Inheritance Hell Doesn’t Have To End Hellishly

by admin on September 14, 2017

A few months ago a reader messaged me asking why there were so few stories on Ehell about probate of Wills and inheritance.  This person made the observation, which I agree with, that inheritances and probate of the Will seems to be far more fraught with drama than even weddings. I don’t have a reason why there have been so few story contributions over the years about nasty, divisive, contentious battles over the contents of Wills or how executors settle the estate or how families fight tooth and nail over the deceased’s possessions.

My own story of inheritance hell happened 7 years ago after the death of my father. I did not want to talk about it publicly for several years because the process of obtaining justice was long and physical/emotionally exhausting. Long story short, my eldest brother was the executor of my father’s estate who refused to be transparent about details of the probate, he financially exploited both vulnerable parents and he embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from the estate and perjured himself to cover the embezzlement. The case file currently residing in a state superior court is 4 inches thick so a few sentences doesn’t begin to cover every instance of the drama. Towards the end of our father’s life, my brother had attempted to have Dad’s Will changed to make him the sole heir, an action Dad’s attorney refused to do. Thwarted, he emailed me and youngest brother demanding that we sign over 100% of our shares of the estate immediately or else he would place Dad in an assisted living facility (something Dad did not want). For some reason this demand was not made to the second oldest brother who, upon hearing of it, promptly made airplane reservations with the intent to have his brother removed as Dad’s caretaker. Dad died 36 hours after the email demand and before my second brother could get there.

Another example of his exploitation was that he took our mother, who had been in an assisted living facility with dementia for years, to her lawyer claiming she wanted to change her Durable Power of Attorney to make him the attorney-in-fact (replacing my two other brothers) and change her Will to make him the sole inheritor. Her attorney wisely and ethically declined to make any changes and alerted my youngest brother, the long-time attorney-in-fact, of the attempt. Once he discovered that he could not exploit our mother, my eldest brother never visited her again in the following five years until her death despite living less than a mile from her. That action sealed my eldest brother’s fate within our extended family and every sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew, even his own son, cut him completely from the family like a cancer. He’s so despised by some family members that his name is not said, he’s referred to as HWSNBN (He who shall not be named).

I was the person who discovered the embezzlement after I had our attorney subpoena our father’s and the estate’s bank account statements. At the trial, I was given the honor of being the last witness so as to deliver the coup de grace evidence. I sat there and, one by one, line by line, documented every single instance of how my brother had claimed XX dollar amount for expenses in the Probate Final Accounting (filed under penalty of perjury) whereas the bank statements told a different tale. The look on the attorney’s face was priceless. The judge had warned us to not engage in ad hominem statements yet faced with the overwhelming evidence that there was no legal rebuttal that could be made, my brother insisted that his lawyer make an ad hominem attack on me during the cross examination. We could see the lawyer whispering angrily to him and brother insisting. Lawyer did as he was paid to do. I had hired a very good attorney and he did a splendid job keeping us focused. We kept a straight poker face until out of sight of HWSNBN and then my second brother and the attorney started whooping with joy and high fiving while I was still emotionally reeling from the ad hominem dart thrown my way. They LOVED the ad hominem comment because it meant we WON! And win we did..big time. It was a total victory.

On reflection, one wonders what motivates someone to act this way. It wasn’t for a lack of money. Eldest brother received a double share of the estate per the Will and he was the sole survivor on several joint bank accounts and investment CDs. His inheritance was quadruple what the other 3 siblings received. So why the greed to have it all? What showed up repeatedly in the court documents he filed was his belief that he was the righteous son who was the only who deserved his father’s inheritance whereas his siblings were only grudgingly tolerated by our father. It’s classic narcissism. Dad’s handwritten letters to me told a much different story of a loving, forgiving, generous father.

While inheritance hell is not something I want to do again, there is a positive outcome other than the obvious justice in dispersing the estate as the deceased intended. The situation exposed my oldest brother as the lying, divisive element in the family over the past decades and as people began to realize this truth there were reconciliations, more in-depth talks, more expressions of love and more family unity than anytime prior to Dad’s death. Once the cancer had been cut from the family, the family became healthier and continues to this day. And despite the drama, I am the only family member to have very minimal contact with eldest brother who, in turn, wants nothing to do with what he views as his greedy, evil siblings.

