The Family Fight - Planning To Avoid It

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Heard a bit of you on CBC this afternoon and thought I'd add my own warning.

My father died with a Will that stated that everything went to his three kids and nothing was to go to his estranged wife. Since most of his assets were in a Reg'd Income Fund and he had not removed her as the beneficiary, she ended up with almost everything, in spite of the Will, as the RIF took effect the moment before death and wasn't covered by the Will.

He had a bank account and the cheques were in his name so as the different dividend cheques arrived, I deposited them to his account. We later discovered that this had been a joint account with his estranged wife (from five years earlier) and rather than open a new account, he had just had new cheques printed with only his name on them. As joint account holder, she also took everything in the account, including the dividends I had deposited after his death.

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Hello Les:

Encouraged by your invitation ( on CBC today) to share positive a child I always remembered how sad my mother was about the sibling rivalry and manipulations of a Will, in her own family back in Germany. I sensed her desire that my sister and I should one day get along ( we did not in our teenage years) and never fight over equity, property or any material thing left behind for us after she and our father died.

Mom passed away in 1993 ten years after our dad, and my sister and I had to meet from distant countries at my mother's home to look after everything and dissolve her home and belongings.

The same feelings must have been instilled in both of us, because there was not the slightest argument about anything between us. Together we looked after everything and took care of her wishes, then distributed personal items that we had all place into one room---to do last. We decided with each item who would like to have what , to keep a few years and then exchange again. Her bookends for instance, that she proudly bought in the 1920's with her first salary, we now have one each!

Items that we both desired to keep...we flipped a coin.

Our two weeks together were truly sad, but also a wonderful reunion and everlasting bonding moment in our adulthood.

When we parted we promised to have two weeks together every five years; just the two of us. We kept our promise.

Best Regards,
Susanne & Gabriele

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Dear Les and Barry,

I came across your website as I was struggling with the fact that my sisters do not want to give my brother a key to my parent's home. Mom died in July and Dad is in the VA nursing home. My parents owned a home for 49 years and it would have been paid for except my brother took out a second mortgage on the home years ago. He still owes on that mortgage. He is also a lawyer and the appointed executor of the estate. There are 7 of us, ( 21 grandchildren), but only four living in the city where my parents resided. I am out of town but during Mom's illness drove there every month and stayed a week to 10 days just to help out and relieve all of the in town siblings (4 of them).

The trouble is my siblings do not trust my brother - the lawyer and executor - there is a huge conflict of interest because he has taken a loan off the estate. Mom and Dad never discussed much with us. They did a simple will dividing everything 7 ways - that's it.

Now it is time to consider selling the house, which is full of stuff and a lot of junk, and I know it is going to be one big family feud. Either it will be handled with a big elephant in the room and passive communication or it will be an aggressive and angry exchange and there goes the nice cushy family feelings.

As an out of towner who does not need my parent's money or things, my interest is in us staying together; in having a place to visit for Christmas where we are all honestly loving and communicating. I want the family album to stay intact and I see one big mess or a mess of ulcers. If you think your book would be helpful, I would buy it.

Thank you for listening.

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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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Recently in December my father passed away. My father knew that he had had only a couple of months to live.

On the way to see my mother who was also dying we stopped to have lunch with my father, at that time he told us he was dying and started to talk about his wishes.

He wanted to sell his car and have the monies divided amongst all 4 girls. He then proceeded to tell me that my older sister was the executor and her husband (my brother in -law) but advised me that he had taken him out and put my name in with my oldest sister as executor (my older sister had filled for divorce).

In the long term he passed away and we had to clean his apartment and do all the work very quickly. My older sister (executor 1) did the paper work for over the next months. Unfortunately she could not complete this with out me because I was also the executor so the bank hung onto all the funds until I went to sign these.

In the end there was a somewhat large amount from his pension. The monies we had received from the car had already been split 4 ways.

We all are very close and did well with splitting the mementoes and the money from the car sale.

The bank had advised us that they would divide the monies between my sister and I (as we requested) for us to divide between the other two sisters, one here with me and the other with my oldest sister.

Unfortunately things began to worsen over the last few weeks.

My older sister and (executor 1) wanted me to only give my other sister a little bit and send the remainder back to her for all her hard work.

I advised her I could not lie to my sister and that I would be giving her her share.

Also she wanted to withhold funds that she was to share with my sister.

I advise her that that would be breaking the law and that it was also against my dad's wishes as to the will.

It just goes to show if your a great family and get along money can really split your family.

I feel sorry for my husband 's mother who will pass away soon. My husband and his sister will be left with everything to share which is probably 10 times than we had to worry about.... He's now thinking about how bad it will be (from my story).

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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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Where do I start? I came from a family of 13 offspring. We were very close. I am #7. I was chosen by my father to be his personal representative. The jealousy and greed took over, nine siblings turned against me and two sisters stood by me. Because of all the fighting, the judge took the position away from me and gave it to one of his cronies (friends). This attorney took advantage of the feud, perpetuated it, and raped my fathers estate.

By the time he took over, a year after my father passed, I had most of it done. He stretched it out with frivolous hearings and motions, played one side against the other, let his auctioneers go into my fathers house and take whatever they wanted. He failed to collect a $10,000 note from my sister and the judge looked the other way. I could go on and on. He ended up with $20,000 of my fathers money. Our family will never repair. Not after the harassment, the horrible things they said to me, left on my answering machine, voice mail, and work fax machine. But the Probate Court and the attorneys did not help, in fact, the took advantage of us.

We were emotionally distressed from losing our Dad, they should have been the rational and reasonable ones. It would take me a week to fill you in on the disgusting things this attorney got away with. It is legalized thievery. The judges and attorneys are all in bed together. I hope you have a chapter in your book about the Probate Court system, the attorneys and alternatives. I could not even find an attorney to sue him after it was all over.

JK Adrian, MI

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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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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 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 the Mitch Album show yesterday and you couldn't have come on at a better time. I'm the oldest grandaughter and I see my dad's family falling a little bit apart each time his younger siblings ask my grandparents for either financial help or for another 'favor'. I'm hoping maybe I can get them to read your book.

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I am so unbelievably happy to have heard you on Jordan Rich's program last evening. You are (and the book) is exactly what I have been searching for for a l-o-n-g time.

My first husband was a gambler and alcoholic and left me with 4 children and 2 liens on a house and they were foreclosing in a week. I managed to pull this one off without a hitch and worked VERY hard to save the house and keep the children stable in an area they were very used to.

I have a high school education and did quite a bit of conservative modeling between here and New York before marriage and then when I went to work I knew that I had to pull out all plugs to make it and support my children. This was in the mid 70's. I was awarded $90.00/week and nothing for alimony. Even if I had asked for it I would never have gotten it as he just gambled it away and due to his drinking I was not dealing with a full deck. He did manage to hold onto a good job, however.

I found a good job and worked my way up into the company to be an associate principal. They paid me well, sat on the board of directors, gave me a chance to pay off the liens totaling $10,000, which was a lot of money then and caught up with the mortgage. I NEVER dated as it was too important to focus on the children and get them through school and college. You can not date and bring up normal children as it takes your full time. The company took out a $100,000 life insurance policy on me, paid for all my health
insurance, etc. I just focused on two things.... my job and my family for 16 years.

I then found Mr. Right with three daughters of his own. He has treated me so well and after our marriage in 1990 he moved into my house. I put the house in joint names as he said he would always protect my children (4 of them) if anything happened to me. So, we drew up our wills and they were written as cross wills and then if anything happened to both of us
together, everything would go to MY children.

Now I will jump ahead to 14 years later. It came up recently as we were doing some estate planning, which should have been done way back in the beginning. He now thinks that everything should be left 50/50. I still can't believe his thinking. He said that he had done a lot of improvements to the house which has increased the value and thinks now that some of this should be shared with his children. I said, "NO." I worked and suffered to save this house for 39 odd years and his children have no use for me so I do not see them either. Why, I do not know as I do not have any enemies, but I'll just let that one go. I also inherited some money and put it into the house.... gutted the entire kitchen, paid for it and my husband put in the cabinets. I put on a deck and a couple of sliders to go to the deck, etc.

Oh yes, I also bought him a new car. Out of his own pocket, he has probably spent $1,000 of HIS money for supplies plus another $2,000 for new garage doors and miscellaneous things. He made the comment to me, "Isn't my labor worth anything? His improvements have NOT increased the value as we just had a realtor come and give us an appraisal and without the town knowing the improvements, they gave us a figure of almost $600,000 figure. Oh yes, we did put on a small addition to which my husband is paying the mortgage on. That to me is like rent that he would be paying for me if we did not own MY house. Other then that we owe nothing except we do have high taxes of $6,000/year.

I am sick to think that I am in a position that he wants to now, after 14 years leave things 50/50 and I have lived here since 1965 until 1990 paying for everything by myself.

I am ordering your book today and after listening to you last night and mentioning the "step children" . My last hope has been to go to a mediator to help this problem. But again, I do not know where to go to get help. When I tell you that he is a wonderful person, he is one MY children adore and truly look to him has their children's grandfather.

His children are the only ones in his family and they are being left plenty of money by their mother and my husbands sister. My children have nothing to be left to them. In fact, their father took plenty of money from each and everyone of them. I have a disabled son that is unable to work and is on Welfare and his wife is able to work part time. I have a daughter that has 9 children and her husband is a contractor, another son that is an electrical engineer and has a going business on the internet.... Currently, and for 5 years he has been doing this so he can spend more time with his 4 children. I have a daughter who is a
nurse and has 3 children and her husband was a pilot for US Air until shortly after 9/11 and was among the layoffs. My disabled son also went to college and studied wildlife management and was disabled starting with blowing a disk in his back and has been horrible pain with all sorts of treatments since then.

Sorry to have rambled on for so long, but this has affected my health in a very serious manner as I truly, like so many, never expected this to take place. My husband is a very non confrontational person, so this makes my issues very difficult.

It was rather funny as last night I had my pillow speaker on and listening to Jordan Rich in Boston and the lights were out and when he said you have a web site and an 800 number to order the book, I JUMPED out of bed to grab a piece of paper and my husband thought something drastic had happened to me.

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I Wish-our family had read your book a few years ago. We are in a mess now and I thought that perhaps we could pass this book along to our children so their families don't get
torn apart like ours did. Thanks for listening. I will keep trying.


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We have had some unfairness in our family, but have taken a "Maude" attitude ("God will get you for that [Walter] ") and we left the selfish executrix to her $$$$$$$$$.

My father, to whom my grandfather was going to change as executor, wanted to take all my grandfather's coin collection, put it in a cloth sack and then have the grandchildren pick out one coin each until they were all gone. As it was my selfish aunt hoarded everything and wouldn't let anyone into the house.

