Author Topic: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions  (Read 2776 times)

Kepler

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Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« on: June 15, 2018, 03:08:57 PM »
Just editing because I've received good feedback, and am minimising potentially identifying details in the post...

I'm not completely sure the best way to explain this situation...  I grew up in a weird horrorshow of a family - I won't go into gory details, other than to say that some of the details are gory...  My final contact with my mother's side of the family came when she worked out a way to steal the money I'd been working and saving for university.  Then her partner threatened me, and told me never to contact anyone on that side of the family ever again...  So... I didn't.  I tracked down my father as a young adult, but that eventually led to a frightening situation as well, so I dropped out of contact with him - other members of his immediate family had already passed away.

[removed various details]

Earlier this week, I was contacted out of the blue by a guardian ad litem for my mother's estate - apparently she died without a will.  Her partner (the guy who threatened me and told me never contact anyone in the family again) tried to claim everything, arguing that my mother had no other heirs.  The ad litem turned up my birth certificate, and my mother's partner responded by petitioning the court to have me declared presumed dead (on the grounds that I haven't been in contact since... hmm... now that I think about it, might just have been right around when he told me never to contact them again...). So the ad litem duly tracked me down.

[removed various details - short version: definitely don't want to be declared dead, but unsure what else to do]

 So... reactions? Advice?  Things I should be very very afraid of?  Face punches?
« Last Edit: June 17, 2018, 11:00:59 AM by Kepler »

Lady SA

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2018, 03:43:54 PM »
Sorry you are going through this. Sounds like a sucky situation all around.

I think I wouldn't consider the money in my FI calculations. With all the uncertainty around the inheritance, and the emotional drama involved in it, I would honestly consider donating any inheritance you do eventually receive to a charity of your choice.
This way, you aren't counting on it for FI, and you can emotionally detach as your egg-donor's nasty partner fights the courts. Whatever the outcome, you aren't particularly invested either way. The partner can piss through the whole estate if he wants, no skin off your back.

FWIW, I am in a similar situation. My nasty family members have not died yet, but I've already thought through what I would want to do if I did end up with an inheritance from them, which is a significant possibility. Personally, the money would feel tainted, and I would feel sick even just having that gift in my name and "using" it to live. It would be a constant reminder of a person who tried to hurt me as I'm just living my day-to-day as I pay for a coffee or buy groceries. I decided that yes, I would claim my inheritance and then turn around and donate it to a charity that I care about. That way, I can feel like I'm transforming something icky into something positive in the world, and it also removes me from the constant reminder of that person. Maybe something similar could work for you.

Edit - *facepalm* I should have prefaced this whole thing with TALK TO A LAWYER. They would be most helpful in this situation.
I would not allow myself to be declared dead because I imagine that could make for some nasty headaches down the road.. but again, speak to a lawyer before making any moves.
Anyway, IF your lawyer agrees that it is a good idea for you to answer this, after that you should just passively let whatever happens, happen. I wouldn't actively pursue the inheritance and just let the ad litem for the estate sort everything out.

I would also ask your lawyer what options you have in regards to options to claim whatever inheritance you have. I would probably want to somehow claim it "anonymously" so the nasty partner can't find my address or contact info.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2018, 03:58:59 PM by Lady SA »

Kepler

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2018, 04:00:16 PM »
Sorry to hear you're in a similar situation...  I think, when I learned that both parents had died, that I felt it was finally "over", so I had sort of breathed a sigh of relief and thought I wouldn't have to revisit it any more.  It had never occurred to me that my mother wouldn't have left a will - precisely because of this context...

I had said to my husband already something to the effect that I would be happy to donate the money - but not, you know, to my mother's partner - who isn't much older than I am (he was much younger than my mother), so it's not like I'd be kicking an old man out of his final resting place or something...  You're right that I'm not invested in the estate so, if he burns through it all in legal battles, I've lost nothing.

[removed various details]

« Last Edit: June 17, 2018, 11:01:39 AM by Kepler »

socaso

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2018, 04:04:33 PM »
Do not let yourself be declared dead. Speak to a lawyer but if you really don't want the money I think you can just reject it. This will create a whole new hassle for the jerk face partner as the custodian estate will likely move further down the family tree.

AMandM

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2018, 04:27:35 PM »
My sympathy on this emotional curveball!

I agree with others about not allowing yourself to be declared dead, and with not including the potential inheritance in your FI plans.  In fact, other than seeing a lawyer about being alive, you don't really need to decide anything right now. You can wait until/if you actually inherit anything to decide what to do with the money. Also, you can decide now but change your mind later. Does the money feel like a slap in the face from your mother? Or does it feel like a satisfying "so there!" to her or her boyfriend or both?

