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Ask Rene: Battle Of Will.. What Should I Do Now?

testament in english

Ask Rene: Battle Of Will..
What Should I Do Now?


Hi Rene:


My mother-in-law made me the executor of her estate about 10 years ago. She was confident that I would do the right thing with whatever assets she had. She died last spring and she did not leave a will, so now I have to figure out who gets what after all the financial dust settles.

I know that my mother-in-law intended for all of her four children to receive an equal share of her money. There really isn’t going to be that much money left to each child—maybe $5,000 each—but my 35-year-old sister-in-law thinks she should get the lion’s share of it because she has young children while everyone else’s children are grown or nearly grown.

My mother-in-law did a lot for her daughter because she never has gotten on her own two feet, but it hardly seems right to go against her wishes, although I could. My sister-in-law is making my life quite miserable as I go about this process—calling me constantly to make her case, talking about me to other relatives, and going out of her way to insult me. It’s getting stressful and keeping me up at night. I almost want to give her everything just so we can all move on. I won’t do that, but I really would like your advice on how to get out of this with as little damage as possible.


Torn in Toledo



Dear Torn:

As  if the death of your mother-in-law weren’t traumatic enough; I’m sorry for your loss.  Sadly, in many cases, death brings out the worst in people, especially when there’s money involved. Okay, so here’s what I would do if I were you.


1. Avoid Sister-in-Law

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Maybe avoid is too strong a word but I would definitely keep your SIL at arm's length. This is not immature as much as it is self-preservation. Your sister-in-law is not really rational at this point and you don't need the aggravation. Avoid her so you can make your decision without external noise/pressure from her.



  1. Derek Adams

    November 12, 2014 at 7:33 am

    I’m confused. How can someone be made Executor if there is no Will? Regardless, it doesn’t matter what the sister-in-law wants or what anyone wants. If a person dies without a Will, the estate automatically goes into Probate in accordance to state law (and each state has specific laws around this). The immediate family (and in-laws do not count) must decide who the estate Representative will be; if the family cannot agree, the Probate Judge will decide for them. Unless there are very compelling arguments, and *if* the estate was large enough, the Probate Judge/Court may allow different amounts of money to be distributed to the immediate surviving family. The estate Representative does receive a small percentage for their time handling the estate; other than that, the estate is divided equally and distributed to the immediate surviving family. I’ve been through this twice and I know exactly what Torn is going through. It’s hell. She needs to contact the county Probate office where the deceased lived.

  2. Rene Syler

    November 12, 2014 at 8:23 am

    @Derekadams121 yes.. someone can be named executor even if there is no will Good idea about contracting county probate. I answered this less from a legal perspective and more from a battle of wills standpoint so thanks for sending along that idea!

  3. Derek Adams

    November 12, 2014 at 9:22 am

    State laws vary. In TX and Oklahoma you cannot have an Executor if there is no Will, so I was speaking from my own personal knowledge. Even the Probate court will not acknowledge an “Executor” if there is now Will in these 2 states. But, this is always a timely topic because too many people do not take the time to properly set up their estate. ‘Too busy’, ‘I don’t have enough assets to do a Will’, etc… As you stated, death brings out the ugliness in people and in families, and often times something as trivial as a plate suddenly becomes the string that unravels relationships. Part of being a responsible adult is making sure your wishes are known and having your personal matters tended to for when you leave this Earth. But, if you have horrible, hateful children/family and want to make their lives miserable — die without a Will. The ultimate payback.

  4. Wills and Estates

    November 12, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Torn in Toledo, so sorry for your loss. That sounds like a difficult situation to be in. Especially when other family members are being difficult. This is the one time you need the people in your life to be supportive, not the other way around.

    I totally agree that you should not REWARD bad BEHAVIOR! That is simple, but correct advice.

    Depending on your needs and financial situation, it may be best to get an attorney involved. This way you are not only taking loads of legalities off your shoulders, but you can rest a little bit, knowing that you have a competent lawyer on your side.

    Best of luck to you!!! And your family!


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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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