As all of you know, my mother passed away recently. There are many details that need to be handled:

  • Does she want to be buried or cremated?
  • Where to place her remains?
  • Who gets her belongings? Her money?
  • Who is to take care of her demented husband?
  • Where are my uncle’s ashes?

All of this could have been handled through a will, but she didn’t leave one. That leaves all of us to handle the mess that she left behind. Here is the mess:

We don’t know how much money she had, how many debts that she had, or where all of her belongings are located. I’m doing my best to honor her wishes while at the same time being fair to all involved, but it is a minefield.

First, all three of us siblings, as well as my brother’s wife (my SIL) remember her saying that she wanted to be cremated. Done. But what to do with the ashes?

  • Mom’s husband wants her ashes to be placed somewhere that they can be interred together.
  • My brother wants her ashes to be placed in the burial plot next to dad because mom paid for it, and even has her name and photo on the headstone.
  • My sister wants some of the ashes to be placed in lockets that she and her kids can wear.
  • My SIL says that mom told her that she didn’t want to be buried next to dad.
  • My response to all of this, is that if mom had strong feelings one way or the other, she should have had a will made up that would tell us what she wanted. In the absence of a will, we are left to do what we think is best.

Financially, we have found a credit card with her name on it that has an outstanding balance of $350, and a checking account that has less than $1,000. We don’t know where the rest of her money is, or even if there IS any more money. So how that gets distributed is a mystery. The three of us kids decided to just give the husband the money.

Then there is the fact that my brother and I are paying for the funeral arrangements because the husband can’t. The daughter won’t be able to take care of him. She doesn’t believe this, even though I tried to explain to her how much care is required for a person in their 80s who has dementia. She thinks that they are going to move in together so she can keep an eye on him. That isn’t going to work.

That means he will wind up in a nursing home or memory care center. The way that those work is that they are so expensive, the home takes every asset that the patient has- their home, social security benefits, savings, all of it. The only way to save those assets from being taken by the nursing home is to put any assets that they have in a trust. The daughter wants all of mom’s assets to be put in a trust to pay for the long term care of her widower, but the daughter wants us to name her as the trustee.

I don’t mind the husband getting most of that stuff, but in those scenarios, the nursing home or his daughter are the ones who get everything. None of it will actually benefit mom’s husband.

Mom also owned a car. The husband wants that car because the car he owns has a Blue Book value of $7500, but he still owes $10,000. The problem there is that he isn’t supposed to be driving because just a month ago, he was the subject of a search when he went to the store and was missing for hours because of his dementia.

Complicating all of this is the fact that Mom’s husband is obviously deep in the grips of dementia. He hasn’t yet been diagnosed with it because he refuses to go to the doctor, but he is worse than Joe Biden in the mental faculties department. What this means is that normally the husband would be the one to make these decisions as her next of kin, but he is in no position to pay for any of this, or to make any informed decisions. His daughter has stepped forward and claimed that, since he can’t make the decisions, it all falls on her because she is HIS next of kin.

As to who will take care of my mother’s husband, I was in my 50’s when my Mom married this guy. I don’t know him, nor do I owe him anything. Taking care of him is his daughter’s responsibility.

Even more complicated is that my aunt (mom’s younger sister) died back in March. My uncle (the aunt’s husband) died about a year ago. Mom wound up with the ashes of both of them. We found my aunt’s ashes. We haven’t found my uncle’s. My mom couldn’t stand his ass- she downright hated him. Mom had mentioned to my sister that she was planning on flushing “that no-good sonuvabitch’s” ashes down the toilet in the nastiest, dirtiest gas station bathroom that she could find. (Yes, Mom could hold a grudge) The issue there is that his family wants his ashes returned to them. We can’t find them, and well, I think I know where they went.

It’s a mess, and the three of us (me, my brother, and my sister) are left to try and navigate this mess. I’m trying to be as fair and objective as possible, but this is far more difficult than I thought it would be.

Categories: Me


It's just Boris · December 11, 2023 at 1:02 pm

Is there any clarity on who the executor is? I’d guess no …. In which case you probably want to buy an hour of an estates attorney’s time. You might want to do the same with a fee-only financial planner who focuses on retirement issues.

DrBob · December 11, 2023 at 1:23 pm

I feel for you. Death in the family almost always creates a mess. My mom put her assets in trust and when she passed seven years ago, my sister and I handled everything with no muss and little fuss. A trust is a great vehicle to unburden your surviving family and insure that your wishes are likely to be carried out. I have a bird hunting dog and I’ve left money for her maintenance and hunting trips (helps to have a hunting SIL).
As to your mom, I would take care of her funeral arrangements and then call it a day. Her husband’s kid is now in charge and since it doesn’t sound like there is a whole lot of estate left, it could be worth it to be done with the hassle.

