I need help on etiquette

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by DammitJanet, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    This is a sticky and tricky situation and I really dont have a clue how to handle it.

    As you know my Dad just died the beginning of this month. He was married to my step-mother for almost 26 years. Now I guess she really wasnt a step mom to me because I was well over 18 when they married so she didnt raise me and her kids were over 18 too when they married so there was never any parenting of younger kids.

    In fact, Pat, his wife, used to be my mom's best friend and I knew her pretty well and I knew her middle son very well and in fact, actually slept with him once! yeah...wild huh?

    Well...now we come to the gritty details...ya know the will and all that stuff.

    I dont know how to deal with this, ask about it, or anything without seeming like I am a vulture. So far as I was leaving her house to come home that day of the funeral she handed me a clock that I had given him a few years ago that he had loved and a picture of his ship in Okinawa. She also told me that he has a CD at a bank set up in my name but didnt give me any details. I also heard in passing while they were making the arrangements for the number of death certificates to order, that there were 3 life insurance policies.

    Now knowing my father like I do, this man has a will and he would have spelled things out in stone. I mean he actually planned his funeral down to the flowers 15 years ago. Bought the plot, the casket...everything. Even put in the order form to tell my family that he got the pecan casket because he loved getting our pecans all those years. Thats how detailed he was.

    How do I ask about the will and the details? How do I ask about any of my Dad's little "things" I would like to have. Also, he promised us his pick-up truck. Its 20 years old. Actually 22. 89 Toyota. Also promised Tony his wood working tools that he has in his tool shed. He bought a bunch of pretty nice stuff to build bird houses and such when he stopped working but his emphysema kept him from being able to do much with it. He always told Tony that would be how Tony could make a living when Tony retired. Now I have no idea if Pat will keep those promises or not.

    I dont know if my Dad put that stuff in the will or not.

    Wouldnt I have to be there at the reading seeing as how I am his only child? Pat has kids but they are not his children or really even step children because they were adults when they married. I wouldnt be able to inherit anything from Pat I dont believe. Lord knows, I would be well off if I could...her mom left her a half million dollars when she died and Pat basically lived off my dad except for what she wanted to do for her own kids.

    Sooooo.....How do I do all this without sounding like a greedy lil witch?
  2. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Some of it might depend how well you know and get along with Pat. You could ask her outright if she knows of anything specific that he wanted the boys to have. Yes, you should be present for the will reading, even if you have to do it by conference call or webcam. My dad and stepmom have told me (together) what to expect depending on who dies first, both her son and I were over 18 when they married. I won't say that hasn't changed somewhat now that I have a kid, but I do know there are certain items of my dad's that I will get, like his gun collection and the teak furniture he and my mom bought when he was stationed in Thailand (beautiful pieces that I grew up with and always loved).

    If you are uncomfortable talking to her and you know who his lawyer was, contact his lawyer. If his estate has to go through probate (at a certain value it's automatic, the amount depends on the state), I expect that if you are named in the will you'll get notified, but I'm not totally certain how it works.
  3. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Do you know if your dad went through a lawyer or attorney firm to create the will? If you know which one, you may try calling them and asking if a time and place has been set up for the reading of the will. Let them know that as his only child you would like to make sure they have your correct address to send the notification to.

    Have you had a good relation with his wife so that you can approach her with something like, "What a month this has been! You are handling things so well. Is there anything I can help go through? Anything from my childhood that I can see? Have you had a chance to set up the date and time for the reading of the will? Do you have everyone's address and contact information that should be there?"

    Or, "I know you are very busy with all of this. There is no easy way to ask this, but I know in conversations with Dad that there are certain items he wanted each of us to have. They are things that have deep sentimental values to us. Would you mind if I discussed these items with you or will they be amongst the items in the Reading of the Will? Have you had a chance to set up a date and time for the Reading of the Will? Do you have all the contact information for those who should be there?"

