My Aunt's Will... she meant well.

by Diane

I know my aunt meant well. She left her will a bit open so that the family could flexibly distribute her wealth as births and deaths happened.

The family had a great relationship, and all her children kept up, despite living in different states. Every Christmas they showed that closeness by returning to her home to celebrate family traditions and catch up. Everyone told her not to worry, because they cared for her, and money wasn’t important.

But when her time came, the ambiguous language was not a great decision. Her son lived in the same state, where all of the land she owned was located, and had a farm on some of the property. His daughter had been given a small portion some time before my great aunt’s passing, and had built a house on it, with the understanding that the land surrounding her property would remain in the family, and retain its forested scenery and the privacy she valued.

But my aunt’s daughter lived in another state. Several states away, the land did her no good as it sat untouched, within the family. By the time her mother passed away, she herself was a grandmother, with five children and all their own families looking for a share of the family wealth.

The will had asked that the land holdings be split equally between my aunt’s two children, and that they could then decide how to split their halves between their separate families. How to do that became very problematic.

The in-state family members wished that all the land stayed in the family and was split up by acreage.

The out-of-state family wanted to sell everything, all of it as one big package, and split the money.

There were also two houses on the land, and some of the fields were being worked by her son even though she didn’t own them. Plus there was the assumptions made by the family member when she built her house that the surrounding property would remain the same. She didn’t have any guarantees, but it didn’t help matters.

Both sides ended up getting lawyers, and stopped speaking to each other beyond what was required. Nothing has been settled, fees are piling up, and with the economy not the best, a buyer isn’t to be found, even if one is needed.

Wendy: These stories keep coming in and every single one is sooo sad! Families ripped apart over the estate of their loved one.. how sad is that?

Thanks for sharing, Diane -- this helps others to think twice about what they might do too!

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