‘She took his queen-size bed for herself’: My sister mooched off my father while pretending to be his caregiver. Then he died a painful death.

Dear Quentin,

When my father died a few years ago, he left my sister and I everything in his trust – a 50/50 split. I live 400 miles from my father’s old house and my sister’s house. She screwed him for many years. She made herself his trustee and managed his money and spent almost everything on herself. She checked his bank account and savings.

She said she was his caregiver, but she took his queen bed for herself and let him sleep in a hospital bed. He died at the age of 92. He had a liquid phobia. She did not measure his fluid intake as she was told by his doctor. He died of dehydration and a blocked intestine that ruptured and gave him peritonitis. He died a very painful death.

“She even sold my mother’s custom turquoise jewelry, gems and gold, and antiques.”

I contacted my sister every week and asked when I could come to the house so we could have a real estate sale. She refused to give me a date. During this time she gave her family a lot of belongings. She sold most of it and kept the money: an antique gun collection, gun-making supplies, hunting gear, fishing and camping supplies, antique tools.

She even sold my mother’s custom turquoise jewelry, gems and gold, and antiques. She had the latest appliances and kitchen appliances, canned goods and pots and pans. My sister kept or sold everything, even her belongings in Colorado. I got two antique mason jars and half a dozen old bottles my dad found while hunting.

My question is: Can my sister get something from me after I pass?

Betrayed sister

dear betrayed,

We may never know if your sister’s care led to or aggravated your father’s illness and death. Peritonitis is caused by a bacterium and typically results in dehydration. Even though your father was dehydrated when he died and/or was hospitalized, drawing a line between the two is difficult and potentially dangerous for your mental health. It may also have been for health reasons that your father slept in a hospital bed.

You’re asking the wrong question, or at least missing the key question that should emerge from your story. Yes, if you die without a will, your family will receive your estate. If you don’t have children, that would be your sister. So make a will. Always make a will. Even if you don’t have a family like I told this gentleman, you can always do something useful with your money.

You’re asking the wrong question, or at least missing the key question that should emerge from your story.

Here’s the question missing from your letter: “How can I hold my sister accountable and ensure our late father’s estate is distributed fairly?” As trustee of your family trust, she has a fiduciary duty, in the best interests of the beneficiaries – and not just themselves – to act, including a duty of loyalty and due diligence. She failed on both counts.

“Trusts are administered out of court by the trustee, and wills are administered by the executor through a court process called probate — very different ways,” according to the law firm Albertson & Davidson. “Because wills are strictly judicially supervised and trusts are not, many people think that trusts cannot be challenged in court. But there they are wrong.”

As a beneficiary, you can take your sister to court for her handling of the trust. “Additionally, a trust can be contested on the same grounds that a will can be contested,” adds Albertson & Davidson. “The most commonly used reasons are: lack of capacity, undue influence, fraud, or a problem with signing the document.”

Contact a probate attorney in your father’s state to share your concerns and review your options. Your choices are whether or not to hold your sister accountable based on the amount of money associated with your late father’s estate, your desire to set things right, and of course, your own mental health. Whatever you decide, I wish you all the best.

Meand You can email The Moneyist with financial and ethical questions related to the coronavirus at [email protected] and follow Quentin Fottrell Twitter.

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More from Quentin Fottrell:

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