    Is there a person other than your mom representing the estate? You could ask that person for details on the CD's and ask if there is anything else set up in your name that you should know about.
  4. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    HaoZi was typing the same time I was. Good idea about the probate. I THINK probates are public records to a certain extent. You can try going to the probate court at your county and ask to talk with someone who may have information on your Dad's probate. That person will give you info they are allowed to give you and should know the process and time line the Reading of the Will has. Should also know who is handling the finances of the probate to give you info on the CD's.
  5. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    As HaoZi suggested, you could ask if there was anything specific he wanted you or your boys to have. You could also offer to help her sort your dad's things; the sentimental keepsakes from the stuff to donate, and see what, if anything, has been done already.
  6. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    Hmmm, tricky. What I would do was send her a note in the mail. I would just ask her if she could let you know what dad put in his papers about XYZ (the specifics you do know about that he wanted you to have) because the items he mentioned wanting you and Tony to have are of emotional importance to you and you'd like to make arrangements to pick them up when its convenient for her. I'd also mention that you didn't know about a CD for you until she mentioned it so would appreciate details about it and anything else mentioned by your dad in his arrangements. I would end with a thank you in advance, hope you do realized I ask not for mercenary reasons but because these things were important to my dad and are important to me because he wanted certain things to be kept with his daughter when the time came.
    If you are polite and sensitive in asking, then if she chooses to be upset it is something she is creating. Either out of grief or whatever. Don't own that. Hopefully she'll just be happy to honor her husbands wishes.
    Alternately, you could contact his attorney on the premise of the CD, and in speaking with that attorney, request whatever legally you are entitled to in terms of information from the will. If you don't know the lawyers name, you could just ask his wife the lawyers name. Something like "I was thinking on the mention you made of a CD for me that dad set up, can I have his lawyers name and number so I can get in touch about it. I'm going to use the same person to do whatever legal stuff on my end I have to do to accept the CD rather than waste time searching for someone else".
  7. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    That all sounds good. I am just really having a problem handling this. If it was my mother, I wouldnt have a problem at all, I would simply just ask. Its the whole second marriage thing that has me second guessing myself and it is the way she has always kept me and my part of the family away from her kids like we had the plague and might infect them in some way. I think the funeral was like the third time we all got together in all these years. Sad huh? I so wanted siblings and for my kids to have aunts and uncles. I considered them my siblings but it wasnt returned. Sad thing was my dad always said he could rely on Tony and my boys much more than he could rely on Pat's boys and her daughters husband even though they lived in the same town as Pat and my Dad. If my Dad really needed something done, he would let me know and somehow we would go do it...and wouldnt ask for a dime. Pats kids charged him! That really ticked him off. Have to say though, we usually found a little bit of money tucked into a pocket of a jacket or some other place no one would look until we were almost home...lol. It was the fact that we never ever asked for money but he did make sure we covered gas money at least.

    I have no idea who is lawyer would have been. I dont even remember who he used for the divorce. I dont think I was privy to that information. Its not like he lived in a small town, I cant just call lawyers...lol. Do things have to go through probate court if he had a will? I thought that was only if a person died without one. I do know their house and cars were all paid for and were in both names...XXX or YYY. Not XXX and YYY. Even their joint accounts were done that way. I dont know if he had any that were in just his name except that CD which I think is jointly in his name and mine but I believe it is an upon death account. I cannot believe my dad ever had a CD that I could have accessed at any time.

    I believe if there are 3 life insurance policies then one would be Pat's, one would be mine and the other may be set up to split amongst the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This one might be stipulated that it would go into a trust for some of the grandchildren and greats. I wouldnt doubt it at all if my Dad didnt set up Cory's as a trust because of his issues. Maybe he cant touch it until he reaches 30 or 35. Maybe the great- grands go into a trust for a college fund. Or if they dont go to college, they cant touch it until they reach 25 or so. Dad wasnt stupid.

    The smaller stuff I want isnt real important. I would like the video's he taped of my boys when they were young. I cant see why Pat would want them. I would like to take all the pictures she has of my dad and the boys and his childhood to a copier place and get them scanned onto a disk. She can have the originals. I believe my dad has a bunch of 8mm film and slides he and my mom took of me when I was a baby and toddler. I would like to have those. I believe my dad still has the wedding ring from his marriage to my mom, I would like that. I gave my dad a Marine Corps ring. I would like that. I actually wear the same size ring as he did. I can wear it. Or I did then, I might have to get it resized now. I gave my dad 12 Marine Xmas ornaments that were sent one a month for a year. They werent cheap and I would love to get them back because he loved them so much.

    Im sure there are a few other little things but I cant think of them right now. Its memory stuff. Oh...I want one of the license plates off his truck. USS VIN. Another family member has already put in dibs for the other plate. LOL.
  8. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    in my opinion, the smaller stuff is the most important. My Granny asked each one of us kids and grandkids what one thing we would most like to have after she passed. Nobody went for the high ticket items...I wanted the family collage of pictures dating back to the mid 1800's, my brother wanted the polished rocks, created by my grandfather's brother, a jeweler, Katie asked for a vase she thought was pretty (she was only 5 at the time), and my cousins asked for similar things.

    I would definitely ask for the pictures and movies outright, they can't mean anything to Pat, same with the wedding ring and the Marine Corps ring. As for the ornaments, tell her you would love to have those to pass on to the grandbabies when they are older.
  9. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Honestly? If it were me, I'd just ask. I'm not sure this is really any set procedure for this sort of thing. And since you're his only child it is only right that you ask about such things.