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Aleko September 14, 2017 at 5:26 am

My first (and lasting) thought) is that the reason stories of this kind aren’t common on this board is that inheritance grabs simply aren’t etiquette violations, unless they are actually performed rudely (it is perfectly possible to cheat, rob, slander or double-cross someone with impeccable courtesy), unless you are going to extend the field of etiquette wide enough to cover every kind of transgression through theft and murder to invading Poland.

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Queen of the Weezils September 15, 2017 at 10:53 am

I agree. There’s etiquette, and then there’s the law. That’s probably why it doesn’t show up here that much. Though I do agree with the premise of the post – settling an estate shows people’s true colors.

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Dominic September 14, 2017 at 6:35 am

Goodness! There’s nothing like family. Your story makes me glad that my parents, who came from very modest farming backgrounds, left little behind but photos and memories and a few cherished family objects with scant monetary value, but treasures as far as my siblings and I, and the next generation, are concerned.

Even then, I know certain keepsakes and family items are fought over after parents are gone, but we were lucky in that our parents decided to pass on a number of things before their deaths. They made the decisions as to who got what, and there were no arguments among the siblings.

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JAN September 15, 2017 at 11:39 am

My mother is still healthy and doesn’t have any money but there are a few cherished family possessions (little monetary value) that she has already divvied up to avoid this issue. She asked everyone what items they’d like. If more than one of us wanted something, she tried to divide those equitably depending on how many items were desired. Many items are already in our possession. I appreciate that she wants to avoid any big issues after her passing.

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Girlie September 14, 2017 at 7:06 am

I am so sorry to hear of the difficulties you faced while dealing with the death of your father.

I would like to submit the following observation for why people might not often send in stories about wills and inheritance: it’s too painful. I suspect that for many people, the magnitude of the grief one often goes through following the death of a loved one is hard enough without having to live with the family drama that can occur over inheritance.

As a witness to the unfolding events after the deaths of both of my husband’s grandmothers (who had survived their husbands), it has made me determine that if I receive absolutely NOTHING from the estates of anyone in my family, I will be fine. Those family tragedies have also made me immensely happy that my husband is an only child and have had some bearing on our own family planning.

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Cleosia September 14, 2017 at 7:30 am

It’s a sickness. Enough is never enough. And it sounds like he’s basing his worth as a person on how much he gets from his father’s estate, which is a sad statement.

I’m sorry that he created so much drama and stress for you and your family but, as you said, there was an upside to this. Your family has emerged from the challenge whole and stronger than it’s ever been despite his best efforts to the contrary.

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mark September 14, 2017 at 8:52 am

I’ve offered my opinion on inheritance to my parents. Personally I hope they don’t try and save a lot to give to us. They earned it they should enjoy it.

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Darshiva September 15, 2017 at 8:31 am

One thing that really gets my goat is when I hear people say something like, “She’s spending all my inheritance!” If they’re talking about a sibling, cousin, accountant, or other person who does not have a legal right to that money (but somehow got access), then that’s one thing. I feel sorry for such people, just as I would feel sorry for anyone who is being robbed.

But children (especially GROWN children) saying this about their parents? The ones from whom they expect to inherit? I just want to smack some sense into them.

Your parents’ money is THEIR money. It does not become “your inheritance” until after they are dead!

I am also of the “please enjoy it while you can” school of thought. Granted, leaving a legacy behind is nice, but I’d say do something for the grandchildren, like set up a scholarship fund, or the like.

The best inheritance parents can give their children is the gift of being raised well, in the first place.

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NostalgicGal September 16, 2017 at 7:19 pm

Some years back, in a waiting room, in one of those ‘women’s magazines’ (BH&G, Woman’s Day, etc) I found a full page color ad of a woman that was definitely a grandmother and well made up and dressed. She was sitting and looking out with a smile. The advert text said to the effect: To my heirs-I’m sick and tired of all of you squabbling after my money. Since it is still my money, I have decided to take out full page color ads in every magazine I can find, until it’s all gone. You’re not welcome. (signed, facsimile of her name and in type below it). I showed it to my spouse and I looked and in another magazine I found the same ad. More power to her.

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Queen of the Weezils September 15, 2017 at 10:58 am

I feel the same. I’m the executor on my parents’ estate and I told them I fully expect to only have to deal with the house. May your last check bounce!

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Jelaza September 14, 2017 at 9:10 am

You have my sympathies for having to deal with that.

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admin September 14, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Overall the final outcome was positive, a definite net gain in terms of relationships.

