The Moneyist: My father disowned me after divorcing my mother, and left my sister everything. Should I keep asking her to split his estate with me?

United States
Dear Quentin,

My father passed away after a long battle of cancer, and left everything to my sister. My father and I never had a bad relationship, and in the couple of years before he passed away we even went on a vacation — just the two of us — to Costa Rica to go catch sailfish.

During the last year that my father was alive, he and my mom went through a divorce. It wasn’t pleasant for me or my sister. I didn’t take a side during the divorce, nor after the divorce. I would invite both of them to my kids birthday, sporting events, etc. My father never showed up and my mom always showed up.

My father and I

One time, I even invited my dad early to my daughter’s birthday party so he could hang out with his granddaughter, and be able to leave before my mom showed up. That went horribly wrong. When he left, he saw other cars from the family arriving when he was leaving. He accused me of not inviting him to the party at all.

By not taking a sides, my father saw that as me taking my mother’s side. When my father passed away, he left everything to my sister — his house, office building and all of his assets — which was a considerable monetary amount. My sister did take care of my dad when he was at his worst health wise, as he had basically forced me out of his life.

Before that, I was a part of everything — including advice on what to do during the divorce and taking him to the emergency room when he had issues relating to his cancer. A year before he passed, I was named in his will and was supposed to get an equal share of his assets when he passed.

But because I did not totally alienate myself from my mom, he became nasty. He sent me texts, made phone calls to me and wrote unpleasant Facebook posts about me, and completely cut me and his granddaughter out of the will.

Legally, I don’t have a leg to stand on, since he was of sound mind when he made the changes to his will. I have consulted a lawyer who said it would be almost impossible to prove otherwise, so I am at the mercy of my sister to do “the right thing.” 

My sister and I

Growing up and during our adult lives, we were basically best friends. I’ve had multiple friends tell me throughout the years that they wish they and their siblings had the same relationship. Did we hang out all the time? No, but I was an hour away for around 15 years.

We never really fought growing up, and we always had a great time hanging out together. Now, I have to ask to even go on the property that my fathered owned. The property is gated. I have asked multiple times for the code to allow me on the property, and I get the answer, “I don’t know what it is.”

It’s been about 2 years since my father has passed, and when I visit my childhood property, I have to climb a gate and walk a quarter of a mile to reach the house. We basically only text for holidays and birthdays etc. We live 15 minutes apart now, but haven’t seen each other, other than funerals, since my fathers death.

Since the divorce, it seems like the entire family also went through a divorce. My sister and my mom no longer have a relationship. Nor do really any of my relatives have a relationship with my sister.

I have asked my sister about sharing my father’s Fidelity FIS, +0.37% account. She has never really said yes or no. I have made inquires about when the distribution will take place, and I just get the runaround every time. Last time, she said the company has not got around to distributing it. I have never asked about the house or office building.

Should I keep asking about sharing the Fidelity account? Or just let it go and chalk it up to my father showing his true colors and him probably loving all of this in the afterlife?


Stuck in the Middle Of Everything

Dear Stuck,

You have put yourself in the middle. Your father is gone, your sister is evasive. His estate is no longer your estate to inherit. His home is no longer your home. It is a painful and frustrating process, and one that may take time to accept, but you need to accept your father’s last will and testament, and your sister’s evasive responses.

She clearly has problems saying “no.” But take her silence and apparent indecision as an answer. She does not appear to want to share the money from your father’s estate with you, and asking her repeatedly if she will do so is only likely to put more pressure on her, and create further resistance on her part.

Of course, she knows the code to your father’s property, but she is not willing to give you an inch, and for reasons that are not my business to speculate upon, she does not to want you to visit this property, or go there without her knowing. If she did, she would give you the codes. By going there, you are trespassing.

It’s hard to read that, but in addition to accepting the breakdown of your relationship with your father and him cutting you out of your will, I believe your path to peace and contentment lies in taking other roads — not those that lead to Fidelity or your father’s former home, both of which belong to your sister.

An outside observer might say, “It’s not fair!” Or, “She should share the estate with her brother!” They are questions for your sister, and it’s not your job or mine to make her see the light. You can’t force her to see this from your perspective, or make her split the account or give you the codes (or deeds) to the property.

Your sister may feel used when you contact her asking about wills and codes and money. No doubt you love her, but she will just hear your financial requests. Do you want a relationship with your sister? Or the money? What is your No. 1 priority here? From what you have written in your letter, I don’t know if you can have both.

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