In my parents' will the basic tenet was "share and share alike" and anything you gifted your parents with you got back eventually. We picked the books and the records we wanted and chose various items and then liquidated the rest at a garage sale. We both bought a gorgeous large microwave that was state-of-the-art at the time and my dad left one behind as well. My sis and I had a ball surreptitiously giving a cousin this great micro-wave as well as a few other bigger ticket items we could have sold at the garage sale. As my sis said, "we wouldn't get rich on the money from them." We had more fun giving away things we didn't need two of than we would have had counting the money from selling them. We both come from a lower-middle-class background.

I thank you for reminding me I must state how I want items handled. For the most part though I was thinking: Have each child of mine (there are 5) throw 2 dice 3 times and the person with the highest total on down goes 1st, 2nd, etc. to pick what items they want and after all is done they can swap 1 for 1 or 2 for 1 depending on the deals they strike. Does that sound fair?

Take care, God bless you on your mission to keep or restore peace to families. You are to be highly commended for your efforts. Most sincerely.

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My mother died in January of 1999 from throat cancer. She was a victim of malpractice and settled out of court for a rather large sum of money before she died. It was a long painful death and she was unable to speak for the last year of her life. Being the only child of six children living in the same city as her, I took care of her for years when she needed it. The last nine months of her life she lived with us. My husband had bought a home with acreage and my mother wanted to build a house on our property when she retired. This was a plan long before she died, and before her cancer returned with a vengeance.

When my mom's cancer came back, it was me who the doctor talked to, and it was my husband and I who had to tell her she was dying.

We went to her house and tearfully told her. Her first reply was to write down "I still want my house." We packed her up, I called her work and told them she would not return and I took a leave of absence for my work. We managed to talk her into a double wide trailer but when she did receive her money, she decided she wanted a basement. My mother was used to having her way and at this point in time how could I tell her no.

How do you tell a dying person how to spend their money the last few months of their life doing something that made her happy and something to look forward to? I let her do what she wanted. What was I supposed to say? "No, mom you can't have your house now because you’re dying now"? She wrote a letter to my family telling them they were to split the first $25,000, which was $5,000 each, I was to get the trailer, and everything else including any money was to be split equally.

She asked that I mail a copy of the letter to the attorney and ask him to add it to her will, which I did. The attorney did not add it. My family hated me because of this. I was accused of writing the letter. I was accused of hiding my mom’s will and all sorts of absolutely awful things. My sister constantly lied telling the rest of the family that my mom had a told her things that she did not. She was only there are a few times. She tried to use a guilt trip on me saying I was taking money away from my other sister who desperately needed it. They got mad at me because I chose a funeral home for my mother. The nearest sibling was 200 mi. away. When my mom went on hospice they wanted a funeral home. Since none of them had ever lived in this town (except the one brother for short time) how could they even know which funeral home was the best. What was I to do, call them and ask their permission for a particular funeral home after my mother died and wait for all of them to get back to me?

My sister had even said my mother had told her which funeral home she had wanted. I spent much time with my mother. My mother would not talk much about her pending death because he didn't think she was going to die. She was tough, and if anyone could have lived through it, it would have been her. She outlived what the doctors predicted. My sister managed to manipulate my brother into believing her and he began accusing me of these things also. My brother and I have always been very close and now, he, too, didn't like me anymore. I felt like killing myself. I was grieving terribly for my mother who I had taken care of to the minute she died, and I needed he strength of my family and they turned their back on me because my mom gave me more, and I loved them and the hurt was nearly too much to bear.

Since my mother didn't speak, she wrote everything. I showed them her notebooks of what she had written. They still didn't believe me. My brother told me I had played her like a grand piano. I was going to just give them everything and sell our home because the trailer was on our property with our home, but my husband and daughter talked me out of it. I told them they could take the trailer if it meant that much to them, but they would have to use money from the estate and have the basement removed. I had talked to the zoning department in the small town we live in and they had no problem with the removal, but would not allow an open hole. That did not satisfy them either. They simply wanted all of the money and me to have the trailer on a basement, that had not passed a building inspection yet.

My husband and I ended up spending thousands, and to this day, although it’s passed building code, it's still not completed. There was no talking to them. When I tried to bring the issue up as a family, my sister would refuse to talk about it. I feel she did this because her lies would be exposed and she didn't want that because at this point she was having a time keeping up with her stories. I was catching her in her lies. My sister also claimed that I wanted compensation. She was the executor of the will and she was the one who was compensated an extra $15,000.

This past week my beloved brother died in a car accident. We never had the opportunity to make peace with one another and I did love him so much. I am so sad and distraught right now and I feel as though I'm living this nightmare again. The first thing his sometimes girlfriend said to me from the hospital after he died was that he had a lot of hard feelings toward me and she could tell me what he did with the Christmas card I had sent him just a few days before he died, but she wouldn't go into it right now. I had those same feelings toward him but I did attempt to open up the communication by sending the card. He was a great guy and easily persuaded. I feel I was so victimized by my family for trying to do the right things for my mother.

I don't know what to say or do anymore. Hospice was great. They prepared me for everything, except what to do in a situation like this. I was totally thrown off guard by the attack of my sisters and brothers and I didn't know what to do to make them realize the truth. The more I tried , the less they would talk to me about it. They didn't want to hear me. They still believe all of this stuff. I guess writing this helps me to at least get it out, but I sincerely urge professionals to try to help families prepare for this. It should truly be a part of the process in preparing for the death of a loved one. I would have done the same for my mother had she not had a dime. I loved her dearly. PLEASE PLEASE put out literature on this subject. Send it to the hospices, the hospitals and anywhere else you can think of. I can only pray that my brother now knows I was not lying and how much I truly loved him. Of all my brothers and sisters, I was shocked that he turned against me because we were very close. It's too late for him and I now. As for the rest of my family, sometimes I think it's just best to forget I have any siblings left. When I do talk to them, I feel as though they're just being nice to my face and saying the same things about me. It hurts so bad I can barely live with it.