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Michelle September 14, 2017 at 9:44 am

Wow. I am so sorry to hear that your own brother would try to manipulate your parents and act so horribly toward his siblings.

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lakey September 14, 2017 at 11:30 pm

I knew a woman who tried to do that but on a lesser scale. She had 3 siblings and almost the only asset of value was the mother’s house. This woman tried to get the mother to leave the house to her, cutting out the other siblings. The mother wouldn’t do it. Some people don’t have morals.

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Harry September 14, 2017 at 10:04 am

I am speechless. I hardly even know what to write, this is just as horrible as it can get. I’m so sorry you had to live through this, but am glad that justice prevailed, and that everyone is moving forward. Peace to you.

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NostalgicGal September 14, 2017 at 11:24 am

I had a long but short one I just went through and it went badly for the other side. Let’s just say some dirty laundry was aired and some justice-revenge was served methane cold. And a lot of delusions got cleared up, by a packet of papers prepared and held (retainer paid) for over 30 years for the day that was expected. It was fun hearing the attorneys rip them apart in the hall for perjury and blatant lying, fabricating, and dragging this into court (they were on contingency and they weren’t getting anything and the attorneys for both realized it, I wished I could’ve recorded the whole thing when it went down in court). It’s far too long a writeup but it makes yours look like kindergarten, Jeanne. The aunt on the other side handling probate, I had warned her cra…-um-stuff might happen and if so let me deal. I was threatened with counter-sue by cousins. I said shall I start on you? I haven’t heard anything.

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Dee September 14, 2017 at 1:11 pm

I don’t think these kinds of situations reflect as much on the heirs as they do on the unwillingness of the owner of the estate to do the necessary work before passing away. Parents are well aware of their children’s level of dysfunction and greed but often give in to make it easier for themselves. They know that the changes they make to their wills are not going to be welcome surprises to the other heirs and yet they still keep it a secret from those heirs, all the while knowing it will result in hard feelings and, possibly, conflict along the lines of the OP’s situation. Even in good, loving families those hard feelings can cost siblings their relationships with each other. Why a parent wants that to be their legacy is beyond me.

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Vic September 14, 2017 at 1:53 pm

I understand where you’re coming from. But I’m going to have to disagree. I’ve seen many situations where the son/daughter presented one face to the parents and another to the world. This gets easier as the parent gets older and sometimes a bit confused. There’s a reason the elderly are often the victims of scams. They could have done everything right when they were younger adults and still get hoodwinked by there own kids when they’re older. It’s sad. But the blame falls solely on the child most of the time. It’s not fair to blame the parents for not taking into account that one of their kids might turn out to be a thief.

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Dee September 14, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Sorry – I see now that the submission is admin’s, not a reader’s. But my opinion remains the same. The smoothest transitions after death seem to be when the parent(s) have been clear and open with all heirs as to what will happen after death, with group meetings as such. But then any backlash is absorbed then and there by the parent, who can’t duck out of criticism for their decisions like they can if they keep it a secret until after death.

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Kate 2 September 15, 2017 at 6:41 pm

The parents *were* perfectly clear, had wills and POAs on file with attorneys and so on. What more could they have done???

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saucygirl September 14, 2017 at 5:48 pm

true. although i don’t always think its about not wanting to do the work. sometimes it about avoiding a fight while they are alive. my father is married to a woman that greatly dislikes me and merely tolerates my sisters. she has two daughters of her own, as well. my father has set his estate so that she has access to all his money if something happens to him, and then whatever is left after she dies gets distributed to my sisters and i. when he told me this i asked him if there was cap to how much she can take each year, or if she had to get approval on what was spending the money on (this is essentially extra money, as he has paid off her house, and she will get his pension and social, plus she has her own social, disability and family money). he said no. i asked him what was to stop her from merely taking all the money out of his account the day after he dies and putting it in her own account, so it is now hers. he looked shocked, but then said he didn’t think she would do that. i told him that i think he overestimated her feelings towards us, and underestimated her feelings for her own kids. and then i dropped the conversation, and haven’t mentioned it again in the 10+ years since. my feeling is that he is now aware of it, and if he chooses not to change it, then he doesn’t care if she does it. and so i won’t fight it. but i know my sisters will go ballistic. just like i know he will leave it to avoid the fight with her that it will cause if he changes it.