    If you're in the will you should be contacted to attend the reading of the will. At least that has always been my understanding of it. We didn't go through that with mother in law because by the time she passed all money was gone and she'd already made sure everyone had gotten what was stated in the will they would get since we sold the house ect.

    It's not out of place for you to ask such things. Awkward or not.

    Vultures are my step sibs who snuck into the house and snitched away stuff while my mom was trying to make funeral arrangements........and who emptied bank accounts ect before she could get to the bank.........Wouldn't have bothered any of us near as much as it did if they'd kept their hands off the college funds my step dad set up for ALL of the grandchildren (his and my moms). ugh Now those are vultures.

    But I don't know much about etiquette. husband didn't receive most of what he was supposed to get from his dad............simply because he would not open his mouth and ask, so his brother thought he didn't want it and took it for himself.

  10. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    What happens when there is no will often depends on the state. Usually everything goes to the surviving spouse unless there's an objection. Automatic probate when there is a will depends on the dollar value of the estate, because the gov't wants their cut of estate taxes. Best to not wait long, or things you're looking for might already be gone. Did your dad have any brothers or sisters you could approach about it? Close friends that might have known?
  11. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Hi Janet,

    if you are listed as a beneficiary in the will in addition to a cd, they will contact you. The bank has a legal responsibility to get you the funds, and they will usually send a letter first advising you that you are the beneficiary of a cd. His lawyer or the court will notify you if you were named in the will.

    Ok, but here's the catch. If he named Pat the executor, it becomes her responsibility to make sure that all bequeaths are followed up on. You will have to trust her or talk to her - either/or.

    If you feel there are some sentimental things that are not individual bequeaths in the will that you would like to have, I say you need to make the phone call, Now.

    Folks change. Folks become vultures. I've seen it too many times.

    Before her children come in and get the truck and tools - and they very well may ask and Pat may not even know that dad promised them to Tony - you need to call her Janet.

    You can definitely make the call appropriate. First ask after her, "How are you getting along Pat? I know this is a difficult time for you." Personally I would begin with the little things, "Pat, there are some childhood memories, 8mm film that dad and my mom had and some pics and things that dad have of my boys that I would really like to have. I would like to come up in the next week or so to go through some of those things, would this be good for you?

    At this point you would have two choices. You can start in on the bequeaths then or you could wait until you are with her and personally handle it. When you are face to face with her, you can casually say, "Pat, you mentioned that dad made me the beneficiary of a cd, I was touched and surprised." Who is the executor of the estate and who do I make sure has my contact info - I know they will need my address, ss# and such" That will kinda get the ball rolling.

    Or, if you prefer to just handle it head-on, when you call about coming up you can just ask point blank "Pat, has a reading of the will been scheduled? Dad had mentioned several times about some things he was leaving to me and Tony and I wondered when that was going to be."

    I know that when my father passed, there was no formal reading because my mother was the beneficiary of everything but one of his life insurance policies that dad took out in the 70's when he and my mother were traveling a lot that he left to the four of us (and his reasoning at the time was that if something happened to the both of them, we would not have to wait for the estate to go through probate to have some money for school and living expenses in the meantime). If you or Tony or the boys are not formally listed in the will, you would not have been asked to be present at the reading.

    There are a lot of "ifs" here Janet. Don't be "wishy-washy" about this. If there are things you want, things you also know your dad wanted you to have, you need to handle it now before Pat might be taken advantage of in her sadness by anyone who turned into a vulture. Sometime, in grief, it's easier to say, "whatever" than to deal.......

  12. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    Sometimes, the will thing takes some time, especially because of the holidays. I would simply call her and ask how she's doing and say you were thinking of her. Then just simply work it into the conversation about has she gotten to all the paperwork yet....then keep going from there. Ask who the lawyer was who did his will before she clams up if she does.. If she doesn't go any further than that, at least you have the lawyers name and you can call directly.
  13. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I would just call her, tell her that it is an uncomfortable call for you to make, but you can not think of any other way to communicate your thoughts.
    Just be honest about it.

    If he has a will and you are named, you will be contacted by the lawyer to be present for its reading - this is not done quickly usually.

    When my dad passed, we had to communicate with his last living brother in California that we had not seen in 30 years, to see if there were any outstanding debts my dad had to him. It delayed everything for quite some time as the communicate remained via US mail since he did not include his phone# upon his initial mail response.
  14. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Having been the Executor of both parents wills I can affirm that strange things happen in families following the death of a loved one...often from those who were the least "loved". Chances are probate will be involved if he had assets and chances are she is either now the owner of most, if not all, of his assets.