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I heard your show on the radio Friday. I have seen a family explode and dissolve before my eyes and wish that there was something that could have been done at the time.

Grandma's will was revealed 4 months before she died and her children all ganged up on one sibling to have the will changed in her dying days. Grandma would say whatever her current visitor wanted to hear to try and keep everyone happy. In the end they all accused each other of lying and still to this day behave like adolescents when they see each other. People who are Granparents giving each other obscene gestures in grocery store parking lots.

The sad thing is they are so selfish they don't see what they've done to the next generation. Having been first generation in this country they were the only family they all had. My children have a whole family they will never know. There is very little forgivness in their vocabulary.

I appeal to anyone and everyone to do what you can to avoid this kind of situation.

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My brother died after an apparent overdose of prescription drugs in combination with alcohol after arguing with another sibling over promises the sibling made then broke.

The brother he was arguing with belittled him and told him he could not be trusted to baby-sit his child (after already promising and arranging for him to watch his child) due to the fact that he was being treated for depression. No attempt to try to spare his feelings was made nor was any concern over his resultant state of mind assessed.

My mother spoke with my now deceased brother after the argument on the night of his death and he informed her he had taken a handful of pills. My mother called the sibling he was arguing with and begged him to go check on the now deceased brother as she could no longer drive - he refused and stated "let him kill himself if he wants to, I don't give a damn".

He was found dead the next morning.

The brother that argued with him admitted fault the next morning and started to show some remorse. He found out two days later that my deceased brother made the brother he was arguing with the sole beneficiary on a large insurance policy.

There was no will and unfortunately since my deceased brother's estate is insolvent, the heirs have nothing to inherit short of the right to purchase a few personal items.

The brother that is the beneficiary on the insurance policies first promised to pay for the estate debts, all funeral expenses and share the insurance money with the surviving siblings. He has since backed out of every promise he has made.

I was appointed my brother's personal representative by mutual consent of the surviving siblings (there are 5 in total). I have lost considerable wages spending time working on his house to get it ready to sell and managing the estate. Since the estate is insolvent
and specific laws limit compensation for personal representatives to a percent of the estate, there is no hope of collecting the lost wages.

The brother that is the beneficiary of the large policy then demanded that he be allowed to purchase personal items from the estate for his girlfriend (over other family members). I Refused, he got angry and we no longer speak (this is not the first time we agreed to part ways due to his lies, arrogance and drunkenness).

He has also bragged to friends and relatives that he has more money than anyone in the family and has decided not to distribute any insurance money to anyone for at least a year to insure everyone treats him properly. He also now denies any responsibility for the death.

For my behalf, I have told him I do not want his blood money and will not accept it under any circumstances as I would never hear the end of it if I did. I have no regrets with this decision. I just wish my deceased brother had thought through his financial decisions better prior to making them. I do not foresee that damage done here will ever be repaired. It is a shame that the one who helped put someone in their grave is the one who profits from it.

In this case, more than greed is at stake - include arrogance, self-centeredness, lies, deceit and callousness. He obviously has no conscience as I cannot believe that he could live with himself (and brag about his new-found riches) after what has happened.

(Bitter Feelings Forever)

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My Father passed away Easter morning 2002 leaving behind his wife of 56 years and 10 children with an extensive Will in place covering farms/acreage and monetary assets. A brother and sister were named as co-executors. Things turned ugly within 3 short months.

My Dad left the estate in two parts: 1) My mother’s interest/estate and 2) the ten children estate. The greed and ugliness toward our Mother began when it was determined that she has holdings (deeds in particular) in her name or joint ownership that the co-executors and other instigators felt she was not entitled to because “Dad's intent” was not to leave her THAT much! Keep in mind that provisions were in place for assets to be divided among the (10) ten children of the “children’s estate”. Upon my Mother's passing her Will/estate is written to be divided ten ways also. However, that is not good enough for the greedy and ungrateful.

To give you more details, my parents had completed their estate planning in 1994 where upon my Mother gave up her rights/holdings and agreed to two large/expensive farms to go into Trusts to be divided among the children (that still was not good enough for the greedy and ungrateful). They began their ugly march upon my Mother demanding that a Post Nuptial Agreement that was signed meant that she was to sign over everything except the 165 acre farm were she resides. There has been intimidation and alienation that I won't go into because it is too shameful. Instead of working with her to help in running and maintaining the farms (in her name) the greedy and ungrateful monsters have felt righteous in the stance of making our Mother feel unworthy. They are so afraid that she might spend money on a brother that has a drinking problem and a sister that is a single parent who is unemployed, however, this sister is there for my Mother to help her out with loving/caring support, etc.

This is a current ongoing drama that is being played out and will go on for months. Thank goodness, my Mother has a good estate attorney to protect her rights and dignity.

It is one sad tale when money overrides decency and respect for your own Mother! Money can be the root of all evil when it is allowed to overshadow the basic God given Commandment of honoring your parent(s). Is there a Commandment somewhere about parent need to honor their children?

I definitely need to buy your book. I’m don’t know if it can help my Mother at this point, however, it could be helpful for me perhaps.