One thing to watch out for--if your mother was a celebrity of sorts, is there any chance the gossip rags will jump at the news of your existence? ETA: Maybe talk to the lawyer about protecting your identity here. (I presume the boyfriend knows your name, so you can't be secret from him.)

Lastly, a thought struck me that might figure into the emotional calculus here. I wonder whether your mother's work for children's charities might have been in part an obscure effort to make up to the universe for having abandoned you.

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2018, 05:08:46 PM »
I'm so sorry that you grew up in such a mess. Having said that, your mom may well have begun to regret her past actions in her later years - this could be why she died intestate. Maybe an inheritance was her way of making amends. Should it find its way to you, or should you decide to stand up for what is legally yours, I hope you enjoy every dollar of it, whatever that joy means to you.

Lulee

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2018, 06:24:58 PM »
I agree, yes, get a lawyer.  If it were me, I'd start by finding one in your mother's former state since her partner is trying to make trouble.  This person can make sure the partner doesn't do anything to mess up your life like having you declared dead(!), help you decide what if anything to do about the actual estate, and see what they might suggest about your father's estate.  Even if it's in a different state from your mom's estate, the lawyer or someone else at the firm may have worked in that state at some point and can give you insight as to what you may want or need to do there given you're not aware of anyone adversarial there working against your interests.

If you feel comfortable to post which state either parent was in, perhaps someone here in the forums will give you a recommendation.  If one was in New Hampshire, I unhesitatingly recommend Norman Makechnie of Blodgett, Makechnie & Lawrence PLLC in Peterborough, NH (lawyer.com gives him a 4.5 out of 5 PEER rating and says he's been at it for 57 years).  He's been very helpful to my parents, especially Mom now she's on her own, and is a straight shooter who looks out for the client's interest.

Like the others, I'm so sorry you're in a mess with all of this on top of the childhood you endured.  With a lawyer or two to protect you from more harm, you can process this last chapter in your relationship with either of them and move on in what I hope will be a very wonderful life with your husband.

Kepler

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2018, 12:49:39 AM »
Thanks all - I agree that I need a lawyer.  [modified to remove various details] I absolutely don't intend to allow myself to be declared dead. 

[modified various details - short version is that I think the cat is already out of the bag in my mother's professional community, but I don't think she's tabloid fodder]

In terms of whether the charitable work, or her failure to write a will, suggests that she felt some regret: I just don't know.  I would never have contested a will - but she might not have known that.  To write a will that excluded me in a way that would stand up to a challenge, I suspect she would have had to admit, in writing, that she had had a child - and was deliberately excluding that child from inheritance.  [removed various details]  Now obviously it's all come out anyway - and maybe she was hoping it would, but couldn't get up the courage to do it herself.  Or maybe she was just hoping she would somehow get away with it, like she had while she was alive.  Or maybe she knew it would come out, and didn't care as long as she didn't have to deal with it... She didn't die suddenly or unexpectedly - she had a protracted illness that gave some time to get her affairs in order if she had wanted to, so in some sense she "chose" intestacy.  But I have no insight into why she would have done that...

In terms of how I feel about it...  Many years ago, I went to what I now joke was the world's worst therapist - just wildly unprofessional in all sorts of ways.  Weirdly, it still helped - but only because all I really needed was to say terrifying things out loud to someone - a tree stump probably would have done.  But one of the things the therapist was fixated on was reparations for childhood abuse - she constantly tried to steer therapeutic conversations into planning for legal action for financial redress.  Now, I have no objections in principle to this - not least because there can be ongoing medical bills, as well as financial consequences of growing up in a sucky environment: if people want to demand something financially from abusers, I'm fine with that.  But for me, personally - sort of symbolically - I felt like it suggested that I could somehow be 'made whole' for what had happened.  And there was just no way that could ever be true - not for any sum of money.  There was nothing they could possibly pay me, such that we could call it "even".  Again - to be very clear - I don't think this is how everyone "ought" to understand financial reparations: I think there are solid material reasons for people to ask - or sue - for financial redress when they've been harmed, to help offset the costs of the harm.  But for me - irrationally, but I feel no motivation to become more "rational" here - I felt like I would be offering a way to pretend they could compensate for the past.  And just... this isn't something money in any quantity can do...  I'm not sure whether the inheritance falls into this category for me - logically, it would be hard to think anyone would view an intestacy proceeding as a form of amends - but I am not clear how logical I am going to be :-)

