‘Am I crazy?’ After my mum died, my cousin took her designer handbag and my aunt took 8 paintings home – then things really got out of hand

My mother passed away three months ago after a long and horrific decline due to dementia. It devastated me and my immediate family. I also had to quit my job during this time. My mother passed away less than a month after being transferred to a memory care unit, and I am still in deep grief. Her sisters and their children came to the funeral.

My extended family felt entitled to look through my mother’s paintings, her handbags, her jewelry and everything in between.

A cousin even took one of my mother’s purses to give to her sister (who didn’t come to the funeral) because the cousin felt bad for not sharing the inheritance she had received from his grandmother with his sister (another long story).

If I said how tasteless it was or how much it hurt me, they called me greedy and overly sensitive. One of my aunts currently has eight paintings from my mother’s house hanging in her house, if that gives you an idea of ​​the scope of things. I worked to accept it and get over it. However, recently things have really gotten out of hand.

My father has money. No. I live paycheck to paycheck due to the high cost of rent and my student loan debt – not to mention my recent unemployment situation (I recently started a new job). My aunt and her boyfriend recently visited my dad at his apartment in Florida. Dad told them I was getting my mom’s car because my car is old and starting to be unreliable.

My aunt’s boyfriend contacted me to ask what I wanted to do with my current car, since I was taking my late mother’s automobile. Honestly, I hadn’t given it much thought and was a little surprised. He also messaged me on Facebook telling me to call him urgently – which freaked me out as I feared something was wrong with my dad.

The boyfriend said his sister was struggling financially and needed a new car. He then asked me how much I wanted for my car. Being a people pleaser and afraid of being judged if I asked what I could get for the car at the market, I said they could have it. A few days later I told him he couldn’t have the car and apologized for saying he could.

The next morning I woke up to an avalanche of text messages and a call from another aunt (Aunt #2), a sister of the aunt who is dating the man who asked for my car. Aunt #2 texted me saying I was mean and needed to explain why I decided not to give my car away for free and Aunt #1 was sobbing. Aunt #2 told me not to go back on my word (I’m 33).

Am I mad or am I emotionally preyed upon and coerced? Am I wrong to tell them that I don’t owe them the car?


Dear Exhausted,

Contact an estate planning attorney and locksmith. If your parents are divorced and you are the only surviving child, your mother’s estate goes to you under the law ab intestate, that is, if there is no will. It’s not only unethical for your cousin or aunt to raid their house for valuables, it’s also illegal. They commit trespassing and steal property that should go through probate.

If there was a will, your mother may have filed it with the probate court in the county where she lived. Contact the probate court and the court clerk’s office with the date of his death to see if a will has been filed. Sometimes it can be done online. The court will then rule on the validity of the will. If there is no will and you are their only child, the estate is yours.

You can also contact a family attorney or financial advisor to find out more about life insurance, deeds in your mother’s home, if she had one, and any retirement accounts. There should be information about his old bank accounts that might be helpful, including statements mailed to his home. A font localization service might be useful for fonts issued after 1996.

Who is the executor or trustee of this estate? If this is a family member who once took items from your late mother’s house, that person can and should be removed from their role. There should be a full inventory of your late mother’s assets as part of the probate. If probate is pending, these items were neither yours nor theirs to take at that point, and they must be returned.

Inheritance theft and embezzlement are unfortunately all too common. Family members often take it upon themselves to search through a deceased person’s home, taking everything from jewelry to automobiles and anything they believe they are entitled to. It’s your legacy, and those parents are vultures and bullies. Report this looting to your lawyer.

And now, listen to me very carefully, and repeat after me: You don’t owe anyone anything. You owe no explanation to your loved ones. You don’t have to explain your mother’s estate. You don’t have to answer your phone. (That’s why the tech gods of Silicon Valley invented the “block” button.) People can’t make you feel bad or guilty. It’s your choice. Choose freedom.

Your loved ones may see you as someone who can be easily manipulated, blackmailed, cajoled, coerced or – as is also the case here – robbed. Just because it’s happening brazenly, shamelessly, and in plain sight doesn’t mean it’s anything other than what it is: your family members are stealing your mother’s estate. They steal your inheritance.

Asking for your car is the icing on the cake. You are 33 years old. If you don’t start standing up for yourself now, you’ll spend your life being pushed around. You can tell people to back off. Just say, “I just lost my mother. It’s a difficult time for me and I need you to stop calling me. If you receive more calls and Facebook messages, press the aforementioned “block” button. No explanation needed.

You can’t reason with interested, greedy, opportunistic people. You can talk to them, and they will talk around you because they don’t subscribe to the social contract – where we listen to others’ wishes, have healthy boundaries, and choose to respect the difference between what’s our property and what’s ours. to another person.

Finally, stop telling people about your personal affairs. This includes your father, who clearly cannot keep the information private. If relatives or friends ask you questions about what you own and what you will do with your mother’s property, tell them that it is in the hands of your lawyer and that it is private.

Don’t do things because you want to be liked or because you’re afraid of making people angry. It will keep you hostage to other people’s questions, whims and demands for the rest of your life. Your life will no longer belong to you. It is better to be strong and to love yourself than to always agree with others who only think of themselves.

Yoyou can email The Moneyist for financial and ethical questions at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Discover Moneyist’s private Facebook group, where we seek answers to life’s trickiest money problems. Ask your questions, tell me what you want to know more or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets not being able to answer the questions individually.

More Quentin Fottrell:

“My sister is still struggling with money and drugs”: I own a house with my husband and my mother. Should my sister be excluded from the family inheritance?

My ex-partner demanded that I pay 50% of our daughter’s medical bills. He earns 3 times my salary. Is it right?

‘I feel very hurt’: My late wife’s parents removed me from their will and reduced my daughter’s inheritance. We are punished after my remarriage. What are we doing?

Leave a Comment