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Dyan September 15, 2017 at 10:22 am

oh man what is wrong with some men…even woman same thing happened to my husbands family..OH no she will be fair…BULL she was fair it was hers and her kids..even the uncles war stuff that should have gone to my husbands family went to her family…
so sad

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Dee September 15, 2017 at 12:14 pm

Isn’t ‘not wanting to do the work’ and ‘avoiding a fight’ the same thing? That’s what I saw with my mother, all those years. And there was a battle, of sorts, after her death, not to do with money but how to best care for a dependent sibling. Mom was very clear that she didn’t want to deal with the issue before she passed so she was leaving it up to us to hash it out. She cared more for her immediate comfort than for what happened to us after she was gone. She deliberately left things to be difficult for all involved, knowing that was the outcome. It was her estate, her responsibility, and the conflict was a direct result of her abdicating her responsibility and forcing it onto others. And that’s her legacy.

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InTheEther September 14, 2017 at 9:37 pm

In some situations the blame can be at least partially on the deceased who either abetted the problem relation’s greedy ways or lived in willfull ignorance of their character, but not always.

I remember a couple things that happened when my aunt w died. As a little background, my great grandmother was married off young, and when my grandmother was born she couldn’t handle it. So my grandmother was handed off to her aunts, including Aunt W. Aunt W raised my grandmother, lived in the same house as her most of my grandmother’s life, helped raise my mom and uncle, and my grandmother was her caretaker when her health started to fail. Aunt W died at 96, and only spent the last 3 years in a nursing home because her health became so delicate that she needed the specialized care. Even then my grandmother went over there just about every day.
I don’t think Aunt W had a huge amount squirreled away when she died, but she did have some money and a good chunk of land. Seeing as she’d never married or had children, she left it all to my grandparents. All written up and filed properly with all the correct witnessing and everything.

And once she died people still came out of the woodwork. We don’t associate with most of my grandmother’s relatives since there are some massive pathological issues there. And these people never visited my Aunt W. My immediate family visited her more and we lived two states away, whereas some of them were in walking distance. One guy decided the the land she’d left should be his, and proceeded to act as if it was. My grandad had to call the law on him and get lawyers involved if I recall right, since he’d taken to threatening grandad and blocking off the access road. As far as any of us could tell, this was purely predicated on the fact that her land butted up against some of his (it might have all originally been 1 estate in Aunt W’s father’s or grandfather’s time).
The other thing that got my mom furious was when some extended cousins invited my grandmother to their place. She went, thinking it was maybe a sympathy offer or they just wanted to reminisce. When she arrived they whipped out some legal document of VERY questionable legality that would basically sign a huge amount of money from the estate over to them (they didn’t know how much there actually was and I don’t think my grandmother looked at it closely enough to note how much they were trying to get). They then spent almost an hour trying to bully her into signing it. She of course didn’t and let herself out. Their behavior was so bad that the uncle of one, well known for being an unapologetic raging jackass whome most have disowned, called them up to chew them out about their behavior (which he knew about cause they’d gone to the rest of the family to complain about my grandmother not giving in to their demands). In that case it seemed mostly predicated on the beliefs that my grandparents didn’t need the money, so they should have it. I think the guy who wrote the contract for them also got into some trouble over writing it.

No one had a foot to stand on when it came to anything my aunt left behind, but it didn’t stop them from trying.

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Darshiva September 15, 2017 at 8:43 am

I just love how their actions were so bad that even the black sheep called them on it! Go Grandma for standing up for herself and getting out of there safely! WOOT!

The fact that they complained to Uncle Raging Jackass reminds me of a story I read on Ask A Manager. In a nutshell – Employee A was sexually harassed by Employee B. Employee A reported Employee B to HR. HR threatened to fire Employee A, if Employee A did not drop the whole thing, and treat Employee B with kid gloves. A year or so later, HR rep who handled the case talked to Employee A, “Hey, how’s it going?” in a casual way. Employee A said, quite frankly, that she had learned her lesson, and would never talk to HR again, about anything! HR rep was shocked, SHOCKED! that Employee A would talk to him that way, and so HR rep went to HR VP and reported Employee A for her rudeness. HR VP said, “Wait, what? Let me see that case file.” After reading it, HR VP fired HR rep. HR rep still doesn’t understand why.

Some people are so massively narcissistic, it simply never occurs to them that they could be wrong, even if they know they are doing something blatantly against ALL the rules. If THEY are doing it, then it must be right! Always a shock to them when someone doesn’t give in, let alone calls them on it.