In terms of stepping in to prove that I'm alive, but otherwise refusing the inheritance: if I refuse the inheritance, I think it then just flows to my kids...  I'd need legal advice on how this would play out, but my impulse is to protect them from being drawn into this whole mess.  I agree that I don't actually need to make any decisions right now - I just need to prevent myself from being declared dead.  I'm just normally a planner, and I was startled by how much my mind just baulks at thinking beyond the "I'm alive" step...
« Last Edit: June 17, 2018, 11:04:49 AM by Kepler »

Villanelle

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2018, 06:23:53 AM »
I definitely understand not wanting the awful partner to receive the money.  However, depending on the result of spending some times exploring your feelings on the matter (and after consulting your lawyer), what about offering him perhaps 1/3 of the estate if he doesn't contest it?  While you don't need the money, feeding it all to lawyers doesn't seem like the best use.  Even if you want to immediately donate it (after and tax considerations are addressed), an agreement like this would allow you to do that, or to pass it along to your kids, or whatever, that seems like a better use than litigating it into oblivion, and the partner might be willing to be bought. 

Fig

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2018, 07:16:06 AM »
I definitely understand not wanting the awful partner to receive the money.  However, depending on the result of spending some times exploring your feelings on the matter (and after consulting your lawyer), what about offering him perhaps 1/3 of the estate if he doesn't contest it?  While you don't need the money, feeding it all to lawyers doesn't seem like the best use.  Even if you want to immediately donate it (after and tax considerations are addressed), an agreement like this would allow you to do that, or to pass it along to your kids, or whatever, that seems like a better use than litigating it into oblivion, and the partner might be willing to be bought. 

However loathesome he is, making an offer to the partner might be quickest way to exit this stressful situation and sever all conndctions without letting him take full benefit. You could then decide at leisure what to do with the money.

debbie does duncan

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2018, 05:00:55 PM »
@Frankies Girl  maybe able to help you with this.
 I would find a lawyer with a larger firm in the state this is happening in.
 Be prepared for crazy to happen....good luck.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2018, 07:38:11 PM »
I saw the mention, but I don't have much experience in this type of thing. I did inherit a large amount from a parent, but wasn't estranged like this, and there were no real contentious relations in my immediate experience.

I agree about getting yourself declared "not dead" and consulting a lawyer and figuring out what exactly the estate entails. And then... decide if you want to deal with it at all.

It sounds like this is a giant steaming pile of gold-plated garbage. The baggage associated with accepting the inheritance (let alone having to fight the partner for it) may not be worth the emotional cost to you. If you aren't in a position where that money will be a game-changer, then there's nothing wrong allowing them to go ahead and declare you alive and then refusing/disclaiming it.

Big question I'd want to know before doing so tho: is it a quite significant amount and the partner is unlikely to put up a protracted fight/strong leg to stand on (not a common law spouse or such)? Because the idea of having to deal with this for years (and yes, it does happen) and paying lawyers for the entire time tends to drain away the estate in the end, so it wouldn't be worth it to me if the partner was prepared to die on that hill, or if the amount wasn't quite, quite high to make it worth the fight.

You could also view it as a pathetic attempt from a very sick and twisted person who, in one last screwed-up act, tried to make it up to you in their really stupid, messy way. And of course they went about it all wrong, dropping you into a giant headache to deal with.


In the end tho, remember: it's only money. If you can separate out the emotional mess regarding the getting and receiving it, you absolutely deserve it -  save it, invest it and enjoy the hell out of it. 

GreenEggs

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2018, 09:27:59 PM »
The guardian ad litem searched for and found you.  You are alive and you deserve what is rightfully yours.  Put all the negative feelings about the past aside and stand up to the task.  Don't be afraid.  This is Karma.  Good things happen to good people. 

There will be no negative feelings attached to your inheritance.  Just remember that you deserve it.  Use it for good things and the negative energy will vanish from it.  Invest it well, like you obviously already know how to do, and donate as much of the interest as you choose.  If you give it all away it when be gone forever, and you may likely regret it.

How much money does the bad partner have for paying legal fees?  The estate won't pay his legal fees.  You are already named as an heir, and he is not.  Right?  It seems that you have more leverage.  Is he still living in a home that is in your mother's name?  Figure out if he's entitled to anything before offering him anything.  Your mother's estate is obviously worth more than he is.  He hired the big law firm because he has the lesser hand.  You are blood & they can't beat that. ;) 

Just stay calm and remember that you deserve what's yours and he does not. 


Kepler

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2018, 11:09:10 PM »
Thanks all...

