I've heard if all children aren't mentioned in a will, they can contest it?

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My MIL died recently and willed all to 1 of her 5 adult kids. The other four children were not even mentioned in her will. She had willed everything to her youngest originally, but about 25 years ago she had a "falling out" with him and changed it willing everything to her 2nd youngest son instead. Nothing for the daughter who lived in the same area and bent over backwards to try to help her and get along with her in her old age. Nothing to her other daughter nor her other 2 sons. No, she willed everything to her son that lived 1200 mi. away from her. We feel he ingratiated himself to her by whatever means and he had his sister bring her on a flight to stay at his house a few months before she died. He didn't even bother to call the other siblings to let them know of her death, he called the sister that brought her and she then called the others. We think he is fearing confrontation about the will. He duped my husband into helping him do repairs on her house, all the while knowing it was ultimately HIS house, as he was set to inherit it, unbeknownst to the rest of the family. We found out through county records that the house was put in a trust and he is the trustee. I'm thinking that pretty well locks everything up neatly for him, since he is successor trustee for the trust that holds the property. So I think even if we contested the will nothing would come of it. We now hear he is giving her household things away to neighbors and anyone but family. It is so weird, but I guess she really hated her other children. They are all great people with nice families. It is sad what she has done to shatter her family, must have had a heart overflowing with hate. I know one thing...the son that has gotten everything will never see or hear from any of his siblings again. I hope he has fun with the money because he has no family left that will have anything to do with him.

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2ndBest - Yes. Exactly what I was trying to get at. Clearly this mean, bitter woman was trying to send a message and have the last word. In her mind this was the way to do it - what better way to have the last word than in ones will? But you and the other siblings can truely make her last words powerless. This was never about reward or being deserving - it was about power and punishment. MIL had "the right" to leave her assets to the person of her choose. Being fair and loving or even ethical is not required in final bequeaths. However, you and the other siblings can ultimately take from MIL want she wanted most here, it seems - the final word. Refuse to make that word about her and her petty agenda.
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As to understanding the motives of people, I don't think it's always possible. We're each individual, different ethnicities, different backgrounds, different motivations... could there ever possibly be psychological guidelines and explanations that could offer insight into so many different variables, even though the profession has tried to explain behavior?

But, after all, we're not Vulcans, nor Mr. or Mrs. Spock or their children, and don't behave logically. We're just humans and sometimes very irrational.

I think there's been enough damage done that perhaps as others have suggested, it's better to put the wondering and analysis aside and focus as you've written on healing.