Dirty Dingus McGee · December 11, 2023 at 3:21 pm

I’m guessing there isn’t any pension or IRA type assets to be dealt with. Same with real estate. You’re fortunate if thats the case, just dealing with the other stuff is a big enough pain. Also sounds like the daughter has a good bit of “gimmee gimmee”.

Good luck going thru this minefield. Been navigating one for most of the last 2 years after my dad passed. And in his case there WAS a will. Still had a couple of relatives that figured he just “forgot” to include them in the will, even though they hadn’t talked, or seen each other, in at least a decade.

    Divemedic · December 11, 2023 at 3:44 pm

    Mom sold the last of the real estate that her and dad owned about two years ago. Dad had left mom with nearly a million in a 401K, but that money seems to be long gone. I looks like she spent it all, because we can’t find a record of it.
    Now because the husband wants to be buried with Mom, his daughter asked my sister if we would pay $6300 for a burial plot.

      Big Ruckus D · December 11, 2023 at 4:24 pm

      That bit on her wanting you to buy the $6300 burial plot strikes me as a big “no”. Since there already is a burial plot available for use (at least I inferred that from info in the post) next your dad, and no explicit instructions were left on the disposition of her remains, I’d tell the daughter your mother is being interred there, as it the plot has already been paid for (less the cost of her burial there, of course). If the daughter wants your mom’s ashes interred next to her dad, and the estate doesn’t have the funds to provide for that, she can bear the cost of making those arrangements herself. That assumes you and your siblings would be amenable to an arrangement of placing her ashes elsewhere to begin with. I don’t see the request for some of the ashes to keep in lockets to be unreasonable, and since she was cremated that is easy enough to accommodate, provided there aren’t objections from other parties. And really, I don’t know why there would be, but then people are often irrational and selfish in the aftermath of a loved ones passing.

      The fact that it sounds as though there is no real money left in your mom’s estate, while certainly creating some of its own difficulties, also makes it easier to issue cut and dried decisions on some things; simply tell those making unreasonable demands that there’s no money for it, end of discussion. It’s hard to argue with that, and if they want a review of the assets, crack open the books and let them see there’s nothing there. You and your siblings certainly don’t need to acquiesce to being extorted to cover expenses that are not your responsibility.

      As to the daughter wanting to take on care for her dad, while I think you are generous and practical for warning her of the burden that involves, if she is insistent on taking that on despite being advised of how much work it will be, that’s her lesson to learn. Once the estate is settled, you and your siblings have no further need to interact with her, or her dad (unless you want to) and you owe them nothing outside of what may be legally due to him as the surviving spouse in settling the estate.

      FWIW, I had a neighbor years ago who passed after a protracted illness of several months. She was a neat old lady (always told great stories, some of which were amusingly “blue”), and very well organized such that she had a rock solid, current will and trust at the time of her passing. Every t crossed and every i dotted, so to speak. She had three adult children who were all dysfunctional assholes. That was my first hand impression of them anyway, having met them each individually in the aftermath of her passing, as I was hired to do some repairs at her home to prepare it for sale.

      You wouldn’t believe (ok, maybe you would) the posturing, back stabbing and petty bullshit that ensued. One daughter helped herself to a lot of expensive jewelry (in contravention of the will), the son then changed all the locks on the house to keep her and the other sister from picking the place clean on the sneak. Police were called about that, a huge legal battle ensued where all three of them contested the will and sued each other over trying to get their respective “fair share”. I know all this mostly from another neighbor of mine who was actually designated the executor of the estate. The deceased ladies kids weren’t entrusted with that role, because she knew they’d end up at each other’s throats. How that for prescience?

      Obviously, they perfectly fulfilled their mom’s low expectations. God knows how much money was wasted on lawyers and trying to ankle bite each other for a bigger cut of the action, but I know it took almost 3 years (and the additional real estate tax payments that entailed, which wasn’t cheap) to get her house sold because it was all tied up in court. And again, this was in a situation where there was a current and properly executed estate plan. Bottom line, a well planned settlement of an estate, especially one of some substantive value with sizable cash and real estate holdings, can get all mucked up by busy bodies and greedy pricks, assuming they can find a judge who will roll with allowing challenges to the written will.

      Dirty Dingus McGee · December 11, 2023 at 5:40 pm

      Sounds like your mom went thru some serious money in a relatively short period of time. I would hope she was living a life “high on the hog”. Otherwise I would see about trying to get some bank records to see where it might have went.

      And older folks tend to sometimes forget about some assets. When dad did his will he was getting on in years and had the beginning of Alzheimer’s. He had a savings account that he opened in 1979 that he hadn’t included in his will. Going thru some of his files, me and my sister found it and contacted the bank, which was in another state where he had once worked. That forgotten savings account had over $30K in it.

