Author Topic: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?  (Read 10223 times)

fiscalphile

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I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« on: August 09, 2016, 08:05:31 AM »
Hello fellow MMMers,

I have been binge reading the Inheritance Drama Thread for pure delight and delicious scandal. Unfortunately it has stuck me thinking about my own "inheritance drama", which I'm not sure what to do about.

TL;DR version of this:
My maternal grandmother, in what I strongly believe was her active will, left me, my brother, and the church 10k each at her death, but none of us ever received that sum. My mother is in charge of her estate and receive my grandmother's house and other assets, and I think my mother probably just kept everything. I'm not sure if I want to contest this to my mom, contest this legally, or even tell my brother what's happening. What would you do?

Full story:

My maternal grandmother passed away about a year and a half ago. She had 3 daughters, Daughter Alta- the eldest- died, childless, just a couple months before my grandma did, leaving my grandma as her sole beneficiary. Daughter Baja, in the middle, was estranged from my grandma, and has two children (my cousins) who also don't have any relationship with my grandma. Daughter Cornelia (my mother) is the youngest, and has two children- me and my brother.

Grandma took care of and loved Daughter Alta, who was sick. But Grandma never really was close with Daughter Baja or Daughter Cornelia. Grandma had divorced their father decades before, in a situation foggy to me but involved abuse and poverty, and the whole mess screwed up the family dynamics.

Grandma decides that my mother/ Daughter Cornelia needs to be her main beneficiary because Daughter Alta is too sick and a ward of the state so unable to receive inheritance, and Daughter Baja is undeserving/estranged.  Daughter Cornelia doesn't sit too well either with Grandma because Daughter Cornelia is, plainly, mean/ neglectful to my Grandma and also an extreme hoarder (as a result of growing up in poverty?) and my Grandma hates that she "doesn't care of her things". Grandma has few possessions, but they are all well-curated, high quality, and well taken care of.  Grandma doesn't have much money, but her house is paid off and she gets by mostly on social security.

Daughter Cornelia talks a lot about her pending inheritance- mostly the house and some jewelry. Daughter Cornelia has inherited a high 5-figure sum from her own grandfather a couple decades ago, and blew it all quickly on clothes and a couple vacations. She liked that. She never really worked- she relied on her husband, and now on her boyfriend, to support her and her shopping addiction. When her dad/ my grandpa dies, Daughter Baja is sole beneficiary in some possibly shady circumstances (not totally sure about that; since I still try to have a relationship with my aunt, I avoided that drama), and the result is that Daughter Cornelia feels angry/ possessive about her pending inheritance from my Grandma.

Grandma and I are very close. Grandma wants to talk about what will happen when she dies very clearly a lot before her death- she tells me that me, my brother and the church are all going to receive a sum. She tells me that she does not trust my mother, Daughter Cornelia, to give us those sums so we need to make sure we get it. My Grandma asks for my new address and sends me her will, with these same instructions. The will came- my mother/ Daughter Cornelia is main beneficiary and my brother, I and the local church each receive 10k. This was about 2 years before her death.

My Grandma also marks things in her house with my name and my brother's name, so that Daughter Cornelia will know to give them to us. She communicates this clearly to all.

My Grandma and I stay very close in the last couple years of her life.  My Grandma threatened to cut Daughter Cornelia out of the will a couple times, and make me the recipient of her house. I think she did that out of hurt over neglect from Daughter Cornelia, or maybe to play some games. I refuse to believe my grandma would cut me, or my brother, or the local church, from her will, though. My Grandma loved me and my brother very much through her whole life. And the church did a lot for her- including taking her meals, providing her volunteer drivers, etc.

So Grandma died. Daughter Cornelia receives the house and begins renting it out (against Grandma's wishes) for $1100/month, and promptly quits her job because she is "retired".  Daughter Cornelia has no other major savings, and she owes money on her other two houses.

Grandma left a master list in her house of where she wishes all her possessions to go- split between Daughter Cornelia, my brother, and I. This paper is totally informal/ non-legal. Daughter Cornelia does not want Brother and I to see this paper well. She insists on holding it, reading it aloud, she gets mad when we ask to see it. Brother and I get a good enough look to see that he and I receive most of the items inside the house- in particular I remember that I was given "all jewelry" and a clock that holds particular sentimental significance. All of the possessions get moved to my mother/Daughter Cornelia's house before Grandma's house is rented out. They are mostly all in basement because Daughter Cornelia's house is so full already. Daughter Cornelia tells my brother and I that we will receive the objects when we "get our own houses" and/or when she herself dies.