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My mother died recently after a 17 year battle with breast cancer. Through her life she changed her will many, many times. Her last will was made one year before her death, when the cancer had already spread to her organs and brain. She was very dependant on my brother who ran her business for her and he profited richly from doing that. My sister and her family live far away and are modestly self-supporting. My other brother is on disability and barely survives. I raise my children alone as a working poor parent and have no assets whatsoever. My car is falling apart and I can't save a dime, trying to keep it on the road so I can continue my job. The 3 struggling children (and our 4 children) couldn't afford to spend a lot of time with mom. The brother living in the lap of luxury did all he could to undermine our relationships with her. He was very sly and conniving. We'll never know all the sneaky underhanded things he did to become the sole beneficiary of her multi-million dollar estate.

We hope to expose some of the truth through lawyers and courts. My brother's wife snickered and scoffed at me when I asked where the money is that my mom collected for a decade, from the public, specifically for my children's college fund. My children are bewildered how their beloved grandma could have left us like this. So we haven't seen a photo, a dish, a spoon or a dollar. Mr. Big Shot has it all, lock stock and barrel. He worked hard while she was alive to prevent her donating any charity to us so there would be more for him. Mom lived in a rat trap of a house and had a pathetic little wardrobe. Most of her things no charity would even want. Guess who was living in high style.

It was really impossible for me to talk to mom about her will. Uncle greedy had control of her mind. I couldn't even ask her opinion about something because she would say, "I don't know, I'll have to ask/check with/put you through to, Uncle "greedy". Anyone who has advice or prayers to offer, it's most welcomed. I'm trying not to despair.

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I'm so glad I found this website. I am in the middle of a nightmare right now, that should actually be a time of grief mixed with happiness and dreams.

My uncle died and left a will in which he named me executor and sole beneficiary. I have six siblings who feel they are entitled to a cut of the estate by dint of being blood relations.

We are not a close family and were not close to the uncle. I was the closest of the kids to uncle. When he found out he was terminally ill, he went to a lawyer and drew up his will. He called me up and invited me to come up to his house for a "look around". It was the first time I had ever been to his home; no one else was invited or had ever been there.

He allowed me to help him during the remaining months of his life, doing laundry, food shopping, taking him to chemo. I was the one who found him dead in his home. I arranged his wake and paid for it with my own money, knowing I would get it back from his estate since he told me I "got everything". I saw my siblings in July at a family party and bought recent pix of uncle and updated them on his condition. They never called him, they never called me to ask if I needed help, nothing.

Now that he is dead and has left me a nice chunk of change and his home, they are circling. I invited them to his house because they were curious about how and where he lived. I invited them to take something.

One brother was belligerent with me and resentful. Two other siblings told me that Uncle should have divided his estate among all of us, not just me! They proceeded to tell me how I was entitled to the lions share but that they should each get a percentage. They insinuated that I would be an outcast from the family if I did not give them what they wanted. They want me to put it in writing my intentions to do right by them. They think there was an earlier version of the will, leaving everything to our mother (his sister, who is dead), and that I had it changed!

I was of the opinion that I would share in my windfall with them, but after the treatment and accusations hurled at me, I am rethinking my opinion.

Why should I bother. We never had a close relationship anyway, so if they decide to "cut me out of the family" it would hardly be different than what the family is like now. One sister is estranged from two siblings, one sister is avoided because she is not of sound mind, and I have never gotten the support or love that I get from friends and inlaws.

They told me that I should put down in writing what my intentions are for them. They told me unless I do the right thing by them that they won't sign off on the waivers, allowing me to access the estate.

So, I'm at the beginning of a struggle. My lawyer has told me that contesting a sound will is an uphill battle and any lawyer worth his salt would not even attempt to challenge uncle's will since it is completely in order. He has all the clauses, the affadavit of signature, everything.

Am I sure of what I am going to do? No. I still want my family in my life, such as it is. I think I'm more in love with the concept of family, rather then the reality of my family. I am in a great deal of pain over what they think of me, but I am not a fool.

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Five months before my Mother died she decided to put her house in joint ownership. I had been her caregiver for 5 years, and helped extensively with my father who died at 88 in 1994. My Mother appreciated this, and over the 5 years together she often talked about "what would happen to me if she died". There are reasons which I will not go into here, but my sister never once in 5 years cooked a meal, took Mother out shopping, etc., which made my Mother worry about where I would live after she died. She talked to her doctor, her neighbours, a few old friends, and five months before she died she asked me to phone Dad's lawyer for an appointment. I said OK, and said I would call my sister. She said "What for, it's none of her business". I think she dreaded another confrontation with my sister, who is very volatile. Anyway, I respected my Mother's wishes, did not tell my sister, and I have not seen her or her two grown children since the day we buried my Mother. My sister shared in the contents of the house as well as half of the substantial bank accounts. The irony is that I never had children, so naturally hers would have been the logical heirs of any estate I left. I also am not married. My sister went to a lawyer (used 3 before this ended), and the will had to go to Probate Court. All of which cost a lot of money. Tempers flare in these situations, rationale is not always used. I am not a fighter by nature, but I respected my parents and their wishes. Apparently for doing this, I have lost my sister, my niece and nephew. Secrecy has no place when money or any inheritance is involved.


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I am an RN and have worked in Palliative Care, Alzheimers Care and Mental Health. I have heard/witnessed issues over wills and money that would make your hair fall out. It is however, my own story which I would like to share with you. It is quite lengthy, but please bear with me.

In 1977, after several years in a very abusive marriage, my older sister abandoned her 5 children and ran off to marry her present husband who did not want the children. My parents fostered the 2 oldest children, the 2 youngest were adopted and the middle child went to another relative. My mother gave up her job, pension, etc. to care for these 2 grandchildren. Retirement plans went out the window and savings were spent on the children. My sister kept in contact with me but not with my parents or any of her children. The understanding between my parents and myself was that the oldest grandchild (my niece) was to inherit all of my parents property: she had lived with them since she was 3 weeks old. I had no problem with this and this wish was repeated to me on numerous occasions (a few times in front of witnesses but never in the presence of my niece) over the next couple of decades.