        Anonymous · December 11, 2023 at 8:27 pm

        When my grandfather died, he left my grandmother over 10 million dollars. She managed, in 7 years, to waste/spend it down to about 3.5 million. All she did was go to the casinos.

        She had 8 grandchildren, myself included. Two of my cousins (brothers) received over a million dollars of “loans” “wink wink” before my grandfather died. No one else received anything. At one point, during the 2008 collapse, I was working 3 part time jobs and living out of my car to survive. My grandmother knew about this; yet, did nothing. In the meantime, she was paying for my cousin’s Ivy League College and Medical School. When he started his residency, she even gave him down payment and closing costs on a $750K property.

        My mother was the executor of her estate. She also regularly stayed with her and helped her with her finances. My grandmother lived in a small retirement community where you bought a small house for a couple hundred grand. If you died before going to the nursing home, you could inherit the house to your family to re-sell. My grandmother didn’t believe in computers and kept a ledger of all of the “loans” that she had given. She was diagnosed with stage 4 bladder cancer. I, along with a few of my cousins, outright refused to see her before she died.

        The night that she passed away, before the body was even cold, somebody entered her house, opened the safe, and stole the ledger and about $250K worth of jewlery and gold coins. They were never found. My one cousin was arrested for breaking/entering a few days later while trying to steal all of her furniture (his new condo didn’t have any). Another cousin stole her, practically brand new, Honda Civic; because she felt that “Grandma would have wanted me to have it”.

        My mom called me and asked if I would please play TAPs at her funeral; I had already flat out refused to be a pallbearer. I asked how much of her estate was coming to me and she said nothing. I told her to go hire a local musician to do it. The icing on the cake was that, at the funeral, the two cousins (who had received a bunch of money), kept joking with each other. They refused to be pallbearers as well and kept referring to her as the “stupid bitch”. They flat out admitted that the ledger had existed and that they saw to it’s destruction before my mother could get to it.

        Money, improperly used, just ends up tearing families apart.

      Vlad · December 11, 2023 at 5:54 pm

      “Dad had left mom with nearly a million in a 401K, but that money seems to be long gone.”
      😳😳 You would think there would have to be a lot of “stuff” laying around or some huge donations to a televangelist or 2. That’s some serious cash to go through with nothing to show for it.

jimmyPx · December 11, 2023 at 3:31 pm

DM, I’ve been down this road myself with my ex wifes’ parents.
First, an idea for your Mom’s ashes is buy 2 urns, half go into one buried next to your dad and the other half buried next to current husband, Done.
Next I wouldn’t be surprised if step dad’s daughter drained the accounts and she wants everything. My bet is that she’ll liquidate everything, take the money and then throw him into a shit hole Medicaid care facility.
The bad thing is because no will + husband not diagnosed with dementia or found incompetent = you and your brother’s hands are tied and all rights legally are the husbands.
As others said, pay for the funeral, divide what possessions she had and call it a day.
I know it sucks and I feel for you, besides going through your own grief you have to deal with this BS.

    Divemedic · December 11, 2023 at 3:47 pm

    I am only willing to go so far, then we are going to hire an attorney. The daughter is now hitting us up for money to buy a burial plot. My feeling is that we already have one, and I am not paying for another. If he wants it, he can pay for it. He doesn’t have two nickels to rub together.

      Tonerboy · December 11, 2023 at 4:09 pm

      As for the Missing Uncle’s ashes, go to a crematorium and ask for some ashes. Buy the cheapest container and then declare you “found the missing Urn”

Chris Mallory · December 11, 2023 at 5:39 pm

Getting with an attorney is the only way to go about this. If as it sounds the “husband” ends up on medicaid in a nursing home, a trust may not protect the house. Unless the trust is put in the name of a child who is disabled, the age of the child does not matter. With step relationships involved, you need a lawyer to unravel all this. You also need to look into FL’s Medicaid/Nursing Home “clawback” law. In my state, they will look back 5 years and try to recover any and all assets not gifted to a disabled child. Again the age of the child does not matter, this is black letter Federal law. But a graduation gift to a granddaughter, they can try to recover it. Money given to charity, they will try to recover it. Estate plan early, unless you are independently wealthy. Late life medical care/nursing homes will put you in the poorhouse otherwise. A Medicaid clawback will destroy any generational wealth the family had hoped to pass on.

    EN2 SS · December 11, 2023 at 6:27 pm

    My MIL passed with a will, but one of her genius daughters had her change it and initial the changes, which voided the will. She was in Medicaid for several years and now Medicaid wants their money back. Told the surviving daughter that they would put a lien on the house and if it was rented they would go after the renters to pay the money. Now, the county tax office is fighting Medicaid for the property, due to unpaid taxes over the past few years while she was in a nursing home. I told the daughter to walk away and then followed my own advice and cleared the area of upcoming destruction.