This is annoying to me because my Grandma made me promise to ship to my house professionally a couple of the possessions she particularly wanted me to have (art, specifically, that holds sentimental significance in our relationship). It is clear this is Daughter Cornelia's idea, and not my Grandma's. This is also annoying to me because it's possible that I and DH will be life-long renters.

Obviously nobody ever received their 10k. My mom has done a couple weird things that hint to me that she is aware this clause was in the will and that she should have bequeathed that money to us- you'd have to know my mom well for these hints to make sense. (If you're curious they include- small donations of childrens' clothes to the church in question, a talk about how I will receive things when she dies, and also just bursting out laughing about how I/ my brother received nothing from my grandma.)

At present, it's been about a year and half since my grandma died. I have nothing from her except a small cameo that I swiped when my mom wasn't looking. My mom has everything- the house, the money, the furniture, the jewelry, the family photos- even though some of that was willed to me, or my brother (or the church).

I haven't done anything about this- or even told my brother that I have a copy of the will- because 1) I have minimalist tendencies (a reaction to my mom's hoarding, probably) and don't feel that I need "stuff" to remember my grandma, 2) 10k is not a huge sum of money as DH and I pursue FIRE and save 70% of our income for FIRE, 3) I don't want to start up even more trouble than I already have with my mom.

On the other hand....

I feel compelled to do something because 1) I really feel my Grandma would be pissed about how this went down, 2) My brother could really use the 10k because he just graduated college, and is starting out life, but has student loans (8k), 3) I am mad the church didn't get the 10k because of how much they took care of my grandma in her life and especially in her final years, 4) there are a couple sentimental items I would like, that I know my grandma wanted me to have, 5) my mom has exhausted me with her hoarding- we don't have the best relationship, obviously- and I expect that I will receive absolutely nothing when she dies, because she will be in debt and/or be angry with me. This likely means I will never have a chance to receive my grandma's items.

So options: confront my mom? Tell brother (though he is more impulsive and confrontational than me)? Ask the court system? Do nothing?

Thanks for the long read! Apologies if it is a bit emotional. I have been avoiding this whole situation in the last 1.5 years because of the emotion and grief.

catccc

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2016, 08:57:42 AM »
I think you need to take legal action.  If your mom is executor of your grandmother's and she is not meeting her responsibilities, she needs to be removed and the court needs to appoint another executor.  10K is probably a drop in the bucket for you if you are saving 70% of your income.  But I feel like the estate needs to be distributed according to your grandmother's wishes.  10K would be greatly appreciated by her church, I'm sure, and like you noted, your brother could use the 10K.

Also, you stated that your grandmother didn't trust your mother.  Obviously it is too late now, but you need to trust the executor of your estate to do the right thing.

Your mom knows you have a copy of the will, right?  I would first tell her she needs to fulfill her duties as executor and at least pay out your brother and the church, and at least give you the sentimental things you & bro want.  If she doesn't comply, tell her you have no choice but to take legal action and have the court remove her as executor of the will.  Then I would take legal action.  Unfortunately, I don't think anything can be done about the house, unless grandma expressly stated in the will that it should not be rented, but IDK estate law that well.

Good luck.  I do think you should do something, rather than nothing.  Just because it's wrong for your mom to get away with this and disrespectful to your grandmother's wishes.

I've been a life long renter so far (at the edge of 36 now).  I go back and forth on whether I should be renting or not, but I am, and it sure is easy.  No shame in it, I'm paying for a roof over my family's heads and outsourcing repairs and maintenance.  ("Like a rich person would... it actually sounds quite posh" according to YNAB's Jesse Mecham)

mskyle

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2016, 09:18:09 AM »
Have you directly asked your mother about this? Like have you said to your mother, "I have a copy of grandma's will from [DATE], and it says that the church, my brother and I get $10K each. Did she write another will that superseded that? If that's still the active will, when do you think you're going to be settling the estate?" Now, obviously your mother could lie or freak out, but she'll freak out and possibly lie under oath if you take her to court.