I came to America in 1980 and maintained contact with both parties. In 1994, my mother died suddenly. My father made contact with my sister the day my mother died and my sister to her credit, agreed to help care for my father who was suffering from emphysema and was living on his own at this point. My father's wishes were simple: he wanted his ashes mixed with my mother's (he kept mother's ashes beside him at all times) and my niece was to inherit what little property he had left, such as household items and furniture. The house was rented.

Things seemed to be going along ok until I was able to visit in 1997. I got to the family home and discovered there was nothing of my mother's in the house: no clothing, photographs,etc. My sister blamed my mother for everything that went wrong in her life and abjectly hated her. Anything to do with my mother had either been thrown out, given to charity or given to her own friends within a week of mother's funeral in 1994. My sister was ruling the roost, and she had full access to my dad's bank account and basically dictated who was doing what. She had a lot of support from her friends/neighbours. Father's doctor and several of the neighbours had been given the story that I had ran off to America in 1980 and left her to look after both parents. I met with a very hostile reception. She was giving loans from my father's account to her oldest son (who was financially stable) and denying anything else to the other children. One was homeless.

I tried to get my father to make a will, he would not hear of this. I even offered to get one of the do-it-yourself-will-kits from the Post Office. I suggested taking him to his bank where he could leave a will in a safety deposit box, anything. However, he believed my sister would "do the right thing". My sister got to hear of this and I was immediately labeled as being "after money". I had a big fight with her and came back to America. Sadly, my father passed away six months later and I found out about it ten days after he died. No notice was put in the paper and no other relatives or friends were informed. My sister, her husband and 2 of her children were the only people who attended the funeral. My sister had gone to the bank the day after his death and had attempted to close his bank account. The bank refused and she had to then hire a lawyer. She gave the lawyer an incorrect address for me in America and consequently because I did not reply, was appointed sole executor of the estate which had to go to probate.

She dumped my mother's ashes in the garden of the rental property, and again either threw out or gave to charity the remaining property. Her eldest son got a few items. The rest of us got nothing. I flew to the UK to try and sort things out with her lawyer but he was extremely belligerent as my sister had spun the story that she had been "the primary caregiver since I came to America in 1980 and that I was only in search of money". I wanted to take my father's ashes to Spain or even take them back to the rental property to spread beside my mother's. I was again met with hostility and no one (the lawyer, the funeral home, my sister) would tell me where the ashes were.

I have nothing of my childhood, no early photographs of my parents. My father was a veteran of the Arctic Convoys and there is nothing left of all of this. I do have many happy and joyful memories which I believe are worth more than any tangible mementos, however I feel that my parents are the ones who were cheated and treated with so much disrespect. The children they raised have also been cheated as they have nothing: not even a private place to go to commemorate the grandparents who gave up so much for them. You can't really go to a stranger's garden and sit there with a bunch of flowers, can you? I chose not to get involved in legal actions, and I'm not even sure if I had any legal recourse as I felt there was no point and what would it achieve anyway. Most of this could have been avoided if they had only chosen to make a will.


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My Mom died 4 years ago. She and my father had divorced after 20 years of marriage and she was remarried to an ex-great uncle in law on my father's side of the family. I am an only child. Her husband also had two grown children and three grandchildren, who of course were my cousins.

Two weeks before my mother died I was visiting her on a vacation as we lived far from one another. Mom had been not been in the best health for years and always talked about how she wanted this item to go to that sister and this one that that nephew and this one to me. She sat me down on this trip and told me what personal effects were to go where in detail. She told me what items she no longer had, etc. She also told me that she had made detailed lists and her husband was aware of how her personal effects were to be divided. They didn't have much in the way of money, etc., and that was all to be left to him. This was fine with me as I didn't want it or need it.

My mother collected everything. She had a cookie jar collection that was worth thousands of dollars; an avid photographer she had a large camera collection of both new and old equipment. During their 20 years of marriage my father lavished my mother with all kinds of jewelry.

Needless to say when the time came to deal with the situation I offered to help my mother's husband divide up her things. His response was that he just couldn't deal with it right now and would take care of it; he knew how and where she wanted her things to go.

In the meantime he held an estate auction and sold most of her things. He didn't know or didn't care which things were supposed to go where. When I picked up my things, most of it was stuff she collected to sell at flea markets and garage sales, not her personal items. I questioned him and he said that he still had all of her things and that it was too difficult for him to just empty his house of her things and when he passed the rest of the items would be distributed. Her siblings instead of receiving entire collections as they were supposed to, received one or two items.

He died two years ago and all of his property was split between his children. As you can imagine this caused a great family strain as I'm still related to those people by blood on my father's side. My inquiries have gone unanswered. My mothers things are gone, as well as most of the childhood items of mine that she kept.

While I did not have the added stress some have of fighting over a real property inheritence, I think often it's the other things that cause the biggest fights. Momentos, photo albums, etc.

The attorney I contacted basically told me I had no rights unless I wanted to take her husband to court (while he was still alive) over her insurance proceeds. Needless to say I declined as that wasn't what I wanted.

This book is a great idea and I'm ordering a copy for myself. I wouldn't want to put anyone else through that.


