Tuesday, May 24, 2011

So, who gets your stuff? A post-apocalyptic guide to thriving and surviving the next wave of Rapture hysteria

Admit it. You were sort of hoping your pious Aunt Sally and her equally righteous big screen would be among the 200 million or so destined to float skyward on Saturday, May 21 as part of the Rapture Day extravaganza.

Not the big screen, of course. Just Sally. Her coveted earthly 60-inch plasma was all but out the door the moment your favorite widowed aunt began roosting on that cumulus cloud she was fixing to call home for eternity. Or, at least, until well after the warranty on the set expired.

But not so fast. Put down the remote. There are, of course, a host of unanswered questions surrounding this rapture thing. Among them: "So, who gets your stuff?" Or, in this case, Aunt Sally's stuff.

When the trumpet sounds - assuming it's not the kid next door tuning up for band practice - personal injury attorneys will likely liquidate their foam collar inventories to make room for the post-rapture walk-ins eager to claim dibs on the real estate and personal property of an estimated 200 million newly-airborne evangelicals.

Considering only the righteous get to make the big vertical leap, finding a lawyer shouldn't be a problem. Finding post-rapture law is an entirely different matter.

There isn't any.

The legal profession can handle death. It can handle missing persons. It can't handle rapture. Aunt Sally, according to scripture, isn't dead. And she's not missing. She's - well, we aren't entirely sure what she is.

Paul The ApostleThe best (and only) source on this thing is Paul of Tarsus, whose 1 Thessalonians 4:15–7 got this whole rapture business going. "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds ..."

Not dead. Alive. Not missing. In the clouds. Waving to us. And, in Aunt Sally's case, looking down on that big honking Sony she no longer wants or needs.

You might be tempted to think "abandoned" when it comes to Aunt Sally's stuff. Think again. There's a legal term for taking possession of abandoned goods absent a finding by a court of competent jurisdiction. It's called looting. It's also called getting shot.

A few things to consider
Did Aunt Sally leave a will? A will, to be executed, requires a corpse. Or a court order. A beneficiary's claim on the departed's worldly goods would, under non-rapture law, require a finding that those "in the air" and "in the clouds" are, in fact, dead.But if they are visibly up there taunting us from the stratosphere, this would be rather hard to show. The fact that Aunt Sally has willed you all her earthly possessions upon her death doesn't matter. She ain't dead. But it's an argument the legitimate next-of-kin will likely raise.

Is her stuff really abandoned? As far as she's concerned, yep. But what does the law say?
Property is generally deemed to have been abandoned if it is found in a place where the true owner likely intended to leave it, but is in such a condition that it is apparent that he or she has no intention of returning to claim it. Abandoned property generally becomes the property of whoever should find it and take possession of it first.
Whoa! Yeah, Aunt Sally likely intended to leave the big screen behind. And it's pretty clear she has no intention of returning to claim it. The problem here is that she abandoned it inside her house. Which she also apparently abandoned. But not really. Read on.

Staking your claim
Did Aunt Sally give you a key to said house? This gets you through the front door without taking a bullet. It also makes you a keyholder, someone the owner intended to allow into the residence in the owner's absence. 

Having that key in your hand implies a degree of authority and an element of control over the property and the stuff inside. Like the big screen. But it's not as good as ...

Power of Attorney. If you hold Aunt Sally's power of attorney (and this likely involved getting the poor woman drunk), you're one step closer to her stuff. A POA allows you to stand in Aunt Sally's shoes (and, if so inclined, try on her clothes). You essentially become Aunt Sally in the eyes of the law. You handle her affairs in her absence.

A POA only works if the grantor is alive. Aunt Sally, remember, is alive - or so we're told. And she's clearly absent. She's also in no apparent position to revoke the thing. Yeah, that big screen is going to look real good in your man cave. Except ...

Did Aunt Sally own her earthly residence free and clear, or is there a mortgage? If she was making monthly payments prior to the rapture, most folks grant the lender the right to take steps to protect their collateral. 

Further, most mortgages (check the microscopic print on page 138) also create a lien against personal property – which is also known as collateral. In the eyes of the law, this clause - if enforced - would trump both your key and your POA.

The big screen is the bank's collateral. If a lender senses Aunt Sally's rapture has endangered its collateral, it can jump through a few hoops and haul away the Sony. And just about everything else that isn't bolted to the floor.

And if Aunt Sally stops paying the mortgage (a pretty good bet), the bank gets to take the stuff bolted to the floor, plus the floor and the house connected to the floor. You could, of course, assume the payments. Yeah. Right. 

Then there's the state. Not even going there.

Plan ahead
Before the next Rapture Day makes its inevitable approach, those who don't anticipate being "caught up" might consider a bit of advance planning prior to pillaging from the pious.

Collect keys. This gets you inside, and reduces the chances that "halt or I'll shoot!" will be the last words you'll ever hear. Collect as many as possible.

Get a POA. Get lots of these, too. A quick search shows that aside from a few pet care scams, nobody is offering post-rapture POAs. Not online, at least. Just make sure your name is on most of them.

Get Aunt Sally to pay down the mortgage. This, of course, eliminates that pesky collateral thing. Considering the financial industry's recent history of crimes against man, God and the FDIC, it's a slam dunk there will be no post-rapture shortage of bankers left behind, all armed with final judgments and a fleet of rental trucks. We already have the lawyer thing covered.

And finally ...

Don't get raptured! You want a cloud or a big screen? If a five-foot diagonal 3-D plasma is looking pretty tasty compared to an eternity spent treading water vapor, start sinning. Vegas usually works. And remember, you can always repent after the Super Bowl.


PS: This just in! "Judgment Day Forecaster Points to New Doomsday Date." Never saw that one coming.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, in this article should be confused with sound legal advice. Prior to undertaking anything you have read in this article, consult an attorney. Better yet, consult a therapist. Or just ring the little bell that summons the day room attendants.