My mother and I are not close, and I would absolutely dread having this kind of conversation with her, but I think it's a necessary first step. At least say to your mother, "Look, according to the will I saw, the estate should have given the church $10K (not to mention me and my brother). Unless you can show me that grandma changed her will, I'm going to have to get lawyers involved."

Another thing to consider is whether your mother is just being really disorganized and bad at communicating. Has your mother opened probate and inventoried your grandmother's assets? You need to ask her what she has done and how it is going. She has responsibilities and duties as executor, and best-case she's just terrible at them; worst-case she is stealing from you (and your brother and the church).

Whether or not you should actually take legal action I think comes down to what your goals are and what the current situation is. If your mother has already pissed away the estate, do you sue her over that, or will that just cause more trouble for *you*?

It might be worth talking to a lawyer though, because I can see that a lot of this is really personal for you, and tied up in your feelings about your family. You included a ton of stuff in this post that basically has nothing to do with the problem at hand, because it's hard to separate the emotional stuff from the legal/financial stuff. A lawyer can focus on the legal/financial stuff without getting tangled up in the emotional stuff. But obviously that will cost money.

Frankies Girl

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2016, 09:20:18 AM »
Contact an estate lawyer, show them the proposed will and ask them what it would take to find out if this is the version of the will that was probated in the county your grandmother resided. It may cost you some serious money to go after your mother for failure to act as a fiduciary as so named, (executor/trixes are required by law to act as fiduciaries for the estate), and can be subject to pay back every penny of money or reimburse any lost physical property not distributed according to the terms of the will. They can also be held on criminal charges, and with your named $ amounts from the will being well into the thousands, that's possible prison time, not just a slap on the wrist or a simple fine.

If you can confirm with the lawyer that the will in question did leave you money/property, then ask them what the next step is. Considering that most estates are able to be closed within a year's time, your mother has already drug this one out considerably, and at this point, you could have the lawyer petition her removal as executrix, ask the courts to investigate what happened to everything under her care, and she will be held accountable for anything that has gone missing or used improperly.

She should be tracking every last penny spent, and know where every item named in the will is and make sure it is taken care of properly until it can be distributed/sold off and added to the estate. If she hadn't done this, then she'll be in a huge mess of trouble for sure.

Thing is, you almost certainly will destroy your relationship with your mother if you go this route, and both sides might end up lawyering up and spending more than the entire estate is even worth to hash this mess out, so think long and hard about that aspect.

But if you get all the facts, find the will you have seen is the valid one, and you want to try to give your mother a chance to make things right, you can sit her down and try to explain that you are very concerned about the way she is handling the estate and unless she finishes it up and distributes things according to the will, you may have to ask the courts to investigate on the heirs' behalf to see what she has done with the money and property. I would also let her know that she has a legal obligation to the heirs and lack of follow through could get her into serious trouble with the courts - this is not something she wants to mess up, and ask her if she needs any help figuring stuff out because it would be horrible for the family to be destroyed because she was too overwhelmed with what her executrix duties included.


catccc

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2016, 10:03:39 AM »
btw, I should mention that my suggestion to take legal action is based on the OP's relationship with mom is already unsalvageable.  I suppose if that isn't the case, OP should try to work it out with mom first.  Although it sounds like she might not be cooperative...

StarBright

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2016, 10:46:03 AM »
If your relationship with your mom is not salvageable then I think you should at least take preliminary steps to look into this for the sake of your brother, the church, and your grandma's memory.

If you can determine that your copy of the will is the most recent copy you may be able to also get the church involved if they want to pursue their 10k.

We have plenty of lawyers that attend our church that do pro bono stuff for members and, on occasion, the church itself. If you gave the church a heads up they might have a parishioner that volunteers to take the legal task on for them.

BFGirl

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2016, 10:57:46 AM »
if you don't want to ask your mother or hire a lawyer just yet, you may want to check with the County or District Clerk (whoever maintains probate records) to see if a probate has even been filed.  If one has, then you can get copies of the proceedings so that you see exactly what was or was not probated.  If no probate has been filed, then you can hire an attorney to compel your mother to turn over the original will for probate.  If she refuses or says it is lost, then you may be able to prove up your copy of the will. 

If it has been probated and you are entitled to an inheritance two things to consider are:

1.  How much will it cost in attorney's fees?
2.  If you win, has your mother spent everything and/or does she actually have assets which a creditor (which would be you if you win) can collect against?  A lot of times (depending on the state), her home, car, personal items (usually a certain amount of jewlery) and money in retirement accounts are not subject to be collected to satisfy a judgment.

