Dear Papa Bear,
I have to say that finding your advice column may prove to be a great boon for me.
My current problem is actually several problems compounding into one. I’ll begin with my accident in November; it left me with some nerve damage in my left shoulder and hand as well as a spinal injury. Jumping ahead a couple months, on the night of January 5th, I woke up to find my mother dead on the kitchen floor. Since then it’s just been me left to deal with all of the fallout: I made the arrangements for the wake and funeral without any help from my aunt (her sister). My aunt spent my mother’s wake complaining about me inheriting everything to anyone who would listen.
After the funeral my aunt got into my mother’s safe deposit box and pulled everything from it including a copy of her trust. My mother had named my aunt as her successor trustee and set up the trust in such a way so that it could care for me and the house. Now my aunt has been extremely reluctant to work with me and has since hired an attorney for the trust however this attorney is looking out for his and her pocketbooks rather than the trust and my wellbeing. They call me uncooperative when in reality it’s my aunt who is unwilling to cooperate. She says that I’m constantly partying and should instead be looking for work however the extent of me partying comes down to one birthday party thrown for myself and attending Fur Squared. As far as job hunting is concerned there is not much that I’m allowed to do with my current injuries and my doctor has even chewed me out for doing basic house chores (ie: garbage, vacuuming, etc.).
Following a call in which the attorney that my aunt had hired decided to yell at and insult me, a few days ago I received a letter from him which was further insulting and unprofessional. Although in that letter he stated that both he and my aunt are getting paid for their services from the trust, this is important because in the trust it very specifically states that an individual trustee cannot take payment for their services. Furthermore in this line of issues the aforementioned attorney has claimed that bills including but not limited to the utilities for the house, food, and insurance are “estate debts” and as such are my sole responsibility and that the trust would not pay for them. However, he also claimed that the mortgage payment and property taxes are issues of the trust and will be paid from it, yet this month my aunt failed to make the mortgage payment.
Meanwhile, I’ve got two overdrawn checking accounts and no more food in my attempt to keep my house afloat. I don’t have a support network to lean on aside from people whom offer to “talk if I need to” which is nice but not what I need. I realize that I have forgotten to give my age, I’m 22 years old as of last month and despite my usual ability to be the adult of most situations I find that I am far from equipped to deal with even a quarter of what is now on my plate. Neither my father nor any other relatives are willing to help me in any way and I’m drowning in a sea of confusion, grief and unknowing. I honestly don’t know what to do and don’t know if I can continue to go through this alone but one thing I know for sure is that if this continues the way that it has been I will be homeless before the year is over.
I apologize for the massive block of text but I’m not of the mind to attempt to better separate things at the moment. I humbly ask for any advice you can pass on to me in the hopes that it can help.
Starving and worried
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My condolensces for your loss, hon. At 22, you are of legal age, so you do not need someone else to administer the trust, but I guess that's what your mother did. I would very must like to have a look at the legal documents and see what they say exactly.
Because I can’t do that and because I am not an attorney, I would strongly recommend that you seek out legal counsel. Many lawyers will take a case for no advance payment (on contingency) if they feel they can win the case (and there's money in it for them). You definitely need a lawyer on your side. Your aunt is being a conniving so-and-so who is trying to wrest power and whatever money she can from you. Again, you are an adult and it is none of her business what you do with money that is legally yours, especially since she is not your legal guardian or spouse. (Is there some reason your mother made your aunt trustee and not you, the beneficiary?)
You need to get a copy of the will and the trust. (I hope you can get those). And find a local attorney. If you don’t know one, ask people you know whom they might recommend. If that doesn’t work, you can try a site like http://www.legalmatch.com/. Go to the Estate section and click on the for Contested Wills and Probate and answer the questions they have there. This will hopefully give you some leads you need.
My understanding of the law is that, generally speaking, if there is no will, the spouse of the deceased inherits the estate. You don’t mention your father or other siblings, so if you are the only living child, you would get the estate. If you were deceased, your aunt would probably be next in line, hmmmm. Anyway, it sounds like your mother did leave a will and left you with everything. Your aunt should have absolutely no legal standing in this issue—again, you are not a minor and she has no rights over you. All she has been asked to do is administer the trust.
Again, this is a legal matter and I’m no attorney. Get yourself some representation!
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