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I am the youngest of 4 kids who really don't care for each other. My father owned his own company therefore has a few bucks. I just found out that the siblings have engraved their names on every bit of property inside my parents home as well as the lake property for themselves. I found this so humiliating to our parents and how small of them. In a recent letter to my parents I told them I want nothing from their will and don't include me, my wife or daughter. I have tons of pictures and that's what I really wanted everything else is immaterial. This is a great book highly recommended for parents, siblings to work together.


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hi my husband died eleven month ago and i find out that he make a testement in ninteen ninty seven which he didn't tell me now his sister is the execuitor and she has the will and i ask her to show it to me she said yes but she never did show it to me. please can you tell me what to do about this.thank you


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My Dad died 2 years ago after being disabled with a stroke for 3 years. My stepmom was there every day & we visited when we could afford the trip.

Dad always said we'd all be treated fairly when he died - 3 natural children & 3 adopted stepchildren.

There was no formal funeral - only a memorial to be announced.

The will was never disclosed to his 3 natural children - (I'm) not sure if the stepchildren were appraised of it's contents.

This is very awkward as we don't want to make our stepmom feel we are questioning her, but we feel completely left out of things, and are resentful that there still has been no memorial.


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How incredibly ironic that I heard your book discussed on a radio program this morning. Our family's life has been turned upside down within the recent two weeks due to the decision of my grandfather concerning his will. He is 87 and lives on a large working farm. He bought this farm 30 years ago with the money from selling his old smaller farm. He bought such a large place with the agreement that his only son would help him farm it as a career. Over the years of work, two new homes were built on the for my grandparents and one for his son and daughter-in-law. There were however, two other children to this family....two daughters (one being my mother). Each daughter married and moved a couple of hours away. One daughter found it hard to ever visit...maybe once every 6-8 weeks, and the other (my mother) visited frequently and helped out her parents over the years, painting and other odd jobs.

As the years went by, and my grandparents got older, they needed a lot more care. Financially, my mother and father were going through some rough times, so they decided to move to the farm and rent an existing old home that had come with the farm when it was bought by my grandfather. My grandparents and uncle all expected and collected rent for this older piece of property, even though it was not even barely flushing the toilet with a bucket, electrical problems, leaks, plus many more. My parents put some of their money and much time in making the place decent enough to live in. My mother, instead of going to town to get a job, decided to stay home with my younger brother and help take care of my grandparents. Within a year of being there, my grandmother's health went drastically downhill, and my mother became the primary caregiver, which meant constant trips to the doctor, spending nights with them, cooking meals, doing housework. These duties were not shared among the son and the other sister. In fact, the other two ignored the situation, and complained if anything was necessary or expected on their part in the form of help.

So for 8 years my mother has cared for her parents...grandmother passed away a few years ago, but just in time for grandfather to need much care himself. So my mother's duties (done out of nothing but love) continues. And rent is continually collected on the horrible dwelling in which my parents live. Years earlier, my grandfather had told my mother that when he and grandma passed on, the farm would be first spilt in half going to the son who worked it for many years.....which we all thought was perfectly fair. The other half and money would be split three ways between all three children as their inheritance. My parents both had been told that someday they would own a nice piece of land, and had looked forward to that and even counted on that for a wonderful retirement location.

But two weeks ago, all of that changed. My grandfather called my parents over and were worried about where they would live after he died and he wanted them to buy a new double-wide mobile home and he would let them sit it where the old place was now. And after he died, the deed would stipulate that they would be allowed to stay on that piece of land as long as they wanted, but the land underneath it would belong to the son. He said they could just take the double-wide with them whenever they left the area. This greatly confused my parents. Because of what they had been told earlier, they didn't understand why even such a tiny piece of land after my grandfather's death would belong to the son if they indeed inherited a portion of the farm anyway. Since this was their future at stake, my mother went to ask her father what exactly happens after he passes on. He stunned our family by telling her he changed the will and was giving everything....all of the farm and equipment, and both new houses to the son, my mother's brother. The money that my grandparents had amassed over the years was to be split between all three children (which was not a large sum of money). His reasoning behind such a drastic switch was that he didn't want to split up the land! That was the only reason.

So, after all the years my mother took care of them, cooking, cleaning, being the chauffeur, gardener, painter, maid, ambulance runner, hospital sitter, pharmacist, and grocery deliverer by herself with only the help of her husband and children, she basically is being cut out of any real inheritance. Each of the other two siblings did nothing to help with the care of the parents, and one gets most of it to retire a millionaire and the other gets the same amount of money as the daughter who slaved 8+ years.

Needless to say, my parents are trying as quickly as possible to get off of that farm and into a house of their own. The hurt feelings are beyond description. My mother out of Christian love still takes care of her father on a daily basis while the other two siblings go about their normal lives. We were quick to think this was the tragic decision of a senile old man...and are able to look past the hurt. But we also realize this decision has been well discussed with the son, and he is very aware of this new decision, and he is even the executor. He sees nothing wrong with this and is quite delighted with his new found wealth....and plans to sell the farm and retire in Florida....even though grandfather thinks he is leaving it to be in the family for years "undivided".

So the moral of our story is, try your best to find out what is in the will before they those lines of communication. Be careful....the older they get, the more sporadic decisions can become. And above all DO NOT depend on the affection and love of your family members. No matter how much love has been shown all throughout the years in all branches of the changes people. Unfortunately, usually for the worst. But as traumatic as this whole thing has been, we are VERY thankful we have this information before my grandfather passes away. After the funeral would have been a hundred times more devastating!! My grandfather does not want to split up his precious land, but he succeeded in splitting up his family....because we will never feel the same way about everyone, it caused scars that I doubt will ever heal.


