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November 9, 2012 1:42 AM   Subscribe

Secretly removed as an executor by my father: how should I feel about this?

My father has always favoured my younger sister, though he's only admitted it openly in recent years. I find it hurtful, but have tried to keep a good relationship going anyway.
Four or five years ago my dad asked my sister and I to both be executors of his will, and we went to his lawyer and signed some papers. No major family upsets have happened with him since and my sister and I, who were very frosty with each other at the time, have recently been a bit more friendly.

Then my sister's son got drunk and told my husband that dad has secretly redone his will so only my sister is now an executor. My nephew didn't say whether I and my children are cut out of the will altogether or not.

I know there is absolutely no way to 'clear the air' by raising this with dad. Am I right in feeling that this is supposed to be a metaphorical kick in the face from beyond the grave? I was never supposed to know until after he dies, hopefully many years away (he's in his seventies). I feel it's one last attempt to point out how little he cares about me compared to my sister. Is there any way this isn't a deliberate attempt to hurt?
posted by tulipwool to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have any second source of information that this has happened beyond the words of a drunken nephew?
posted by infini at 1:48 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

He may not mean to hurt you, although equally he may not care whether you are hurt by this. He may just not trust you.

I should add that people do some crazy things towards the end of their years. My grandad, the sanest, loveliest and smartest man right until the end died days before he would have signed away a large part of his estate, as we subsequently found out. In particular, when it comes to money there are lots of cases of people overly willing property who show them kindness or compassion in their later years.

It's tough to be on the end of this, but the only advice I can give is not to spend too much time dwelling on it. Your worth isn't defined by how much love a parent gives you versus that of a sibling. You don't think, I suspect rightly, that any way of bringing this up with your father will end well. You don't seem to have a cast iron relationship with your sister to the extent you could discuss it with her openly. You don't know what conversations were had behind the scenes to make this happen. You don't know if your dad is playing you against one another (even accepting that your dad wasn't the one who told you about this) from beyond the grave.

In short: I would drop the issue. It's his will. Unless you feel comfortable talking to your sister about this. Don't expend energy dealing with unknowns and unanswerables where the main victim will be your self-esteem.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:59 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think being named the executor is a special prize, really. During a time of grief, the executor has to pay the last bills, collect all the financial paperwork, sort through belongings, sell and divide property. My own father, who is around your father's age, has spent some time getting his affairs in order, paperwork all together in folders so we can find everything immediately, funeral pre-paid and organized, and so on. My dad is trying to make it easier on his daughters. Maybe your father is trying to make it easier on you?
posted by Houstonian at 2:03 AM on November 9, 2012 [10 favorites]

Supposing it's true, it could mean that your father thinks your sister is more reliable in matters like this, and not that he loves you any less than he loves her or that he has cut you out of his will and left everything to her. You could be getting everything your sister gets but without the hassle of being an executor.

Is it the case that you had frosty relations with your sister when she had your father's ear? Maybe she helped to convince him that you weren't up to the job (lazy? flighty? loony? drunk? drugged? tangled up with awful mates? just too damned busy?) or were otherwise less likely to act as he would like.
posted by pracowity at 2:06 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Were you counting on this inheritence at all? I'm not asking to be mean.


Loooong story short, issues like this changed dramatically years ago for my brother and I once our stepmom came into the picture. Our father is still alive, but it's like we were never his offspring these days.

This is a bitter pill to swallow - no way around that.

I suggest you and your children accept reality NOW. Assume there will be no legacy. Be surprised if that proves false, later on.


I know where you are coming from. In the bigger picture, try to make it matter not at all.

This does not define you. Who knows why your dad has made changes to his will. You already knew he wasn't fond of you. Don't let the fallout ruin your life.

You're OK with or without his legacy.

Embrace that. Ignore the rest.
posted by jbenben at 2:08 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think my parents have me in charge of doing some of this stuff for them, and not my siblings. I definitely don't think they care about me anymore, just that they see me as more responsible.
posted by saraindc at 2:09 AM on November 9, 2012

To answer the questions - I'd have said my dad considered me much as saraindc says her parents do her, as more responsible! I'm much more able to cope with forms than my sister.

I am the boring sober daughter! Drink, drugs and promiscuity have passed me by. My sister has 4 kids by different fathers, I've been married for 20 years and my dad seems to get on pretty well with my husband.

It's not the money - as I said, I don't know if I've been cut out or not. We're ordinary working class people, dad isn't rich and if he had to go into an old people's home all his savings could easily be drained leaving nothing for anyone. I'm hurt about secretly being removed from being an executor, even if he's still left me a share.

