A Family's Woes Become A Nightmare

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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