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My father died in 1991, (and) said he was leaving his money to my stepmother on
the understanding that she give what's left to me and my brother. She died
last December, and left her estate to be divided equally between me, my brother,
and her surviving husband. They are both well off financially and get a lump
sum. I'm on disability and am to receive a 20 year annuity, which will cut
off my disability benefits, prescription coverage, and make me more poor
than I am now. She did not adopt me, so I don't think the Wills Variation
Act will apply. I heard the author of the book on the radio this morning talking
about the bitterness that ensues from this type of situation, and I can
assure it's all true. I am so furious about this I don't even want to speak
to my brother and his family again.


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My brother is a liar, a cheat and a thief. My parents trusted him and he took advantage of them. This is a kid I used to walk to school with. Who would have thought?


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Some years ago, when my mother passed away without designating who should get what possession of hers. As executor of her estate, I was faced with the problem of dividing up her stuff, among myself, a grasping, egotistical and selfish rich professional (brother), and a sister who had nothing.

On entering my mother's place, together, my brother opined as to how he would take this and that, and his wife (also of the same ilk) wanted these and those.

What to do? A flash of inspiration provided the answer. I first informed him that his wife was not included in our mother's will, and that we would 'divide the spoils' as follows:

(1) We would each make a written list of what we wanted, in order of preference, of all of mother's belongings, without saying one word to each other.

(2) Then, we would flip a coin to see who was to choose first.

(3) Then, the one who won the coin toss would select her first item, segregating it physically.

(4) The person who came second would do likewise, then the third, going round and round till all had a 'pile' of their choices.

(5) If somebody's choice was already taken, then they would take the next item on their list, if that item was still available.

(My brother had to include his wife's desired objects as part of his list.)

Only after all items were chosen, was conversation allowed, and horse trading began. Sample: "You really wanted that item X, and I really wanted item Y, as they were high on our lists. But you got Y and I got X. Would you like to trade?"

Only in one case was there an item wanted where a settlement/deal could not be reached: my sister wanted something I had chosen, but I was not willing to part with it.

There was no dispute, no loud discussion, and we were all very satisfied both with the process and the results.

I hope this is clear. It proved to be a wonderful way to divide things up, with no altercations, no bruised feelings or egos, and we completed the process feeling good!

I recommend this in any case where there are two or more heirs to household goods/treasures/jewelry but heirs have not been designated in the will.


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Talking about this subject with my mom is impossible. I know what's going to happen when she passes away - WWIII. I got your book and sent it to her. I hope she'll read it and wake up before it's too late.


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Great section on organizing your affairs. Your organization checklist is something I've been looking for.


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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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Your book was easy to read. I learned so much I never knew. Your real life stories in the Inheriting Turmoil section brought it all to life. I hope my kids don't fight but you never know. I'll do everything in my power to help them. Thanks for giving me a starting point.


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I just happened to click onto the Rogers program and see part of your show on family fights. How interesting. I am going to order your book. I want my two sons treated fairly.

We have a little story. My mother was widowed about 15 years ago (from her second husband) who had invested well. Little did we know until after his estate was settled that she had burnt all the paperwork they held in their safe which was mortgages for home owner's including my sisters. God only knows why. She has since lived in an apt. looking after her own money until about 1 year ago when she became ill with lung disease. Mom was starting to complain she had no money. I had previously been suspicious of mother's money disappearing out of the account and asked for records from the bank. I noticed when any GICs became due she wanted the cash put in her account and when I asked her where the money went she would lie. It was going to my sister's sons. I contacted my nephew and told him we tracked checks going into his accounts and they were to repay her as she is short of money. I called mom's family lawyer who in confidence said she should be a millionaire
with all the mortgages they held and was blown away when I told him she had burnt them. He said he knew they kept the paperwork in the safe and what money is left get it away from the vultures (my sister and her family).

I was mom's Power of Attorney and before I had time to do anything (re. the money I found out my sister got mom to sign and add her to power of attorney). My sister who never liked to work, suggested we put all mom's money into her bank account, so if she had to go into a nursing home, the government would subsidize. I point blank said NO. That's when I got a little suspicious of what she was up to.

We were called up one day and told they were taking her up to live with them (a five hour drive one way for me to see her). When we arrived at the apt. all contents had been moved by her two sons. My sister took it upon herself to divide out the contents of the apt. to her family. Leaving no keepsakes for myself.

P.S. Just last week we got a call from the sister-in-law saying she hoped the money would hold out. I guess you can guess what my comment was...................

I blame myself for not intervening sooner, but was trying to avoid a fight and be mister nice guy. Live and learn. I have learned since, that on a power of attorney it should read - make decisions TOGETHER, NOT EITHER OR, that way none of this would happen. Just a little tip for others.


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Congratulations on a very timely book, I can really relate to what you have to say. I especially can relate to what you said about dealing with a caregiving child. I cried when reading the story about the caregiver who didn't attend her niece's wedding because she was so hurt. I too am hurt and feel that I was used by my siblings. I helped mom all those years and they didn't. I didn't even get a thank you.

Also, all parents should heed your advice and not assume good will between their children.

Your book should be required reading for all parents. They should know what can really happen to their family.


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I heard about your book on the radio this morning, and thought "about time"! I've heard many tragic stories and consider myself one of the "lucky ones". My father distributed his money to his descendants gradually over the years, paid for his funeral before going into a seniors' home 10 years ago, and recently passed away at the age of 99 with no debts and a few hundred dollars in his bank account! My husband and I are trying to follow his example!


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