My stepfather is dead. He inherited my late mother’s estate and always said he would take care of us in his will. How do you approach this issue tactfully with your children?

My stepfather is dead. He inherited my late mother’s estate and always said he would take care of us in his will. How do you approach this issue tactfully with your children?

My stepfather is dead.  He inherited my late mother's estate and always said he would take care of us in his will.  How do you approach this issue tactfully with your children?

Dear Quentin,

My ex-stepfather passed away a month ago. He was married to my mom in Nevada when he died 21 years ago. During their marriage, she gave him quite a bit of money from her retirement fund to buy and maintain properties he owned.

When she died, her assets – including her pension and Social Security – went to her (my mother had no will). My sister and I, who were 19 and 21, got nothing. Over the years he told my grandmother and others that he would take care of it by putting us in his will.

He has two older children, a son and a daughter, who manage his estate with a law firm, and I don’t know how to approach the subject of his will. Honestly, I wasn’t going to tell them anything, if he actually did what he said he was going to do and left us something.

Now I don’t know if he left us anything. I don’t mean to sound greedy, but my sister is a single mother and any financial help would be of great benefit to her and her daughter. When my mother died, a lot of people were upset that he took everything.

Is there a tricky way to handle this?

left with nothing

Dear left,

My gut tells me you weren’t mentioned in the will.

For your sake, I hope I’m wrong. I have two reasons to believe this: 1. Under Nevada intestacy laws, a spouse receives community property – assets acquired during marriage, retirement, and Social Security – and one-third of separate property. The rest goes to the children.

And 2. The fact that he told people he was going to remember you in his will, presumably knowing they would pass that information on, leads me to suspect he knew you were neglected when your mother has passed away, and that news of opportunity would appease you.

An easier way to handle this would be to follow state law and explain it to you at the time, if there was no separate ownership, which seems unlikely, and talk to you directly rather than hoping you don’t rock the boat. based on what your loved ones have told you.

You shouldn’t be able to ask your half-siblings for help. You can, instead, access any will that was filed with the county clerk of the district court in the county where your stepfather died. If there was no will, the stepchildren inherit nothing.

If there is no will? You could claim that your stepfather “forgot” you in his will and approach his children with a request for money. But you have to put a price on your pride in taking such a step. Is it worth it for $5,000? Or $50,000? Or $500,000? How big is his domain?

Nothing happens by accident. Your stepfather talked about how he would take care of you to everyone but you. This does not bode well. I hope I’m wrong, but 21 is a long time, and unless I’ve been very close during that time, I don’t have much hope.

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