I don't know for sure that my nephew wasn't lying but I don't know why it would even enter his head - we haven't talked about it at all and he was just a teenager when his mum and I signed the forms years ago.
posted by tulipwool at 2:18 AM on November 9, 2012

Given all that, I think it would be very fair to ask your father directly whether it's true, for no other reason than it cuts down the confusion later. He'll probably tell you why, if it is true.
posted by Houstonian at 2:26 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

tulipwool - perhaps your father's greater "love" for your sister is actually a shared dependency between them, or a feeling of greater responsibility for her - and that your independence and stability is perceived as a barrier to intimacy or less needing of love and attention. Similarly, if she were to be made the sole executor, this might be a way of giving her responsibility and a show of faith. And if her family got all or most of the estate, the rationale could be that she needed it more.

The way these family dynamics play out can be weird, contradictory and counterfactual, and the risk of this increases as people get older.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:28 AM on November 9, 2012 [9 favorites]

You could 'clear the air' by talking to your nephew when he's not drunk.
posted by mannequito at 2:41 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

a) Being an executor is a total pain the arse. Really, it's just so much work at a time you don't really feel like it. If it's true, you have dodged an annoying bullet.

b) Drunken nephew who was a teen when it was signed could quite easily have misheard/misunderstood something. Also, he was drunk.

c) You have no idea why your dad did it; it may have nothing to do with your sister's status as "favoured". It could be she lives closer, it could be there's some part of the will which is more relevant to her interests. It could be a gazillion different things. Ask if it's burning you up, or colouring your relationship with your dad negatively.

A word on"favourites": My parents - like most parents with kids, I suppose - have their favourites. Though the vagaries of time varies the intensity of the favouritism. And sometimes, when I perceived (rightly) that they were favouring my brother more - or one of the others, it would bother me. "I'm the good son!" I wanted to cry. "He's a fuck-up! Love me most!"; "Just because I'm last, I should still get what the others all got!"

But then one day, I kinda realised. He is a bit of a fuck up. And he needs them - he needs everything, in some ways - more than me. I don't need what they give him - though to be sure I would have valued it, respected it more, if I got it. But I didn't need it. And they're parents, they love all of us, but they give us what we need from them, when they can see the need. He needs more, and he needs more visibly, so he gets it. My other siblings, at times in their lives needed more than I did when I reached that time of my life, and sometimes, just through the situation itself, my parents had more to give, emotionally, fiscally, whateverlly.

But what they did give me, which my brother never got, was independence. Was a desire to fight for my own happiness, and the skills to secure it, and the ability to be "responsible", and "good", and "prudent", and enjoy doing it. The ability to love someone who respects me and is good for me.

And you know, in the wash up, I bet my bro would rather have that than the money they give him, the attention, etc. It's a great thing to have, best gift of all. He's probably jealous of me, too.

Tl;dr Parents try to give kids what they need. You might not need them as much and that is no bad thing.
posted by smoke at 3:24 AM on November 9, 2012 [18 favorites]

My parents removed me as executor of their will after realizing that my brother will always live closer to them than I will, so if and when paperwork needs to be signed, he's the one who can do it with the least hassle.

But we all know I'm the favorite.
posted by olinerd at 4:09 AM on November 9, 2012

Could it be that he just realized that you two get along very poorly, and asking you to be co-executors is a recipe for disaster? He then realizes that he's got to choose one of you to do it or you'll just end up fighting about it... and he says to himself "tulipwool won't mind if I leave her off- her sister is more sensitive about these sorts of things." So he quietly takes you off, counting on you to be the bigger person about it?

That's total guesswork of course, but I would recommend not asking him about it, being thankful you don't have to cope with the headache of dealing with minutiae and paperwork for a guy who might be trying to jab at you from beyond the grave (which would be in extremely poor taste, if true), and especially being thankful for your nephew telling you this so that you have years to process your emotions about it and can look terribly mature when/if it eventually comes out that this is true and you really don't care anymore.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:25 AM on November 9, 2012 [18 favorites]

I find it interesting that so many responses put forth potential positive, loving reasons your father might remove you from his post-death arrangements without telling you. The truth is that some parents actually are kind of assholes about this kind of thing. Some parents enjoy stirring the pot and keeping siblings squabbling, even when everyone's well into adulthood. OP, you know your father and your family. If your nephew is tossing barbed comments at your spouse that poke at your sibling rivalry with your sister, then this competitive negativity is deeply ingrained and resolving this executor issue isn't going to change anything.

I know there is absolutely no way to 'clear the air' by raising this with dad.

