“She will sail towards sunset with my father’s belongings”: my father died and my mother-in-law moved to France. There was no memorial. What can I do?


By Quentin Fottrell

“We were also promised my father’s ashes and jewelry, but again we were left waiting”

Dear Quentin,

My father passed away and his wife – my mother-in-law – ignored the whole family. I made many attempts to ask questions, but got blocked. And his son accuses us of only wanting our dad’s stuff. I have no money to seek advice. I don’t work because I was sick. I tried the kind approach and got no response — only silence.

My mother-in-law is talking about moving to France, and if that happens, we won’t get an answer. My father died in France while visiting his family, and they had the funeral there. I missed saying goodbye. We were promised a memorial, but nothing happened. We were also promised my father’s ashes and jewelry, but again we were left to wait.

I’m afraid my mother-in-law is moving away and we won’t hear from her anymore. I don’t know anything about our rights. I know that she is my father’s wife and therefore has a right to certain things. But we have nothing to remember our father. All I have are some T-shirts I got from my sister. If I don’t do something now, no one will.

My mother-in-law knows that we have no money to do anything. She’ll sail into the sunset with my father’s things, and we’ll have nothing. My mother-in-law’s family pushed away my father’s family and hid information about his health from me, and now we are getting the silent treatment. We are being treated unfairly and I don’t know what to do. Can you help ?

grieving girl

Dear daughter,

When a parent dies ab intestate – that is, without a will – you are beholden to your local intestate laws. If your father had a will, it must be filed with the probate court in the county where he resided at the time of his death. But grief and greed are terrible bedfellows: your mother-in-law seems unwilling to share the personal items of your father’s estate, and you wonder where to put your grief and anger at being treated with so little. of sympathy.

For those living in the United States, each state’s intestate laws dictate who gets what. In California, for example, your mother-in-law would inherit all the community/marital property – a house they jointly owned, for example – and the children would receive a third of the property separate from the estate. In Texas, she would inherit all of their joint assets and a third of your father’s separate assets, and would have the right to use his real estate for life.

Intestate laws in other countries also vary. In the UK, you and your siblings will only inherit if the estate is valued at more than 270,000 GBP ($308,000). Anything over that amount is split 50/50, with half going to the spouse – your mother-in-law – and the other half split between the children. The spouse is also entitled to “personal effects” or “movable property” belonging to the deceased, excluding cash. Unfortunately, this may include items of sentimental value.

You are not helpless. You can hold a memorial service for your father and invite his friends and family. It could be as simple as you want: you could have it in a local park, a friend’s backyard, or anywhere that meant a lot to your dad. What matters are the people who show up, the words of remembrance spoken, and the ceremony – which doesn’t have to be religious but will give you some kind of closure and the chance to say goodbye to your father.

You can also apply for free legal aid. A lawyer will give their opinion on whether or not you have a case. Whatever happens, you have a choice to make about another kind of inheritance: abandon your mother-in-law and her unwillingness to cooperate with you or risk compromising your emotional and mental health by opposing her actions for months. or years to come. At some point, we have to accept the outcome, however unfair it may seem, and move on.

Check out the private Moneyist Facebook group, where we seek answers to life’s trickiest money problems. Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Ask your questions, tell me what you want to know more or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets not being able to answer the questions individually.

By emailing your questions, you agree to have them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

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Learn how to shake up your financial routine at the Best New Ideas in Money Festival on September 21-22 in New York City. Join Carrie Schwab, President of the Charles Schwab Foundation.

-Quentin Fottrell


(END) Dow Jones Newswire

09-22-22 1302ET

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