My father desperately begged me, ‘Son, find a lawyer. That woman will take away your inheritance! ‘ My stepmother kept 1 million dollars after his death

I am the only son of my parents divorced when I was 4 years old. My father remarried soon after, but had no more children.

Although he and I had some conflicts over the years, in the last few decades of his life we ​​grew closer and had a good relationship. Dad died in 2014. In the years before his death, he told me many times – with great joy – that I would inherit a considerable amount of money.

The last time he said this was in the presence of my wife and my stepmother. He said I would get $1 million and that I shouldn’t worry about my stepmother.

She didn’t say a word, but she clearly disagreed. I’m sure Dad knew this, but he felt he had everything under control in the family trust he had established.

I was able to visit my dad a few weeks before he passed away. He’s had his leg amputated and knows he might be gone soon, but he’s still in very good spirits.

At that time, Dad suddenly changed and became annoyed. My father desperately begged me, “Son, find a lawyer. That woman is about to take away his inheritance! “My stepmother was nearby at the time, and I’m sure she heard every word.

I tried to calm him down, thinking for a moment that he might be throwing a tantrum. Time is short, and I must go.

He passed away a few weeks later and I could not speak to him again.

‘Dad was right’

I would eventually know that Dad was right. In the trust, he somehow named his wife a “setter,” which my attorney told me meant she had full control of the trust after his death. She simply rewrote it to her liking, which meant I didn’t get a dime. I believe my father’s sudden mood swings and his warning to me were due to my stepmother telling him about the change.

Unfortunately, I didn’t follow Dad’s advice, preferring a softer touch. I simply couldn’t believe that my stepmother would betray my father’s plans and cut me off without provocation. And my relationship with her, though never warm, was quite friendly – or so I thought. I received nothing after my father’s death but a small IRA and a small $6,000 policy.

I checked with the county clerk, where I found a copy of Dad’s will. It leaves everything to the trust. I made a special effort to maintain a close relationship, calling my stepmother every Sunday night. Finally, after six innocent years of pretending that everything was going as I expected, my stepmother started to mention we talked on the phone about how she spent such a large sum of money. any.

She flew first class, invited family (siblings and nieces) on vacation, and set up a $10,000 scholarship at a local community college for nurses and firefighters. My stepmother said that her attorney would amend “her” beliefs. (I now believe her attorney told her to keep her mother until the statute of limitations for cheating — six years in Oregon — had passed.)

‘She was clearly provoking me’

Apparently she was pissing me off, and I ended up asking her if I would inherit anything. She says, “Yes, but not much” and she will leave a lot to “her” family. I ended up hiring a lawyer. He offered to ask her for a copy of the trust as it had been at the end of his father’s life, to see if it was true that he intended to let me inherit a lot of money.

When I did this, she told me it was “none of my business” and that she could do “whatever she pleases” with the money. This is exactly what I was afraid of. I feel like the worst kind of idiot. I threatened to sue my stepmother for accessing the trust documents, and eventually her attorney sent an affidavit asserting that my stepmother was the foundation’s “fixer.” Commission.

My personal attorney told me that if it were true, she would not be obligated to comply with my father’s wishes, and I have no case. He also said it was highly unlikely that her lawyer lied in the affidavit, as that would mean professional suicide if found out.

If I continue my case, I will probably lose and have to pay her court fees and costs. My attorney also offered to write her a mediation email, since I could still inherit something (perhaps based on an informal suggestion her attorney gave him).

I wrote an email, and since then I have not heard from her, nor have I tried to contact her. I find it very difficult to talk to her civilly right now.


Dear Stepson,

I’m sorry you went through this, and you lost the inheritance your late father gave you. He may not have fully understood the role he and his wife played in setting up the trust, and has made some big mistakes – among them, effectively leaving the trust to your stepmother. , who, as your father realizes at the end of the day, has no intention of fulfilling wishes. The trustee administers the trust and executes the terms of the trust. But your stepmother is in a central position – and much more powerful.

Neil V. Carbone, trust and estate partner at PC Farrell Fritz. “The person who establishes the trust is the person who creates it and, in most cases, the person who funds it. One would have to review the specific trust agreement to see if the father is the trust setter and if there are any restrictions or limitations on the stepmother’s right to modify the trust. after the death of the father or not. “

Believing in the best in people is not an estate plan. People are notoriously unpredictable, much less the aftermath of a death and when a large amount of money is involved. In fact, people can be equally erratic and unreliable when it comes to small sums of money involved. In addition to being motivated by greed, they are also motivated by hidden resentments and their own belief that they are entitled to an entire kit and bread.

Missed opportunity to act

It is important to act decisively and early. “It looks like missed opportunities to act,” Carbone said. “First, when a father discusses his son’s expected inheritance throughout his life – especially when a son discovers that his stepmother ‘obviously disagrees’ – The son may suggest that all together review the document and the plan to ensure that it reflects the father’s wishes and will be implemented as written. “

He added. “If the father was worried that the stepmother wouldn’t manage the trust the way he wanted, he might have come up with a new plan. The fact that several weeks have gone by without this happening is truly regrettable.”

Yours is a cautionary tale. “Son may have obtained a copy of the trust agreement itself (not just an affidavit from an attorney) to see what his rights might be and weigh his options for enforcement. those rights,” Carbone said. “For example, he may be entitled to account for the actions of the trustee in the management of the trust. He may also have taken fair measures against him, such as imposing a ‘constructive trust.’

What can we learn from these unfortunate events? Sometimes these issues are best resolved in a preliminary agreement, especially when children are involved. Your father was cheated or cheated on by his wife when he was trying to establish trust in you. It may be because he feels unable to bear his second wife’s demands, and belatedly warns you of his anguish that his wishes will not be fulfilled after death.

As you indicated in your letter, the statute of limitations in your state appears to have passed and the laws vary from state to state. Your story can help others in similar situations and point out the risks of managing a second marriage. I urge you to seek a second opinion from an independent estate attorney. He or she may just repeat what you have been told, but at least it will solve the problem once and for all.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions regarding the coronavirus at and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Payment procedures Moneyist’s personal Facebook group, where we seek answers to life’s toughest money problems. Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, let me know what you’d like to know more about or consider on the latest Moneyist columns.

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