Best wishes to you and your family to move on past the trauma.
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Thank you all for your input and sharing your takes on this issue. I know my question was about contesting the will and at first I blamed 2nd fav brother-in-law for influencing his mother to make him her sole beneficiary, but I now am focusing more on making sense out of the whole thing, not on seeking any kind of monetary reward for myself. Really $100k or less is not anything to get excited about in my book. I just really would like to understand how a mother could be like her. I'm more interested in WHY a mother would do this. It occurred to me that she may have switched her beneficiary from fav son to his brother mostly for spite against fav son. She wanted to maximize the negative impact it would have on fav son. So if she had made all the other sibs (except fav son) beneficiaries, they would each only get a small amount - $100k or less. But by willing all of it (~ $400-500k) to 2nd fav son, she probably thought that fav son would realize just how much he had lost, and the high price he had to pay for turning against her. I think her aim was to make him wish he had never crossed her, never found fault with her and never stopped speaking to her over her cruel and disrespectful treatment of his father after his death. Fav son is really the only one of her children she ever was a mother to. She was a zombie mother to the first 4 kids, working nights and sleeping all day. My husband claims he was raised by his oldest sister, who was 9 when he was born. He says she was more of a mother to him than his mother ever was. But fav son was born when my husband was 12, so he was raised as an only child, since by the time he was in school the other 4 had moved away for college, marriage, etc. His mother no longer was working night shift and was actually present in his life. His father suddenly became interested in football and actually attended fav son's games, and even served as a coaching assistant for their highschool team. They attended all of fav son's college games and were enthusiastic fans. My husband's father never attended any of his or 2nd fav brother's football games, highschool or college, and was pretty much absent from their lives. Sure he was there physically after work and on weekends, but he was not the least bit involved or interested in their lives. He was always zoned out, sitting in his chair watching "the game". My husband says they never went out to dinner as a family, never met most of their relatives, and never went on a family vacation. Maybe by the time fav son came along their parents finally had the maturity to invest some time and energy into their one son. Kind of like getting a second chance to do things right. Sorry I'm babbling on and on here, but I am kind of thinking about it as I write. So anyway, for those of you that think it's all about the money, you are mistaken. I find the psychological aspects of family betrayal much more troubling and am always trying to make sense out of the senseless. I think I have finally made sense out of this. I'm pretty sure her motive was aimed at giving fav son a giant slap in the face. I don't think it bothers him too much - he couldn't think any lower of her than he already does, and he is a very successful and well-off executive, father of three boys and happily married. So it kind of makes all of her efforts to get revenge on him benign and a waste of her time and energy. She probably spent countless days of her life seething with anticipation that she would get him in the end. Maybe it made her death easier knowing she was leaving a family-shattering bomb behind, finally getting even with her fav son. A lesson there for all of us. As I mentioned earlier, I feel most sorry for my SIL that did so much for her mother over the years. She is the one that is just devastated by the fact that she wasn't even mentioned in her mother's will. I think I can maybe help her heal from this betrayal by making her see it in that light, that her mother wasn't aiming to hurt her by leaving her out of the will, but rather she was trying to deal the biggest blow she could to fav son. That may make it easier for her to come to terms with this whole mess. Right now I think she is heartbroken and feels very betrayed.
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All these answers and suggestion are GREAT. In the end, you own nothing. I worked in Real Estate for 40 years. WE used to tell people when the subject came up that we have never seen a U-haul behind the funeral procession. I have a trust and a Will. BUT, I have already been giving my kids gifts of my possessions. I want to see their happy faces as they open another gift from Mom. I don't wear my Jewelry. At first I thought, please don't sell it..But,once you give the gift it is not your place to control what they do with that gift. But if it were from a Grandmother or G-Grandmother, of course you would hope they would keep it and pass it along to a bride in the future. I am not forced to leave anything to my children. In fact, my older daughter is very well to do.Her business continues to grow. She wants her brother and sister to share the estate and leave her out. I give her gifts also. I did not have much when I was their age. There were times when it would have been nice to have something to sell to get me out of poverty. In my case with my partner's kids, I really wish they would contest the Will. #1. It will satisfy their need to know. Unfortunately, because they are not named, the attorney states the Will is private as is the Trust. To me, that makes things harder.
They are not going to love me more or suddenly trust me if they get a copy. I suppose I could push it and have the attorney send them each a copy. However, I am following the directions of the attorney. He must know something I don;t know. As it means nothing to me for them to see the documents, I sometimes wonder if the attorney is trying to make future business for himself. If he denies them the right to see and ready the Trust and Will, they may sue and contest and he would make more money off of me. But, I am handling it the way my Partner wanted it handled. That is my job. I am the Trustee but my partner left specific instructions. Why, I don't know. It would be hard on me to go to court. I already have a heart condition that was brought out even more after all the harassment. Don't fight a contest of the Will or Trust, it is not worth it and you should want the truth to come out.
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I have no experiences of this nature, thank God. But I wonder if it wouldn't be easier and more satisfying to just let things be and forget about her as quickly as possible. Or, to say prayers for her sick soul--sounds like she needs them. The money is "tainted" in a way anyway--who would want it coming from a person like that? It sounds like the sibling who got it all is cut from the same cloth, and if his reward is to be ignored by everyone else from now on, he earned it. Find joy in associating with the ones who love each other and act like it and get this other stuff out of the picture ASAP. Don't let it fester and gnaw at you. Fighting for some of the money or belongings only prolongs the ugliness that has been done to you. I wish you all well!
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There are some really good answers here. Just because a person is passing away does not mean in most cases that they are brain dead. When they created their Will, they meant what they wrote. Remember anyone can contest anything. I personally did not care if his kids contested my Partner's Will. However, I made it very clear to them that I am not paying for their games. They will be spending their money not mine to get their message in front of a judge. And, if the kids loose, my attorney will be asking for the funds I used to defend their father's Will, I will be reimbursed. Their attorney will alert them to this fact.

There was a statement in the Will that should anyone contest this Will they will get NADA, He named specific people who were to get nothing. Period!

Years ago, my partner gave an old antique train set that he brought from Germany. His father (their grand-father) had given to my partner in the early 40's. The son sold it immediately. Told his dad, "I needed the money". When he was dying NONE of them came to see their father. I don't feel one bit sad for the kids.

The children hated me for a number of years. They refused to visit their dad as long as I was living in the house. You cannot imagine how nasty they were to me. The one daughter looked me in the face at the Memorial and stated.."I bet you will be lonely now" I fell apart, but took my tears home. They had a party at one of the kids house after the Memorial for all the people who came from Germany. I was not invited. Wonder what their dad would have thought of that?
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I agree with those that say it is her money and she can do what she wants with it. If she was so horrible, why would you want anything of hers to remind you of those years? Having gone through this myself, I had what little my mother had given to me and I split it with my brother. Enough said. She left no will and didn't even speak to me the last year of her life. She was plain ornery. The only reason I took care of her belongings is that the "stuff" needed to be gotten out and sold or donated, which I did. My estate is handled by a good lawyer. I had four children and for some reason, all but one want not to be in contact. I tried, they did not. No answers, no contact. It has been almost twenty years and they seem to have inherited what they deserve...my mother's life style and attitude. If that is what they want, that is what they get. The others in the family, a daughter, SIL, granddaughter and greatgrand children seem to get along fine with each other and also me. So I have to assume that I am NOT the ogre that they think I am. When I die, I told my lawyer that I will have to assume that they predeceased me as I have no idea where they are nor do I care.

My life goes on and when I am gone, I remember what my MIL told me years ago. You cannot take anything with you. Look in my casket...if you see any money, take it and put in a check. She was a grand woman for whom I was very grateful. So live your life and forget about inheritances. No one owes anyone anything unless they take out a loan.
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I agree with Ferris1, leave well enough alone. Anything that was left by the deceased has the RIGHT to leave it to whom she wishes and she disinherited the others because she could. GET OVER IT, jealousy will get you nowhere
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A person making their own Will has every right to leave their assets to WHOMEVER they choose. That said, the "left out" children don't have a leg to stand on unless the mother-in-law signed her documents under duress and coercion. Let it go!
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I believe this requires the work of an attorney.
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