As frustrating as it is, you may have to decide if it is worth your time, the attorney's fees and the emotional drain to make your mother do the right thing.

FrugalFan

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2016, 11:02:23 AM »
It sounds like your mother does not know about your copy of the will? Before contacting a lawyer, I would suggest bringing it up with your mother first. I have a good relationship with my parents so it's hard to imagine not being able to talk to them about something like this, but it might not necessarily make your relationship worse. Her knowing that you know and have proof of it might actually compel her to do the right thing. I think your brother and the church have a right to know as well.

rothnroll

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2016, 12:06:10 PM »
Honestly? I would just let it go.
It's not worth trying to collect 10grand from your family.
It's a small amount.

FrugalFan

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2016, 12:19:42 PM »
Honestly? I would just let it go.
It's not worth trying to collect 10grand from your family.
It's a small amount.

That's not the point. I have the feeling OP doesn't even want/need the 10k, but would like her brother and the church to have some (if it still exists) and to have a few sentimental items her grandmother intended for her to have. To the OP, you can even tell your mom you are not interested in the money but would like those things as a starting point to your discussion.

Axecleaver

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2016, 12:23:18 PM »
Figure out who your grandmother's lawyer was. They should have a copy of her most recent will and should be working to empower the executor to act, in accordance with your grandmother's wishes. Attorneys will, for example, gather probate forms from family members (ie, you) acknowledging that you have a claim (or no claim) on the estate. If you contact them to let them know the executor has not fulfilled their duties, they may be able to take action less expensively than an attorney who is not familiar with the will or client's wishes. I believe they also have a fiduciary duty to their late client, and thus to her estate.

This is a good cautionary tale about choosing your executor carefully.

fiscalphile

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2016, 12:40:16 PM »
Thanks for the replies.

Writing this all out helped me realize that at least I need TO KNOW what happened- whether my grandma changed her will, or whether my mom is just hiding all this from us.

I can see in the county court system that my mom filed the will in probate. From what I read online, that makes the will a public file so I should be able to obtain the filed will from there. If not, then I will go the route of asking my Grandma's lawyers (they signed the will that my Grandma mailed to me, so I have their names).

Once I confirm what happened I will think about the next step. I don't particularly want to pursue 10k from my mom- that seems more stressful than it's worth. But I do agree with other posters that my brother and the local church would have the right to make that decision for themselves.  Overall I'm frustrated that my Grandma's wishes are being ignored, but I'm also trying to remember she's gone and is safe from realizing what's happening.

fiscalphile

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #12 on: August 09, 2016, 02:38:18 PM »
Just an update for the curious-

99.9% sure that the will that my Grandma mailed me was the valid, active will. She mailed it to me exactly 7 days before her will was filed in county court. (I can see in probate records.) There's no way she changed it within 7 days to write out me, my brother, and the church. I am ordering a copy of her official will anyway to confirm- it only costs $3.

I'm not sure what to do with this information, and I will probably just think on it for a while. Leaning towards talking to my brother about, leaning against lawyering up against my mom about it.

Super mad at my mom. But at least I know my Grandma intended to give us the little cash that she had, which is a really loving gesture on her part.

SKL-HOU

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2016, 02:49:10 PM »
I can't believe that your mom would actually screw over her own kids. Not only she is not giving you the money that was willed to you but she is keeping the items that actually have sentimental value to you. That right there tells me she is doing it out of spite or some less than honorable intention. Would you even need a lawyer to ask for what you were willed? Could you represent yourself?

gaja

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2016, 02:56:13 PM »
I think it is wrong to keep this information from your brother. You can decide to let it go, but you can't decide that he should let it go.

fiscalphile

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #15 on: August 09, 2016, 02:59:23 PM »
Yes. I agree. I already reached out to my brother asking for time to talk.

I am not surprised by my mom's behavior, sadly. This is not out of character. I am sure she is justifying it in some way to herself, probably that we will get it when she dies. Or maybe that she deserves it more somehow. I don't know.

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marty998

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #16 on: August 09, 2016, 03:33:52 PM »
Very sad situation... I can't think of anyone who would want to be known as "the person who stole from a church".