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NostalgicGal September 16, 2017 at 9:51 pm

We have disability insurance claim through private means. One of the places that managed it liked to do things like write a demand for paperwork and wait 11 days to send it so it would arrive on the day (15 days out) everything was due back. I paid the attorney to ask the question and he said I had 15 days from the postmark as mindreading doesn’t really happen. I sent them a copy of the letter with internal date, postmark, had the postmaster stamp the envelope and initial it for the day it came in, and informed them legal said I had 15 days from the postmark. They mended ways to no more than 4 days between letter date and postmark after that.

Then they wanted some stuff yesterday, and I had a deadline. Again I sent it express mail (it still takes three days from here, but it gives when the first post office accepts it to a facsimile of the signature for who had to sign for it and date, time, location). It arrived three days before deadline. Two days AFTER, some snippy rude rep called me and said we were being denied and dropped because they didn’t have the paperwork. I said just a minute, called it up on computer, gave her the tracking number also, and read off the entire history of the paperwork including who signed for it, when, where, and that it was in their building five days ago. Snurily (snippy, snurly and put out) she clipped off “I’ll look into it and call you back.” and hung up on me. 20 min later she called back to again with attitude, tell me they had the paper work and we were not being denied or dropped. Apparently she had to get up and go to the mail room and find it. She didn’t know, I’d worked with that company for several years and managed to have several higher up numbers within the company. I called the highest one I had, and had a nice talk to them about her. The fellow called me back ten minutes later reporting she didn’t work for them anymore and couldn’t understand why, apparently she was in HR at that moment being processed out and having an unholy fit.

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lakey September 14, 2017 at 11:42 pm

That may be true in some families, but keep in mind that some elderly people suffer from dementia. Unfortunately, people with dementia can be easily manipulated and stolen from. Ethical lawyers won’t make any changes to wills in these cases.

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Dee September 15, 2017 at 12:18 pm

I can see where dementia is a wild card and a really messy situation for all to deal with. However, in the estate conflicts I’ve seen and experienced the deceased was not hampered by a lack of mental abilities in any way. I think more elderly people still die with their mental faculties intact and yet estate conflicts are so very common, across the board.

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JeanLouiseFinch September 22, 2017 at 8:34 am

If a senior truly has dementia, there should be a guardianship created through a Court. There must be doctors involved in the determination of incompetency. Although many people think this is needlessly expensive and burdensome, it avoids many problems. First, if the elderly person has been declared incompetent, any transaction, such as unreasonable purchases or donations, gifts to people they should not be making, or even marriages, can possibly be reversed. Second, whoever is appointed as guardian must report to the Court (usually yearly), so that the Court may see if the person’s estate is being managed honestly and for the benefit of the disabled person. It’s not an ideal system, but it can head off trouble.

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Darshiva September 15, 2017 at 8:52 am

My Grandma lived in constant denial – denial of her own issues, denial of her children’s issues, denial of everything, including her oncoming death. She refused to make a will (even with Stave IV cancer, and the skin literally hanging off her bones), because “that will mean I’m going to die.” Everyone dies, sooner or later, and holding off on making a will is not going to miraculously cure a terminal disease any more than making a will would suddenly cause some freak accident to kill you tomorrow.

And some people (notably my uncle) could sell snow to Eskimos at $100 a cup.

When my Grandma died, my father was executor, simply because he was the oldest. She had very little money, but she did have a house, which my father fixed up and sold. However, because her house was A MESS, and needed a whole lot of work before it could even go on the market, let alone actually sell, it did not make a profit. The costs of fixing it were really a lot. In short, once it finally sold (it took a while, all the time with the siblings saying “Where’s my money?”), there just wasn’t much to go around.

My Dad just wanted to be DONE with it all, and basically gave his share away to the other siblings, just to shut them up, but the sisters still accused him of stealing half the estate, and wouldn’t speak to him for years. By the time they wanted to speak to him again, he didn’t want to speak to them. I had very little contact with the vast majority of my cousins. The least ethical sibling (snow-selling uncle) did not cut off contact, and was, in fact, the only one who actually got the fact that there wasn’t much to inherit, anyway.

People are weird when it comes to money, property, and relatives.

