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Thread: Siblings now estranged, estate issues were last straw and maybe for me

  1. #1
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    Siblings now estranged, estate issues were last straw and maybe for me

    I have posted for some time in the Organizing Forum about the cleanout of my parents' home before and after their deaths plus the resulting estate issues. To recap, Mom died in 2015 and Dad in 2017. They left behind a crapload of stuff that we started cleaning out in the time between their deaths plus afterward. I am oldest of 3 sisters, with our middle sister (MS) who is the executor of the estate.

    In a nutshell, MS was on track with getting the estate settled for the first 6 months after Dad passed away. Then things came to a screeching halt last spring. In spite of her statements that she would get to the estate sale in the fall with the house sale to follow, fall has come and gone with no communication from her about the estate. In fact she admitted to youngest sister (YS) that "she hadn't done much" several months ago. This past winter, YS had enough and contacted the estate lawyer outlining her various concerns and asking him to follow up with MS. This sparked WWIII with MS suddenly waking up and making claims about "all the work she as done" never mind it's her legal duty to communicate this and we have heard nothing plus her earlier admission to YS that stated the opposite.

    Other than some emails exchanged at the recommendation of the attorney, they are not speaking. MS's last birthday passed last week and there was no acknowledgement from YS which is a first. I am on speaking terms with both of them even as both have stated that their relationship with each other is over. That may be the case, time will tell. Things are fine between me and YS, however talking to MS is like getting hit with a truck. She's pretty angry over the letter and considers it a terrible betrayal and making her look bad rather than a wake up call. Ok, it is those things but she is also missing the point, the estate going on too long. Going all Woodward and Bernstein on me, I get quizzed on what I knew and when I knew it regards to the letter (truth: I didn't know until after it was sent). I get quizzed on my communications with YS. I have told MS that this is an issue between them and I am not getting in the middle however MS is so suspicious that I don't think she believes me. MS also made some admissions to me in the middle of her rants which also make me question she is really doing with the money. She's been caught in a few lies and I can't pin her down on what her plans are with the estate going forward.

    There have been longstanding issues between the two of them that have festered for years. In addition, around the time our father passed some things went on between MS and YS, who was going through a personal crisis at home on top of our father's death, MS behaved in ways that made things worse. Even YS husband is done with her. So YS felt she had nothing to lose over raising hell over the estate. I have to agree that MS has often treated YS terribly unfortunately with our own mother telling YS to suck it up because family.

    So, while I am saddened to see what has happened between the two of them, I am not surprised. On one hand I am glad to see YS stand up for herself, she has been pushed around and given up a lot to satisfy my family's needs nearly to the detriment of her own marriage. One reason why our relationship is good is because I have been the supportive sister over the years. YS got a lot of grief for her life choices, which were nothing radical, but her biggest sin was that she moved 1200 miles away. Sounds pathetic but that's how my immediate family rolls, there's been a ton of unrealistic and unhealthy expectations that never died in the face of real life.

    MS is the type of person who will hold a grudge forever, even on behalf of other people. She is carrying forward my mother's anger over past things, including that over YS moving away. She harbors my mom's anger at me for not calling / visiting / doing enough. She is suspicious that no amount of reassurance or fact checking can assuage. She know I have the better relationship with YS. In spite of saying she will not put me in the middle, she tries to put me in the middle. I try to steer her toward simply handling my parents estate, to get it done in spite of the letter, but MS is doubling down. Instead of getting a move on, in spite of her recent claims she was working on the estate sale and she would "let me know" I have heard nothing....again. There's now questions of what she is doing with the estate money in my mind because of one key admission she made in one of her rants.

    I feel like I am grieving all over again. The loss of the relationship between the 3 of us. It's me and YS or me and MS. And I don't think I can count on the relationship with MS in the future because I just see no good end to his. We need to get the estate done, but simply telling MS to get it done is a sticking point because it's "siding" with YS. Even though it's her legal duty in any case. I was considering giving her POA for financial and healthcare in the event of DH's death before mine but I don't think I can trust her now.

