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Will my stepmother's children claim my father's estate?

4 answers | Last updated: Feb 08, 2015
traceyru asked...
My fathers will says I was second in line to his estate and all property next to my stepmother, she has now just passed away, do I have any rights or can she just overturn the will so her children receive everything? what can I do?

Judy and Fred co-mediate family property and financial conflicts, and each work individually as mediators as well. Judy Barber, a mediator and family business...
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Your question about estate claims depends entirely on the precise wording of your dad's will - as your use of term "second in line" in your question is a bit See also:
What to Expect from a Trusts and Estates Attorney
ambiguous. If his will stated that everything goes to your stepmother and you were only to inherit something if she pre-deceased him, then being "second in line" doesn't really mean anything if she survived him. If this is the way it was written (and I suspect that is indeed what was said), then unfortunately you do not have any legal claim on any of his assets. Once she inherited them she was free to give them to anyone she wanted to. On the other hand, if your dad had signed a trust document that stated that his assets would go to your stepmother but only for her use during her lifetime, and then pass to you upon her death, you would indeed have a valid claim to the remaining assets.

In other words, unless your dad set up a trust that restricted your stepmother's actions she actually isn't "overturning" anything - she inherited the assets from your dad and once that happened she was the sole owner of the assets.

If this is the case, then most likely there isn't anything you can do legally. Of course, this result probably feels incredibly unfair, and may be very hurtful to you. It also may be contrary to what your father really wanted to have happen - as he may have simply assumed that his assets would be shared with his kids. If he worked with a lawyer in preparing his will or trust it might be helpful to try to talk with that lawyer, though he or she may not be comfortable talking with you. In the end, this result may change the way you feel about your relationship with your father.

The one strategy you might consider is talking to your stepmother's children, so that you can explain to them how upsetting this is to you. They might be willing to consider some kind of compromise sharing of the assets, and hopefully they would understand the feelings behind your reaction. Generally we think it's better if you be clear that this is not a legal challenge, but rather, something coming from the heart. If you don't think they will be open to talking with you, then you might want to recruit another family member or mutual friend to help you open up the discussion. If this is not a viable approach, then perhaps you can talk with someone who was in touch with your father when he wrote up his estate documents, in an effort to better understand why he did what he did.

One final point: if you truly believe that this is not what your father intended to do, you would need to retain a lawyer who could file a claim against the estate, and in that context you could question the lawyer who drafted the will or trust. If your did wrote up the documents on his own, without a lawyer's help, then this option probably won't get you very far either.


More Answers
Disinherited Stepson answered...

I was in exactly the same situation. My late father William and my late stepmother Dorothy prepared mirror Wills whereby they left their respective estates initially to the surviving spouse and then to myself and my stepbrother Michael Cosgrove in equal shares. My father died first and his estate passed to my stepmother. My stepmother subsequently prepared a new Will and left everything to her own family. As a result I lost my family inheritance which I understand to be in the region of £150,000. I tried writing to her family explaining that this was against my late fathers wishes but despite numerous attempts Mr & Mrs Cosgrove just ignored all my correspondence. I did seek legal advice but the view was that legally she could betray my late father's wishes by preparing a new Will in favour of her own family. My late father would have been absolutely devestated if he had known that his only son and grandaughter had been completely disinherited.

Without doubt this has been the hardest thing I have had to deal with and it is just so wrong and the law needs changing.


100% helpful
Tennisdude answered...

Exactly the same here. My dad had a brain tumor in November 2005. Before the first surgery I wrote his will out exactly how he wanted it and a notary notorized the document that very day in the hospital bedroom.

Unfortunately he was married to a horrid Columbian woman who I never trusted. The day after he came home from the hospital after the first surgery she took him to an attorney and was made Power of Attorney over his estate. My dad lived over 2 years after that and all she concentrated on was moving the money to a Columbian account. Instead of my sister and I intheriting $500K each which is what we were promised, we got $24K each and that horrid woman told us that was all that was left. Now last year she quick deeded the house to herself and we don't get a part of that either. In the will it stated that is she died (I throw a party!) my sister and I would split the house. If she lived (UGH!) and sold the house, she would get half and my sister and I would get a quarter.

Don't ever trust a late marriage. They are only after the money. I actually found a blog online where a woman was concerned for her dad because he was talking to this woman (that horrid Columbian) and she was afraid that the horrid Columbian was after his money. It had her name, my dad's name in the blog, my dad's address and phone number.

This whole situation is so upsetting. I hope she rots in hell.


Ande j. answered...

My sister and I are going through virtually the same thing. Stepmother will change will and give her kids, ( which dad didn't raise or even particularly like,) all of his estate, our inheritance. She sure had him fooled. My sis and I discovered that her daughter had been plotting for quite a long time and researching Fla. Law so that they would be able to make sure my father's only 2 kids and granddaughter would get nothing. He was the one that made the money and his wishes were well known by all but she saw to it that we didn't even know when his memorial service was held. This was all after a year of us taking care of him, camping out at hospitals and Never seeing any of her kids,,not once! We loved him dearly but all we have is the knowing that you can't be that evil and not pay for it somehow!


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