Noway2 · December 11, 2023 at 6:22 pm

I am sorry you’re having to deal with this. It sounds like you’re not the executor of the estate. I am guessing the husband is, even though he’s not fit for it.

I am inclined to agree that talking to a lawyer would be in your best interests. It would answer any questions in terms of liability, inheritance funds, if there are any that can be found (not everything becomes a marital asset), etc. if nothing else, it could give you peace of mind.

I am not exactly the prayers sort, but you have my well wishes, and I am sure the well wishes of many of your readers. I hope you are able to find peace with this situation soon.

Fishlaw · December 11, 2023 at 6:24 pm

I am an atty who used to do some medicaid/medicare estate planning. Unless the subject state is very weird, nothing can be protected but a small burial fund and a few hundred dollars. In order to shield assests in most places, the transfers should have been made 5 years ago or more. If the house is transferred to the man’s daughter now, the gov’t will either make her pay it back, or refuse to care for the widower. The gov’t will take all the assets eventually. Since the widower is not your relative, I would stay out of that part of it.
The situation actually need two experts: a lawyer who does estate work and a social worker. Either the county or the proposed nursing home for the widower should have a free social worker. The social worker can explain the rules about assets.
The atty will need to at least look at the situation and explain the law of the state where she died. In the absence of a will, some state’s give everything to the spouse, some split it between spouse and surviving kids. If it is a marital property state, the marital property law will determine who gets what.
Quite a mess, but legally, it is really not your responsibility to sort it out as long as you don’t mind walking away with zip.

    Divemedic · December 11, 2023 at 8:58 pm

    I dont want a thing. I made sure that family heirlooms were distributed years ago. That’s how I got the shotgun that belonged to my great grandfather.

Tree Mike · December 12, 2023 at 2:21 am

Well…apparently, you just needed some more shite dumped into yer schedule. Sorry, like there’s not enough trip hazards in “normal clown world” these days. “Good fortune to you and yours!”, in my best English or Viking accent.

Don W Curton · December 12, 2023 at 9:49 am

Sorry about your situation, been there done that with my wife’s parents. My wife went thru hell because of her sisters and their backstabbing when the mom died. The dad died an indigent, nothing to his name. The sisters (each married to a high earning husband) both insisted that I alone needed to shell out cash for a funeral and burial. My response consisted of a “fuck” and a “you”. Surprisingly, my wife took my side there. We had had pretty much zero contact with him for the last decade or so of his life and our opinion was to let the county bury him.

Which I guess, reading thru all the comments, the wife and I probably need to sit down and write out a will with some attorney soon.

kevinH · December 12, 2023 at 10:44 am

My sincerest condolences to you and your siblings.
Having lost my mother about 5 years ago, I certainly empathize with your plight.
Mom had all of her cash in thirds, with one child named as co-owner of the account, so that went quickly and we three had cash to bury her. Her real assets where left to us equally, so we just had to liquidate and split the proceeds.
There is enough to do when the will and final plans are in place and you are mourning, I can’t imagine having a mess like you are facing.
I have learned that lesson and put all my wishes and assets in a will with my wife and step daughter as recipients.
God bless, you and yours.

    JoeWarrant · December 13, 2023 at 9:40 pm

    Do NOT die without a will (intestate). Whatever you do, do NOT die without a will. The cost of a court appointed and externally administered estate is significant. The best course of action for anyone approaching retirement is a trust executed more than five years before the need for long term care. The baseline level of preparation is a well drafted will held securely by a disinterested party, If you have not updated your will since your last deployment, or before your last marriage / divorce/ move across state lines, do it now and email scanned copies to those you trust.

mississloppigarro · December 15, 2023 at 7:28 am

Attorneys do not “specialize” in wills. It’s a side hustle that doesn’t earn much unless it’s contested. This means you may have homework; not in just choosing a lawyer, but your state’s laws. Mom trusted a shister lawyer to write her will. He was unable to answer any of our questions about anything to do with a will. Changed lawyers. This craphead held the will hostage up to 2 days before the state’s expiration for filing (5 years). The heirs of the meager estate had no issues with the will but we nearly lost that of most value; the sentimentals. Bar Assn. failed to acknowledge a formal complaint and later found no cause. (Craphead had once served on its board).

If the estate is rather paltry, DO NOT PAY DEBTS OFF AND TELL NO CREDITOR ABOUT HER DEATH. DO NOT GIVE THEM DEATH CERTIFICATES. They can’t file against the estate without one and they never pay to get one! Things no one tells you.
garro – (praying for repose of her soul and comfort for all of you)

Comments are closed.