The Moneyist: My son inherited money after his father was killed in an accident. A woman came forward with another legal heir. What now?

United States

Dear Moneyist,

My ex-boyfriend was killed in an accident. With him being unmarried and my child being his only surviving child, he was awarded a large sum of money in the subsequent lawsuit. As he was 10 at the time, I set up an annuity to be disbursed between the age of 18 and 35. He also will accrue a hefty amount of interest because of this.

Two years after the settlement (four years after the accident) my lawyer received a letter stating there was another child, whose mother wanted him to be included in the settlement. We never knew of this other child because the relationship ended badly between them, and the mother told my ex he was not the father and never allowed him to see the child. She named the child after another man.

She knew about the death, but did not come to the funeral or send the child. As it turns out, she knew about the lawsuit ahead of time and was instructed to wait until it was over and swoop in. She went on to prove paternity through a test with the grandfather. After exhausting all efforts and suing me personally, she is left with no legal avenues. She has now asked if the two can have a relationship.

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My child is still a minor and her child is now 20. I feel like it wouldn’t be that appropriate considering the bad blood between us and the two children never having met (they have never spoken over the phone or seen each other in person). She has also asked if we could give the other child “something” from the settlement.

The timing is also suspicious to me because my child will turn 18 this year and will start receiving money from the annuity. But the annuity is set up so that my child does not get a lot of money early on, and if it is broken to give them a piece, it will cost almost $ 500,000 in interest. I know he can probably start up another one, but I doubt the interest will be the same.

My son has said that he doesn’t want a relationship and does not want to give the other son anything from the settlement. He feels he has other siblings (my other children) that he could help before, in his words, “a stranger.” I feel like both young men are suffering. I don’t know what I should do. I want my child’s future secured, but I also think the other child should get something.

I feel like this mom should have secured her child’s future like I did with mine. Do I have a moral obligation to encourage my son to have a relationship with him or to give him any money?

A Mother Who Doesn’t Always Know Best

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Dear Mother,

No. Your duty is to protect your son. This woman’s duty was to do right by her son and her son’s father. She lied about his paternity when your ex-partner was alive, and she waited until the lawsuit was settled before coming forward to sue you for a share of the money she believed rightfully belonged to her son. They were two big mistakes on her part. The statute of limitations on the case has expired, and she has created enough turmoil for you and your son.

Her final avenue is to try emotional blackmail. Your son has made it clear that he wants to keep the settlement, and he does not wish to have a relationship with her son. Also, he rightly suspects that her motives are not pure. By developing a relationship with you and your family, this woman is endeavoring to involve herself in your life — not with a lawsuit this time, but with a guilt trip and a smile. You are not responsible for her son. You have endured enough.

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It’s time to move on with your lives. I’m sorry that her son has been caught in the crossfire, and was deprived of the opportunity to get to know his father when he was alive. Perhaps in time, your son will want to get to know his half-brother. But at this point, with the influence of the woman who has not acted honorably throughout this entire process. Tell this woman the truth. It’s over. Wish her well; stop replying to her emails, letters, calls or text messages; and move on.

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Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch’s Moneyist columnist. You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch.