A grieving woman has been advised to lawyer up after revealing on social media that her stepmother and stepsister may have talked her late father into leaving everything to them.
In a now-deleted post shared in January on the U.K.-based forum Mumsnet under the username Daisyandthe66, the poster said that since her 92-year-old father died a few months ago, her stepmom has refused to discuss the will. The poster suspects he left her his £1.5 million ($1.8 million) house as well as all his assets.
“The whole lot is about £2 million ($2.4 million). Her two daughters were executors if she outlived them. But she didn’t. I suspect my dad’s three children get nothing. When he divorced my mother to be with my stepmother my mother got nearly nothing.”
According to a survey from the Federal Reserve, between 2016 and 2019 the average inheritance received in the U.S. was $46,200. However, there is a considerable disparity between those who are wealthy and those who aren’t. The survey showed that the average inheritance for the wealthiest 1 percent was $719,000, while the figure for the less wealthy was only $9,700.
The poster said she believes her father only made this will to impress his solicitor stepdaughter, who is overbearing when talking about money and may have influenced him to make a “mirror will.” But the poster said he probably regretted leaving nothing to his biological children.
When she tries to speak to her stepmother about the will, she shuts down the conversation and so do her stepsisters. They clearly don’t want to share the money, the poster wrote.
Family law attorney Sabrina Shaheen Cronin, founder and managing partner at the Cronin Law Firm, told Newsweek that when someone we love passes away, there are many things to consider regarding personal property and the person’s other assets.
“Though discussing this important issue is oftentimes the furthest thing from our minds, and bringing up your loved one’s estate could perhaps even be perceived by some to be heartless or greedy, this discussion is nonetheless important and necessary, especially when you are an heir and are being disrespected by someone behaving suspiciously,” Cronin said.
She went on: “When someone has an estate plan prepared, most do their best to prepare for the inevitable and predict as many contingencies as possible. They want to control the distribution of their assets and protect their loved ones by preventing unnecessary hardship or concerns. Their wishes are known, and in most cases the terms are straightforward and the estate plan is carried out directly.”
In this case, there is a lot of speculation surrounding the father’s true intentions regarding his property, Cronin said. Not surprisingly, she continued, it is causing stress and tension for those legally entitled to an inheritance from their father’s estate, so the best thing for the poster to do is to hire an attorney who will contact the stepmother and stepsisters to request a copy of the will.
Cronin went on: “Since the woman is having a difficult time speaking up and asserting herself into the situation with the stepmother and stepdaughter, it is best she hires a competent and qualified attorney to protect her rights and those of the other biological children, if any rights exist. Depending on the terms of the will, the woman and her siblings may or may not be entitled to any portion of her late father’s estate.”
Cronin said if the woman’s attorney decides that an action in probate court could prove fruitful and the woman is willing to pursue this, all or portions of the will could be invalidated. She gave some examples:
1. If the woman believes the version of the will being relied upon by her stepmother and stepsisters is fake, she could produce a copy of the real will (if she has it) and compare the two. If the woman and her attorney discover that the will was not executed properly or does not contain specific language disinheriting his biological children, she could attempt to invalidate the will.
2. If the woman believes the will was executed when her father was mentally unwell, she will have to prove through other means (such as text messages, recordings and/or medical records) that her father was unable to make such important decisions when he signed the purported will.
3. The woman could assert fraud and duress and present any evidence she has to prove that without the influence of her stepmother and stepsisters, her father would not have executed the will.
Cronin said: “Wills without a trust document must be probated anyway but contesting a will can be serious litigation. It is imperative to retain an experienced attorney who knows how to litigate these matters.”
Newsweek was not able to verify the details of the case.
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