Where There's an Inheritance

Some of Your Stories

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I wanted to share my story.

My sister and I were never particularly close. Mom died (an only child) 12 years ago, dad remarried a woman with 4 kids (whole other story) and moved to Florida leaving us to care for our grandparents. Gramma was the strong one, Grampa has always been like a little boy. When Gramma, at age 85 developed cancer my sister and I decided to take charge. Gramma was relieved.

We took turns taking her for treatment, got Grampa's driving priveleges revoked (long overdue) and were with them every single day until she died in my arms in January 2003. Not one day went by that my sister and I didn't call each other to update on the day's events with them both. We sent each other cards, bought each other little gifts, just to let the other know how much she was appreciated. Now we are dealing with a 91 year old man, who is incontinent, deaf, suffering from dementia, and is really a pain in the rear. But he's our Grampa, and helped raise us and we really love him. It's our turn to take care of him.

We both applied to the court for co-guardianship and co-conservatorship. We had to forcefully move him to assisted living where we still visit every day. Every move we make has to be decided together. When we moved him we had to clean out a house that was worth a lot of money, but hadn't been cleaned or updated in 35 years. My sister wanted the dining room set, no problem, take it. I wanted the photo albums, no problem, take it. We are both named in the will, but I think sharing the responsibility of the personal care of our grandparents has brought us closer and made us realize that things are just things. As long as we remain a team. If I die first, she gets the photo albums. If she dies first I get the dining set.

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My mother passed away in 1995. There was a considerable sized estate from my mother, left to her by her parents and aunt. She left everything to my father. She was very open about the fact if she died first, that he was to promise to be sure that his second wife did not get everything (e.g. money, jewelry, doulton figurines, etc.) and that we three children would be left the estate.

Two years later, my father remarried a widowed friend of theirs. There was a prenuptial agreement at the time of the marriage, whereby each of their estates would be left to their children from their first marriage. About two years ago, he let it slip that he had changed his will and left everything to the new wife, for "tax purposes". He also has a large estate, mostly in retirement savings. He is very secretive about financial matters. We wouldn't have even known we were disinherited except he said something by accident and we figured it out.

To make a long story short, he says that the new wife has promised to give us the money "when she doesn't need it any more!" and that we are not to worry because she will only spend a little of it. My brother and I have seen a lawyer, but he said it is totally at his discretion to dispose of his estate, as our mother gave him everything outright, even though the intention was for us to inherit. Also, my father is 77 years old and we suspect he is developing Alzheimer's. Anyway, we have not spoken to or seen him since. It is a very sad situation and my brother, sister and I are making sure our estates are set up more equitably.

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For years, my husband helped his elderly unmarried aunt with her affairs, as he was her closest living relative. (Several grand-nieces and second- or third-cousins live in other states, but did not visit or regularly correspond with her.) She named my husband as her personal representative in her will -- but unbeknownst to us, she changed her will every several months, and repeatedly moved her financial accounts from one bank to another. She did not have a large estate; in fact, we often helped her out with cash gifts, but she liked to give the impression that she was very well off. During this time, we learned that a distant relative in another state had managed to prey on her with his hard luck stories -- and she responded by sending him thousands of dollars over several years.

The day she died (at age 89), she and my husband were to meet at her latest bank to go over her accounts. Unfortunately, she died four hours before this meeting. That's when all hell broke loose!

No one came to her funeral except my husband, daughter and me. The family in other states were "too busy", but all immediately asked about the status of her "enormous" estate. When my husband and I visited her attorney, we learned that she wrote at least 15 wills over the years -- and that she divided up her estate (total value of less than $50,000) among numerous distant relatives, including one who is presumed dead. Further, she apparently made a number of "loans" to some of these folks -- or at least that's what her notes said, but no signed agreements were found.

My husband spent nearly three years trying to settle this estate - complicated by accusations from several distant relatives that he was hiding assets because "everyone knew that she was rich." He tried to reclaim these so-called "loans". And all this time, the attorney fees just kept adding up. Bottom line: He finally resigned as personal representative as his health was being negatively affected by all the stress.....the estate still is not settled.....at last account, it's value is less than $30,000....and family members are in full battle mode suing each other! The only one who's happy is the relative who conned her out of nearly $15,000 in "gifts" while she was still alive. So sad.

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I heard you on a late night talk show. Bless you for trying to help families avoid ugly fights over money and things. We need more lawyers like you! I'd like to share a little of the greed that has gone down in my own family.

My great grandmother died in the 1940's. She had six children, all living. She left a great deal of money in her house as she didn't believe in banks. I was told it was $90,000. She had promised my mother that she would be able to buy a home with the money she was leaving her. After her death one of her sons went to the house and took all the money and whatever written statements my great grandmother had left about the distribution of the money. He, of
course, denied it and no one ever saw a penny of it again, nor could anyone prove he had taken it.

Many years later, my great grandmother's daughter, my grandmother, owned a summer home with six lots of land. She gave one lot with a house on it to her only son when he married and the other lots were to be given to her three daughters upon her death. In the meantime, her son, my uncle, asked to see the deed to the properties. (His wife believed the oldest son should inherit everything.) He went to the bank and forged my grandmother's name and turned all the properties over to himself. My loving grandmother was always one to avoid family fights and she let him get away with it, believing in her naivete that the land wasn't worth very much.

It is sad when families choose greed over relationships. My uncle was the only greedy person in my family. I feel blessed to be part of a very loving, generous, warmhearted family. They have been my support and strength all of my life and when my much loved grandmother died there wasn't a bit of squabbling over any remaining money or belongings. But my uncle did show up to ask if there was anything left for him!!

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I heard you on a radio station today and I thought about my wife's family and the big mess they're going to have when their father dies. He is sort of a laid back, whatever happens will happen type. One of his kids is a 'get what I can at any cost' type.

There is a farm, and mineral rights, and antiques, and sentemental stuff that are going to rip them apart when he dies. And then throw in his new ladyfriend who he found after their mother died who has already collected from three previous manfriends who died on her watch.

I'm thinking I may need to buy this book.

As for me I don't have a pony in this race. We don't want, or need anything from the estate, but I am worried about what will happen to the rest of the heirs and their relations.

And now a story about a family fight...

My Grandmother was a hoarder, she saved everything. She was a young woman during the depression, so she thew nothing away. She would save cottage cheese containers and use them as tupperware, or bread sacks as ziplocks. So her cupoards and attic and garage were quite a clutter of stuff that sould have been in a landfill.

When my Grandmother was on her deathbed, she knew she was going, and she knew the personalities of all the people gathered around. She told everyone that there was a large amount of money hidden in her house, and then winked at me.

That house was cleaned out in record time. My brother, who was her care-taker of sorts, knew where the "fortune" of $2000 was, and took great pleasure in watching the other members of the "family" clean out the house for the estate sale, looking for the money.

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