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NostalgicGal September 16, 2017 at 7:36 pm

The short version. One of the four, that was one of the ones that loved to spend everyone else’s money, managed to move into the house when the last grandparent went into the home. They’d been cut out of the will for excellent reasons and didn’t know that. And managed to siphon off almost ALL the money, they were finally caught at the very end. Just before this her brother had been in a nasty automobile accident and that one had originally filed for 8 figures. She decided and convinced some of the rest that that brother and the other (with the other one that liked to spend other’s money) had stolen it not lily white her. So when that brother went then his wife went (my parents) she came to court against the estate to try to claim the money she claimed he’d stolen. And the other one showed to try to get a cut of that settlement and convinced the first one there was a thick slice of that as well ready. IN COURT, a courier arrived from the legal firm that had done the accident work with a file. They’d been paid to hold it. In it was copy of the final settlement of the accident, and the proof of who had stolen the inheritance. And a letter in handwriting that said I had this prepared for this day (which was decades later). Those two attorneys turned pale then grey and the judge said to me (the only and heir (of nothing) ) what did I want to do. I said FILE. The ones of the next generation, my generation, that were convinced there was hidden money to be had offered to file on me. I offered ‘shall I start digging on you?’ I have not heard anything since. After expenses and taxes, I got a check for enough to buy a good dinner for two. And I don’t care if I talk to any of that side of my family ever again.

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JD September 14, 2017 at 2:08 pm

So sorry to hear you had such a horrible experience! How family can do that to one another, I can’t imagine. I’m glad to hear justice was served, but how terrible to have to go through that.
I had nothing that bad, not even close, but when my widowed mother-in-law died, we moved into her small mobile home, with the permission of the family — my husband and I had been her caretakers before her untimely death, didn’t own our own place yet as recent-weds, and her place was worth very little, about $4000-$5000. My husband had been the only sibling who wasn’t gifted with property by their dad upon each sibling’s marriage (their dad had made good money, but his long illness at his end took the savings). Since my husband and I married after his dad had died, it was decided our mother-in-law’s place would be our “gift” of property. No problem there. The problem was with my mother-in-law’s furniture and personal items. Two siblings had to travel several hundred miles at her death, but one lived in the same town as we did, and she came over before the other two siblings arrived, and demanded several items, including some antique furniture, saying her mother had promised it to her. She had her husband get it, too, while I was home alone and my husband — her brother — was at work, out of reach of the phone, and ignorant of all this. Then I was faced with the other two siblings arriving at differing times a few days later, demanding to know what happened to that stuff mama had promised to them! It seems Mom had said yes to every child who asked if he or she could have those things when she died. I was left with no option but to tell them to talk to the sister who had claimed all of it, and I don’t know what scene ensued there, as I stayed out of it. The funny part? At no time did any of the other siblings EVER consider that perhaps my husband might have wanted any of just the smaller, purely sentimental items. They even took some things that were his but had still been in his mom’s home, yet had never belonged to his mom. My husband just said things weren’t worth fighting over and let it go. I have to admire his ability to do that.

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Jayhawk September 14, 2017 at 3:00 pm

I am so sorry your family had to endure this. I’ve worked in bank trust departments for many, many years and this is the biggest reason I encourage people to set up a trust and name a corporate trustee or successor trustee. By doing so, you’re hiring experts to make sure accountings are made, investments are made as needed for the relationship, tax returns are filed on time, etc. It also relieves a family member from the burden of having to take on more than they (in most cases) have the ability and time to handle. Yes, there’s a fee. But to avoid this fiasco and family disharmony? Worth every penny.

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Noodle September 14, 2017 at 10:23 pm

Someone told me many years ago that weddings and funerals bring out people’s true colors. I’ve since been through both and completely see his point.

Sorry you had to go through that but thankfully it ended as well as it could.

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Ginger G September 15, 2017 at 10:06 am

Warning, this one is a little long…

So my father had a rather interesting family history. His parent divorced when he was 4 or 5 years old. His father moved across the country and had very little contact with my father from then on. I remember meeting him one time when I was a child when he was passing through. Both of his parents remarried, his mother had a daughter and another son, and his father had another son. Oddly both of his half brothers have the same first name, and it’s not a common name either. My father was named after his biological father, but when she remarried, my grandmother changed his last name to that of his stepfather’s (who died before I was born). Apparently the stepfather was a great guy who treated my dad the same as his own two children.

Flash forward to 1990. My grandfather decided to move back to our state, to a retirement community about an hour from our home. He contacted my father, and since it was right at Christmas time, my father invited him to our house for Christmas Eve and even drove down to pick him up and bring him to our house to spend the night and Christmas Day with us. I remember meeting him and he immediately gave me a $100 bill. For a broke college student that was pretty awesome!

