My father desperately begged me, ‘Son, get a lawyer. That woman is going to take away your inheritance!’ My stepmother kept $1 million after he died

December 03, 2021

I’m sorry you went through this, and that you lost an inheritance your late father had intended for you. He may not have fully understood his and his wife’s role in setting up a trust, and made several major mistakes — among them effectively handing over the trust to your stepmother who, as your father realized late in the day, had no intention of fulfilling his wishes. A trustee manages a trust and carries out the terms of the trust. But your stepmother was in a far more central — and powerful — position.

“What is unusual about these facts is that the father appears to have left his property to a trust of which the stepmother was the ‘settlor,’” says Neil V. Carbone, trusts and estates partner at Farrell Fritz PC. “The settlor of a trust is the person who creates it and is also, in most cases, the one who funds it. One would have to review the specific trust agreement to see whether the father was also a settlor of the trust and whether there were any limitations or restrictions on the stepmother’s power to modify the trust after the father’s death.”

Believing the best in people is not an estate plan. People are notoriously unpredictable, never more so in the aftermath of a death and when there are large sums of money involved. In fact, people can be equally capricious and untrustworthy when there are small sums of money involved. As well as being motivated by greed, they are also motivated by hidden resentments and their own belief that they are entitled to the entire kit and kaboodle.

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  • Related Practice Areas: Estate Litigation, Trusts & Estates
  • Featured Attorneys: Neil V. Carbone
  • Publications: MarketWatch