GreenEggs - the way intestacy law seems to work in this state, if there are children from a previous relationship, community property is treated somewhat similarly to how a divorce would handle it: community property is divided in half, half goes to the surviving spouse and is understood as that spouse's property from the marriage, while the other half is understood as the property of the deceased spouse, and goes to that spouse's heirs as defined by law.  I'm the only heir to my mother's half of the community property.  Separate property is treated differently, and my mother's partner would have fewer claims on that - but he is claiming that there is no separate property, and I obviously haven't looked closely at any of this.  (On its face, it looks like there's an implausibly tiny value being given to non-real estate property in the paperwork my mother's partner has filed, but who knows.)

[removed various details - short version is that there are things I would expect to be in the estate, that aren't listed - I'm not too fussed about this, but wondered whether this would give the partner a motive to settle quickly, claiming only what he's entitled to from the major assets, in order to avoid anyone looking too closely at the listed contents of the estate]
« Last Edit: June 17, 2018, 11:15:17 AM by Kepler »

chrisgermany

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2018, 11:34:48 PM »
Get an estate lawyer in the relevant state. Be upfront with him that you want to find out about the volume of your share, the rights of the partner, common law or marriage, and that you want to structure a fast deal.
Real estate might be researched quickly.
Collections value seems rather doubtful. Think of beany babies.
Why not have him then, once you know more, ask the partner for an offer to buy you out?
Sure, you will never know if your deal was too low or just right. But up to know you were not aware on anything, so the doubt should not be too heavy on you.
Good luck!

Dee18

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #15 on: June 17, 2018, 09:43:09 AM »
As others have said, get a lawyer.  Inheritance laws are usually quite clear and there is no question about your legal relationship to your mother. This is not the kind of case her partner is likely to “tie up in court.” Probate matters are not jury trials.  You could also also ask the guardian ad litem some basic questions about the process, timing, etc.  Also, since there is a guardian ad litem, that individual would also be reporting to the court, so it would not just be you against the partner.

PizzaSteve

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #16 on: June 17, 2018, 10:21:31 AM »
Good advice so far.  I would suggest redacting your story to the bare minimum details, though, or posting in a journal so at least only forum members can see.  You add a lot of personal details that might inspire a bad actor to figure out who you are.  Money stories conected to celebrity can attract odd people.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2018, 01:27:33 PM by PizzaSteve »

Kepler

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #17 on: June 17, 2018, 10:56:40 AM »
PizzaSteve - yeah, I was wondering about that - I'll go edit the earlier posts - I hadn't known the journals were more private...

Dee18

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #18 on: June 17, 2018, 11:07:53 AM »
One more thought, if you do not know an estate lawyer in the city where this matter is being handled, you could look up the nearest accredited law school, look for a full time professor who teaches Estates and Trusts (even better if she or he also teaches Estate Planning or Estate Tax).  Email the professor with a request to recommend 3 potential attorneys for an estate matter in which you been advised by a guardian ad litem that you are entitled to inherit from your deceased mother in that state.  Talk to all three attorneys on the phone and choose the one you like best.

Kepler

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #19 on: June 17, 2018, 11:19:39 AM »
Dee18 - that's a great idea, and might resolve the issue of whom to approach.  I had been poking around Nolo, which does provide lists of lawyers in specific regions - but just indicates whether they have any disciplinary actions - not whether they are actually good at what they do... In principle, really this should be a very simple estate - with the potential complicating factor that my mother's partner is physically there, and I assume has access to most assets.  So I shouldn't need some extreme heavy hitter, but you do want someone competent.

former player

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Re: Unexpected inheritance - mainly psychological questions
« Reply #20 on: June 17, 2018, 12:14:54 PM »
The guardian ad litem will probably have a duty to the court to ensure that your mother's estate is dealt with fairly and properly according to the law - there will probably be something in the rules of court for your mother's State of residence about it which you may be able to find on line, or you could ask the guardian directly.

If  you are talking to the guardian, I would suggest asking 1) can they explain the nature of their role and how they deal with any disputes, 2) is it possible for your address and family details to be kept off any paperwork which could be seen by the boyfriend, given the threats he has made against you in the past, 3) you note that the value given for your mother's personal possessions seems low given that you knew her as a collector of certain items, and 4) would the guardian recommend that you hire a lawyer to represent your interests and if so does the guardian have a list of reputable lawyers in the State who have an expertise in this kind of law.

As to the inheritance itself, I would suggest that you should not be too hasty in deciding what to do with it.   Death and the process of winding up an estate can have something of the effect of laundering the emotions raised by someone's life clean, and putting them to rest along with the physical remains of that person.   The inheritance will come to you as fungible money, not as land or personal property or baggage.   It might be something that can be amalgamated into the rest of your holdings and its origins allowed to be forgotten.  Or it might not, in which case finding a good charitable home for it will bring its own satisfaction.  It sounds as though you will have plenty of time in which that decision can become clear.