    I was hoping that maybe the 3 of us could move on with minimal acrimony. The one sticking point was MS as she has no quibbles about saying things to us that if the shoe were on the other foot, we would never live it down. I guess that was too much to hope for.

    Sorry for the rant. Any feedback is welcome.

  2. #2
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Families are strange beasts. Today we said good-bye to BIL, who is moving from the East Coast to the West Coast. My DH is his only sibling, but when the Uber came to take BIL, I called out to DH, "[BIL] is leaving! Come say goodbye!" and DH responded, "I'm getting dressed!" And he barely got a wave out the door, while I was busy doing hugs and taking pictures of the pull-away.

    We don't know when BIL/DH will meet again, and the strangeness in the relationship which only got worse with BIL living with us is, in my mind, sad. DH would get touchy if I spent too much time talking to BIL. He would accuse BIL of taking advantage of us (which frankly, he did, but not to the extent DH says).

    I get upset when material things become wedges in relationships, which frequently happens when estates have to get settled. Try to hold on to the relationships you have--three is a terrible number when it comes to close relationships, but it sounds like you are really doing the best you can to mediate. You can't do anything about the relationship between MS and YS. As far as the practicalities of getting the estate settled for once and for all, it sounds like you're between a rock and a hard place. You may be shunned by MS, too, if you try to prod things along.

    Do you have any less emotionally involved third parties, like family friends, who could intervene with MS?
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    Quote Originally Posted by catherine View Post
    Do you have any less emotionally involved third parties, like family friends, who could intervene with MS?
    I couldn't ask anyone to directly intervene as that would send MS over the edge, aka betrayal and making her look bad just like the letter. She's caught up on looking bad even as she behaves in ways that make her look exactly that. However, I have one cousin that she will talk to. This cousin got her to move on calling hospice for our mother 4 years ago even as YS and I were literally begging her to do it. It so happens we are meeting at this cousin's house for Easter this Sunday and I know MS will be asked about what's going on. Cousin will ask the same questions as everyone but it's more that MS is more likely to listen to her.

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    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Saguaro, How much is this estate worth? Your best guess I mean? Whateverís left will be divided three ways, right? Or are there other people or entities that get assets from your fatherís estate?

    Sometimes money is just not worth pursuing. If it is a small amount, a few thousand, I wouldnít goof around with it I would just mentally turn it off and forget about it. But if itís a significant amount, yeah itís worth hanging in there and working with an attorney so that your MS does her duty.

    And yes, it is likely she is stealing from the estate, people like your sister always do because she feels so entitled óshe works so hard! she is so so put upon! and etc. Thatís how people like her justify theft to themselves

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    @iris illies, the value of the house and property is considerable enough about 300K so worth hanging in there for. The remainder of the retirement account was 30K from which MS has paid expenses and I imagine by the time all is done it will be gone. MS maintains there's 30K in there now but that was the original amount a year and a half ago so no way can that be true.

    YS and DH are convinced she is stealing. Given she has not been honest and the length of time, I am thinking they are right, it was something I did consider before but not as likely as grief / control / martyrdom issues. Now it's at the forefront of my mind.

    Another scenario is legally justifying getting more than her share. MS said something me in her last conversation that she was paying her husband and her kids to help work on the estate. She was ranting that it wasn't their job so begs the question of why did she let them? Also another poster here had pointed out that the longer this goes on, the more MS can claim compensation from the estate for all that she has done. Part of the issue with YS that MS does not like BIL (YS husband) and admitted to YS last year that she did not want him (BIL) "to benefit from our parents". That is ridiculous as inheritance does not go to him legally, yes he still benefits as a spouse, it's the way it goes. Yet, she wants to pay her own husband and kids. But she's caught up on who is "worthy" which is not her determination to make, her job is to follow the will and distribute the estate as written.