    That said I see one of two options. Either you call her directly or you contact the funeral home and ask which attorneys are involved in the estate. (If it is a small community the funeral director will probably then inform Pat that you called.) Chances are they know. on the other hand, they will only know what is in writing.

    If you opt to call I would suggest being truthful. After appropriate greeting I would say "Pat, I feel uncomfortable or funny
    about contacting you about some sentimental possessions. I hope you are not offended but there are a few things that Dad told us he would like us to have...and I don't know if he wrote them down or shared his thoughts on those items.
    Would you be OK with me asking you about those things? As meticulous as he was he may not have noted items without monetary value. "

    Chances are she will say "sure". If she says "I'm not up to that now" then ask her if she would be more comfortable if you
    sent her a note of inquiry. She has lost her husband of many years and she probably is feeling vulnerable and confused herself. She may want to hold onto everything that is not in writing. She may have her children taking things that you were promised. There's no way to know without calling.

    Be prepared. Very weird things happen following a death. If no personal items are available to you then remember those
    items fondly and accept you can't do anything about them. Anything that is in your name or listed in the will has to come to
    you legally. The attorney is required to make sure of that. Very often the things of emotional value go by the wayside. It
    will be a hard pill to swallow but remember the Serenity Prayer.

    I'm hoping all goes well. Either way...you loved your Dad and your Dad loved you. That's more than many people have to hold on to. Good luck DDD
  15. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    I agree. People can totally change and some mighty weird stuff can go on after a death. mother in law averted that by making sure everyone got what they were supposed to get before she passed.

    My Mom spent a year on lawyer fees and in court after what my step dad's kids did to her. It really was off the wall most of it.
  16. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I know things can go iffy. That is really what I am afraid of. My understanding of VA law is that his estate has to be split between his wife, me and his biograndchildren. If there are any.

    I dont think that his brother's would know anything about his lawyer. The funeral director is a good idea. He seemed to know quite a bit.

    Funny thing was that I called Pat about 10 days after I got home. She talked to me just fine though she did get in one smart alecky remark about how she knew I had started smoking again. I just laughed that off and said I was going to try again when I got all the other smokers out of my house. It was too hard with others smoking around me. Then I tried to reach her again about a week before Xmas and she didnt answer. I just figured she was at one of her kids houses. No biggie. Jamie called her while we were up there and she told him she was with her best friend forever Dot and that she would call us back. Never did. I tried once more from Jamie's phone on Xmas night so that the kids could speak to her but no answer. Again...probably at her daughters house. Im giving her the benefit of the doubt. However she does have a cell phone and she has my number. Phone works both ways.

    I will try again this weekend.
  17. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I'd be surprised if Va law stipulates how an estate is divided except in the case of an intestate deseased. I think I used the right word, for someone who passes with no will written. A will is suppose to dictate how the deseased wants property divided and I'd bet a buck that the will rules. DDD

    PS: I'm hoping for the best!
  18. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Oh I bet the will rules too. I think it would only intestate that the whole how the estate would be divided came in. I dont think he would have not had a will. That just wouldnt have been my Dad. Heck my mom had a will but I took an end run around her will by making sure there were no assets at the time of her death.

    Oh...dont will's have to be filed with a courthouse? Or just left with someone that is trusted like a lawyer or a friend? I do know who his best friend might have been. His old boss. That could possibly be where he would have left a will in case something happened to both of them while traveling or something.
  19. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Most, almost all, people leave a copy of their will with the attorney who draws it up. There are two things I learned from my personal experience. First of all there may be multiple wills unbeknownst to the primary attorney. People change their minds over time or update. Secondly (and this is still true, at least in our State) personal property distrubution is not included in the body of the will. The attorney suggests that you type or write up a sheet showing personal items with the name of the recipient. This informally done paper is to be dated and signed and preferably notarized or witnessed. The big problem isthat older people often "redo" their lists. My Mom had 3!! One of my siblings had a copy of the first one and literally took Mom's diamond ring set when she left the State after the services. You can imagine how popular I was when
    I found three lists and the last dated one did not give those rings to that sibling. Yikes! I had to have the attorney write a letter to each of the siblings including a copy of the most recent personal list and suggesting that all property be returned
    to me for distribution. The middle list left her home to a different sibling. That too was not in the valid list and boy did that cause issues for years.

    Of course the personal property list (if not left with attorney which it usually is not) often times "disappears" and then all kinds of H results. Thankfully that did not happen in our family but I know for a fact it happened in another family that was comprised of mostly nice people.

    So...don't assume anything. Just make sure (no matter how young you are) that you get everything written down so your wishes can be legally followed. Hugs. DDD
  20. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    In the days after my Nana's death, my mom's brother was an absolute jerk, and all sorts of things disappeared. My mom was crushed, and they didn't speak for over 15 years.