, all they had to do is pick up the phone.”

It’s hardly news to me at this point that the family suffers from a serious communication problem.

Regarding the reason why James found it necessary to inform his siblings about the time and location of their father’s burial by placing a typewritten note in their mailboxes, Veronica says that method was “recommended by clergy,” as most family members have them blocked on Facebook.

Whatever happened to picking up the phone, indeed.

While James was not at home when I called — and he failed to get back to me before press time — I ask Veronica the question that’s on everybody’s mind.

“Why would an elderly widower with six children sign a will three weeks before his death, leaving everything to one child?”

“Perhaps the fact that James has been paying his bills for the last 20 years,” comes Veronica’s quick response, one that she later characterizes as something that slipped out, something she never should have said.

“That’s between a father and his son,” she tells me, along with instructions that I am forbidden to quote her in any way, shape or form on anything.

For whatever reason, she was feeling more loose-lipped just a few hours after we spoke.

“Don’t mess with me,” she warns in one Facebook post, “Unless you are ready to have all skeletons out.”

“Be careful people. It’s all going to be in Frank if you aren’t.”

(Note to self: delete any and all references to the ‘Wicked Witch of Lakevale’ — ed.)

Later, she’s feeling downright giddy.

“Just got off the phone with Frank Magazine!!” she writes in another post.

“You sure as hell don’t want to miss the one in two weeks.”

Despite the fact that Chestnut Street, Antigonish sole practitioner Bill Meehan’s signature is on Malcolm’s last will and testament, he politely responded to my e-mailed questions (his phone went straight to voicemail and wasn’t accepting messages) by noting his relationship and dealings with Malcolm, “if any,” would be confidential.

One family member notes that Veronica and James began making the case that Malcolm was slipping mentally in December of 2017, shortly after the death of his wife.

Although others felt Malcolm was as sharp as ever, by early January of 2018, during an assessment with St. Martha’s geriatric specialist Dr. Mary Gorman — at this point James and Veronica had moved in with him on College Street — Veronica described her father-in-law’s occasional incoherence, inappropriate conversations, and complaints that he wasn’t bathing and would sometimes leave burners going on the stove.

Despite the fact that other family members provided witnesses — including a homecare worker who assured Dr. Gorman that Malcy was golden — his driver’s licence was revoked.

It was in early March of 2018, upset upon his realization that Veronica’s input was the reason why he couldn’t drive anymore, when he booted them out of the house. And it was then, I understand, when he authorized the new will that Veronica insists never existed.

“There was nothing wrong with his mind,” Veronica quickly insists when I bring up the topic of family fights over Malcolm’s competency.

But then, with the very real possibility of some family members making a move to contest the will, she would have to say that, wouldn’t she?