    The will divides the estate 3 ways between the 3 of us. It hit me that by dragging it out, the money gets spent down, real estate value could go down, we all get a cut of a smaller pie. However by claiming compensation for all that she and her family have done, she could make up for that difference, at least in part. In short an uneven split with her getting more as the more deserving one. Now that compensation would have to be approved by YS and me in closing the estate. YS has indicated she may not approve anything at this point. I don't know what I would do until I see numbers. If a few thousand, as you say, it's not worth making a fuss about and write it off as a cost of getting it done and off our backs. MS is already paying a heavy cost IMHO in terms of a critical family relationship, a few grand on her side will not be worth it but it's her problem.

    ETA: There are no other people or entities to get assets. All bills were paid and no creditors made any claims. I am expecting I will get one third of the house sale (forgetting the retirement as gone) and market is very good in that neighborhood right now.

  6. #6
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Well yeah, $100,000 is worth going after.

    It is common for large estates, larger than yours, to be pizzed away by executors and by their legal representatives in court, fighting about this and that.

    I would be consulting the attorney watching over this deal and would forget about tip toeing around your MS. But certainly if you can het her to move on it without legal action, it is better for all.

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    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iris lilies View Post
    I would be consulting the attorney watching over this deal and would forget about tip toeing around your MS. But certainly if you can het her to move on it without legal action, it is better for all.
    saguaro, I'm sorry this is lingering on. It makes nothing better, regardless of the money involved.

    My (unsolicited) take on this is that MS has a legal duty to take care of this regardless of how she "feels" about anyone involved. Can the estate attorney be the one put into the middle? He does not come with the baggage either sister has and could stress the obligation of the role (and maybe even dispassionately suggest that someone else could handle it if she wanted to give it up [I know; not likely]).

    It's sad how death and money so often make people weird.
    Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. - Booker T. Washington

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    Senior Member Teacher Terry's Avatar
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    Your ms is acting irrationally and I also wouldn’t be surprised if she was stealing. I would see if the lawyer can move this along otherwise they might claim a fortune saying they worked so long to clean it out. No matter what you do your relationship with MS probably won’t survive but it’s not your fault.

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    I concur. The Lawyer needs to get this done. 4y is waaaaaay long enough.

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    Thanks all. @SteveinMN and @TeacherTerry, yes, MS is being irrational, and honestly both YS and I think she has some serious issues herself. These past 4-5 years has given me a front row seat to her irrationality, emotional volatility and flat-out abusiveness. She has always had these tendencies but it's gotten a lot worse as she has gotten older. She states she is aware of her legal duty but still is caught up in this idea of people being worthy, it's a clear undercurrent in talking about the estate and who gets what including my uncle requesting things like our grandparents' photo albums. She is resisting his request because she has to go through it and take out pictures. Yes, she thinks she can do that because she doesn't like my cousins (uncle's youngest daughters) and is caught up in that eventually he will give them the pictures. So what? The cousins are family and are entitled to pictures, end of story. If they want them after their father passes, fine but MS gets caught up in what people will do the items they get.

    I have a hunch that contacting the attorney did get MS to move on thing in spite of her various claims, rants and overtures about doubling down. First off, YS finally got the items that my parents wished her to have after MS made claims that she didn't know where they were after initially locating them and promising to send them. MS makes it sound like she was doing YS a favor in sending these things but the main fact was that YS did get them. That said something. MS also confirmed to me about an item I can take, something she had been waffling on. Based on this progress, I think that attorney might have gotten through to MS but no way will she admit it. She has not communicated any further progress so questions remain. I know YS is planning to follow up with the attorney to check in on what has been done in the next couple of weeks.

    I may get a feel for things after this Sunday as I know MS will be questioned about her progress by relatives. These are my mom's relatives including aforementioned cousin, I have fielded questions from them already and it's clear they think something is wrong here. They will not be shy about asking, in fact there's one uncle who is notoriously blunt. That could be interesting but I will let her field the questions. I might get some answers there even if she can't be arsed to communicate it directly to me.

    Contacting the attorney myself is on the table but I want to get a picture of what's really happening (or not) before I go that route.

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