I would move on for $10k. There will be times in your future where market movements will deliver you more then $10k gains a day. There will not be those sort of days in your mother's miserable future.

former player

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #17 on: August 09, 2016, 03:34:59 PM »
The Church need to know, although I am not sure that you should be the one to tell them - your grandmother's lawyers, maybe?  Depending on their legal status (eg charity) they may have a legal obligation to try to recover the money (depending on their jurisdiction).  If that is the case, then your claim could be attached to theirs and you might end up getting what you want without being blamed by your mother.

If there are claims against the estate the costs of those claims, including legal costs, may come out of the estate itself.  If a case goes to court, it can take and very long time and quite often most of the estate goes in costs rather than being paid to the beneficiaries.   If your mother holds out on this, she may lose your grandmother's house to the legal costs.

The fact that your mother is a hoarder, including a hoarder of houses (she now has three) suggests to me that she may not take a rational and sensible way out of the situation.  There is just a chance that a letter to her from your grandmother's lawyers, asking about distribution of the bequests, would work.  I suspect it has more chance of success than a direct approach from either you or your brother.



renata ricotta

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #18 on: August 09, 2016, 06:01:09 PM »
Just an update for the curious-

99.9% sure that the will that my Grandma mailed me was the valid, active will. She mailed it to me exactly 7 days before her will was filed in county court. (I can see in probate records.) There's no way she changed it within 7 days to write out me, my brother, and the church. I am ordering a copy of her official will anyway to confirm- it only costs $3.

I'm not sure what to do with this information, and I will probably just think on it for a while. Leaning towards talking to my brother about, leaning against lawyering up against my mom about it.

Super mad at my mom. But at least I know my Grandma intended to give us the little cash that she had, which is a really loving gesture on her part.

Please don't wait too long, and least to tell your brother and the church so they can make their own decisions the very day you find out for sure. There are often statutes of limitations that impose a time limit for making a claim on an estate (or against your mother as the executor). Additionally, the sooner you get this figured out the more likely it is that there will still be assets to collect. If your mother spends it all before you decide what to do, it becomes 10x harder to get it back.

In terms of deciding how much in fees is "worth it," for me I would probably say that if it's less than $10k to fix the problem, I should do it for the sake of my brother and the church. If you get it sorted out favorably and get your portion of the $10k, then you are no worse off than you would have been before, and you've helped out the other beneficiaries and put your mind at ease. You might even get some of those fees reimbursed. As for the time and stress it would take in addition to the money, I would consider that a service done to my brother and the church.

All this assumes that 1) you have spoken directly to your mother, as suggested by others, to tell her you know what the right thing is and you would like her to do it and 2) you aren't interested in salvaging a relationship with her. Unless she has SIGNIFICANT redeeming qualities outside of what you've posted here, I'm not sure I'd bother. (Literally bursting out laughing at the thought that you aren't getting what your grandmother wanted? WT actual F.)

llorona

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #19 on: August 09, 2016, 06:35:16 PM »
If you haven't already done so, you could confront your mother about this, with or without your brother. But initiating lawsuits is time consuming, expensive, and stressful...plus, since your mom doesn't work, who knows if you would ever recoup the $10K even if you did win the case.

This is going to sound really, really bad, but have you thought about "helping yourself" to some of the sentimental items your grandmother wanted you to have?

Cassie

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #20 on: August 10, 2016, 04:40:17 PM »
I vote with telling both the church and your brother. The law firm that did the will can send your Mom a letter and that may scare her into paying up if she has not spent the $. It is not that expensive to have a letter sent and that may be all you need.

kitkat

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Re: I never received an inheritance which was willed to me?
« Reply #21 on: August 10, 2016, 05:14:29 PM »
I vote with telling both the church and your brother. The law firm that did the will can send your Mom a letter and that may scare her into paying up if she has not spent the $. It is not that expensive to have a letter sent and that may be all you need.

+1, along with the comments about the church possibly having their own legal resources you and your brother could benefit from. Obviously your brother wasn't as close to your grandmother as you were, but I think telling him (and the church) immediately is the right thing to do.

This is such a sad situation. I am so sorry that you are dealing with this, but am happy for you that you found the peace of mind knowing you were not secretly written out of the will after being given your copy. Wondering about something like that for two years would eat away at me too. Hoping for the best, please keep us posted.