My grandmother was still living at the time and she came to the party also. At this point, my once well-0ff grandmother was almost broke and her 3 children chipped in each month to make sure her bills were paid. So, she and her former husband who had been divorced for 50 years and had not even seen each other for 40 years got to meet up again. They spent the whole night on the couch chatting away, and we all thought it was really sweet. The next day my grandfather told my mother that he was sorry that Mary (my grandmother) wasn’t there the night before. My mom told him that she was and he had spent the whole night talking to her! He hadn’t even realized that was her, he thought she was one of my mom’s aunts.

He feels bad when he finds this out, so he gets my grandmother’s phone number and calls her up to apologize for not recognizing her. She refused to believe that was the case, and to make a long story short, they ended up remarrying a few months later at 80+ years old.

Now my grandfather was not wealthy, but he did have a good bit of money, so she moved in with him and my father and his siblings no longer had to help pay for her expenses. Two years later my grandfather died. He had changed his will from leaving everything to his younger son (they apparently had a contentious relationship which was one of the reasons my GF moved back to our state), to half to my GM, and the other half was split between my father, his other son, and his college alma mater. My father was named executor.

Well, for some reason, my father’s half-sister, who was not even related to my GF, felt entitled to something, if not everything, and initiated a lawsuit against my my father. Growing up, we had always had close relationship with her and her family but that was destroyed by all this. The thing is she and her husband were well-off, so it really made no sense. My father did end up stepping down as executor. She told so many lies about how my father treated their mother. She claimed he never visited his parents or helped them in any way, which was all easily disproven in court by the staff and sign-in records at my grandparent’s nursing home. So the only thing that really happened was my father removed himself as executor and a bank was appointed guardianship of my GM’s money.

The only time we ever spoke to her after that was when my GM passed away about 10 years later. It was really sad and pointless to ruin a once-close family over money, and we’re not even talking about millions. My aunt passed away suddenly from an aneurysm about 8 years ago, so no further fences were ever mended.

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Queen of the Weezils September 15, 2017 at 10:52 am

I am in the process of settling an estate, and have been for over two years now. I’m not the executor – the elderly relative with dementia whose finances I manage is the executor. That pretty much makes me the executor. This isn’t anything I would wish upon my worst enemy. It’s a time-consuming, emotionally draining task. Thankfully, the family fights have been minimal as the will is crystal clear that the executor is also the only heir and the only person who has grumbled isn’t willing to fight me. But it is still a nightmare of a job.

Please, if you are old enough to retire, make sure your affairs are in order. Give that last gift to your loved ones. In fact, that’s good advice for all of us, because anyone can get hit by a bus or something. Write your stuff down and make sure your executor has it. I swear, I spent the first month just trying to figure out what the deceased had since he spread his money far and wide. I had a three page spreadsheet detailing all his accounts! Some of them were quite small – I closed one account worth $24. On top of that, he was a business owner who didn’t attend to his business, so now we have back-taxes to resolve before we can close the estate, as the business forms the core of the estate. I hired an accountant to do that and it is slow going, but at least it is going. Believe me, if I could raise this man from the dead, I’d give him a good swift punch in the mouth for leaving such a disaster behind him. A lot of this estate is going to disappear in lawyer and accountant fees, and since the heir is heading for assisted living eventually she needs all the money she can get. I do not expect to see a penny of it. I’m doing it because no one else is doing it and I care for the person who inherits everything. But, damn, if I knew it was going to be this hard I might have refused.

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IJF September 15, 2017 at 11:09 am

I unfortunately witness a lot of cases like this as I work in the legal field and deal with a lot of trusts, financial advocate documents, health care advocate documents and wills as well as help handle probate estates. Actually I have seen and heard a lot of things that make me question how people can be so screwed up.

We had one where the one parent was on their death bed with the other having some type of memory issue (not sure if it was dementia or something else- we did confirm and have the children sign off that parents were competent that day). Clients made the children sign off that they were in agreement with the change from one child to another being in charge and required child who was removed to pay x amount for renting one of the properties. A year later child who was removed and signed off took the other kids to court because they stopped her from draining surviving parents bank account fraudulently and were having her evicted for nonpayment of rent. The child who was removed got in trouble for elder abuse and endangerment as well as embezzlement from her surviving parent as well.

