Q: My 91-year old mother lives with my sister. She took my mother to a lawyer without my knowledge in 2019. I unexpectedly found out that two quitclaim property deeds were transferred into a trust, for which my sister is apparently the trustee.
My sister will not tell me if I have been included in the trust. Is there any way to find out what is going on?
A: You say that your sister took your mother to an estate attorney, but you didn’t say whether your mother asked to be taken.
Your mother has the right to dispose of her property and assets in any way she chooses. You don’t have the right to manage her affairs or even know about her financial affairs unless she tells you.
Your sister lives with your mother and apparently has been her primary caregiver for some time. The trust was apparently set up to ensure the easy transfer of ownership of your mother’s assets to the trust’s beneficiary or beneficiaries. You and your sister may be among the beneficiaries listed, or there could be others, like a charity your mother has been involved with or nieces and nephews she’s close to, or even friends.
It’s clear from your question that you don’t have a good relationship with your mother or sister. Reading between the lines, you seem much more interested in the financial aspects of how it affects you rather than your mother’s wellbeing. We suggest you’d ask your mother or sister about her plans. If they decide not to tell you, that’s up to them.
Are you concerned about elder abuse? The only circumstance in which you’d have the right to know about her financial affairs is if you believe your mother isn’t mentally competent to manage her affairs and your sister has exerted undue influence over her. In other words, your sister has forced your mother to give her control over her assets and cash.
If that’s the case, then you may want to talk to an attorney who specializes in elder abuse or financial abuse cases and explore your options. But if your mother is simply trying to get her affairs in order, she has every right to do that – and to exclude you from inheriting, if she so desires.
This may be hard to hear. But children typically don’t get disinherited out of the blue. If you’ve been out of your mother’s and sister’s lives for the past few years, or even decades, and now pop up out of the blue, it’s understandable that your sister wouldn’t want to disclose information that perhaps your mother asked her to keep confidential.
It sounds like there’s a lot you haven’t shared, and plenty of emotional baggage to go around. If you can separate your interest in your mother’s estate from your relationship with her and your sister, you should try to repair the relationships first, and then perhaps the estate issues will work themselves out.
Contact Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin through her website, ThinkGlink.com.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: REAL ESTATE MATTERS: Siblings squabble over mother’s estate plan