The ones that always drive me crazy are the potential beneficiaries who call before the deceased has been gone 24 hours (have even had some contact before life support is removed!!!) to see if they could find out what they get and how fast they could get it. I may find great joy when I figure out they were the one specifically omitted (not that I can release that information- I only release who is the person in charge that they should be contacting).

I have requested several times that my grandmother update her estate plan because we all know there will be a shit show after her death especially since my siblings and I split a 1/5 share as our parent (1 of the 5 kids) is deceased. Thankfully the sibling in charge and I have already discussed what will happen, but we all know the youngest of the 5 kids will cause drama and stir things up because that is what they do constantly in life and is why that sibling is person non-grata with myself and my siblings.

my other grandparent updated theirs not too long ago and the youngest of the children will not be happy that the money is being put into funds that cannot be accessed immediately as everyone knows the money would be gone in a millisecond likely funding the lazy ex spouse and/or eldest child who sponges the system for a living. —- this and the fact youngest child cannot be bothered half the time to follow through is why it is my parent followed by me on the will, financial and healthcare advocate documents handling everything.

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C September 15, 2017 at 12:24 pm

My family almost got trapped in this sort of hell due to my step grandpa’s children. I’ve never called him my step grandpa as he has been married to my grandma since before I was born and have been closer with him than his bio-grand kids. His children took him to change his will to illegally cut out my grandma. The will was then left illegally with the lawyer who just so happened to be married to one of the bio-grand kids. Thankfully the states attorney got involved and fixed it. Its still a mess but the will is legal and my grandma won’t be left on the streets.

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NostalgicGal September 16, 2017 at 7:42 pm

I’m glad they stopped this one cold.

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David September 15, 2017 at 1:48 pm

I am very sorry you had to go through this, Admin.

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Deb September 15, 2017 at 2:34 pm

At a guess, I’d say the reason we don’t see more postings about wills/probates is that it would be far too easy to step over the line into legal territory.

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Mara Smith September 16, 2017 at 11:38 am

When my mother died, her estate consisted of a house and investments. My third sister was the executor. My second sister demanded to know what her share of the estate would be and when it would be paid. The house was in good shape, but it had to be sold. My sister was constantly demanding to get her inheritance. Finally the house was sold and the estate was distributed.

My sister was so angry at the time delay, (two months), that she never spoke to other family members ever again. She died of cancer three years later and I wonder if her bitterness contributed to the cancer that invaded her entire body.

The rest of the family continues to visit and see each other. Sister’s name is spoken of with sadness. We still visit and talk with her husband and children.

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Sandra September 17, 2017 at 12:32 pm

My older brother believes that he should inherit everything and is mad at what I’m getting. He cannot give a logical answer why.

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admin September 18, 2017 at 2:53 am

Is he a narcissist?

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NostalgicGal September 18, 2017 at 1:09 pm

He could be a late inlaw of mine. He thought EVERYTHING to the last bent nail was supposed to be his and he had pretty much frittered away the farm before his father passed. Who had a will that transferred everything to his wife. We were actually on bodyguard duty as we were sure he would have done something to his own mother. He eventually slurked off to a girlfriend that wanted him and he sponged off her for the next fifteen years. That was such a mess…

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Wendy Brion September 21, 2017 at 10:36 am

I have a similar story, though it was my mom and I being executors for the estate of twin sisters, friends of ours, and their conniving, greedy nieces and nephews. The shortest way to tell it is to say that four of the N&N ignored their aunts most of their adult lives until there was money to be had…except there wasn’t. A cousin stepped in and decided to make life additional hell for mom and I (especially mom). And one niece called and left a threatening message on mom’s answering machine. That ended up being a huge mistake…we recorded it and played it for our attorney, who promptly called her and told her that if she did something like that again she’d be slapped with a harassment suit.

But, yes, aside from some individual incidents, it was a legal issue, not really etiquette. Except, maybe, that the etiquette would be that when you ignore someone for years, don’t expect to inherit huge amounts of money from them.

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ArtK September 27, 2017 at 3:58 pm

I am *so* sorry you had to go through this. Nobody can hurt us like family can, eh?

Over the years, we’ve gotten a few posts on EHell about relatives that would go and raid the deceased’s home right after, or even during, the funeral in order to take stuff. Often items that had been verbally promised to someone else. I think that the more egregious stories, like yours, don’t make it to EHell because they are so far beyond etiquette.

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