Why is this? The only thing you can do to find out the truth is to ask your father, but it doesn't have to be confrontational. "Dad, nephew told spouse you changed your executor arrangements. Is that true? I am here for you regardless and I want to help assure you've got things set up to your satisfaction so you can just relax and enjoy your retirement." Just separate yourself from his desire to have you and your sister at odds. Don't play the game.

In the end, regardless of your father's motives, it sounds like you're going to feel stung. By his doing it, by his not telling you, by his telling your sister instead of you, by finding out from a drunk extended family member, by doing everything right and still not being favored... the only thing you have any control over is how you handle that stung feeling.
posted by headnsouth at 4:56 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Being the executor of someone's will is not a prize, so not being named as one is NOT a kick in the face, metaphorical or otherwise. I'd certainly speak with your Dad about it. Not confrontationally, but just mention it to him.

"You know, Nephew was over here last week and he mentioned that you've made changes to the arrangements in your will. Not that I mind, your arrangements are your affair, but I wanted to be sure that I understood, so that when the time comes, I'll know what to expect. So I understand that Posey will now be the sole executor, is that right?"

As for being cut out of the will, meh, who cares? It's not a fortune that he has to leave, and none of us should be doing our financial planning based upon the possibiilty of a legacy.

Parents have favorites but it doesn't mean they don't love us equally. It just means that for whatever reasons, they enjoy the company of one kid over the other. There may be similar interests, or they may have a similar way of looking at things, or it might be that the parent enjoys feeling needed and the other sibling is so messed up that the need never goes away.

I'm sure your father loves you, he just feels more connected to your sister, for whatever reason.

For goodness sake, don't let this fester and make you bitter. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter. Know that while you may have issues with your family, that you all love each other deep down. Even if they royally piss you off more often than not.

I would like to say that if you have a SUPER-CRAZY-DYSFUNCTIONAL family, then it's a different story. In which case you should be thrilled that you're not entangled with your dad's final arrangments.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:15 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

seconding Ruthless Bunny:

In fact, NOT being the executor of a will is something of a prize in many contexts.
posted by Mr. Justice at 6:18 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think that people who don't routinely make wills may have difficulty understanding the mentality of those who do. It is not always about emotions when you change executors. Often it's about fiscal responsibility, or trying to avoid a nightmare complicated morass after your death, or trying to ensure that the person most willing to do something would be doing it - not wanting to burden someone.

I've done this, and it has caused family drama when discovered, which has been sad - because that was absolutely not the intended outcome.

Maybe it would help if you thought as wills as something that were frequently changed and not necessarily personal?
posted by corb at 6:38 AM on November 9, 2012

Thank you for the answers. I found treehorn+bunny's the most helpful - I think I can either consider my dad malicious and trying deliberately to hurt me, or a bit dim and not even realising I'd be hurt. I'll try to go for stupid.

I've been assuming I'd end up with all the work anyway! Now I realise that if my sister comes to me after dad is gone and says 'What do I do? Help me with this!' I can answer 'I wish I could, but it would be wrong to go against dad's wishes.'

I know I can't ask dad about it because I've tried before, years ago, in other family stir-ups. (My family does tend to drama.) He won't give me any good answers and if pushed he'll just stop talking to me, possibly for years.

I've been smoothing things over and trying to think the best of everyone for some time. I'll just keep on doing that. I see my dad weekly and I found out about this last Saturday so just need to be totally calm by tomorrow!
posted by tulipwool at 6:46 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I will chime in here and say your dad did you a favor. As others have said being an executor is a pain in the tush. My husband fulfilled that for his dad and even though it was about as straightforward as it could get it was still work.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:56 AM on November 9, 2012

Could you bring it up in the context of wanting to keep your contact info up to date with the lawyer who holds/drafted the will, or something similar?

My parents just went through a lot of their papers with my oldest brother (who is their executor), and I am cool with that. You might suggest to your dad that a periodic review would make it easier for you & she to work together in the event, which is bound to be a busy and emotional time, etc., etc.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:58 AM on November 9, 2012

You could ask your sister, you say you're getting along better right?

Sometimes it can be hard to balance "I want this thing" vs "I don't like having things taken away"

You've said some incredibly hurtful things about your sister in this thread (despite her not seeming to be involved at all) throwing out that she had kids by different fathers as an indictment of her character?? Is that how you would want someone talking about you or your daughter? Seems like dealing with these folks, or even thinking about them brings out the worst in you...

Is this a thing you actually want? Do you want to be part of this unit?
posted by French Fry at 7:12 AM on November 9, 2012

For the record, I'm not finger pointing. My family brings out a terrible in me that nothing competes with. As such I am happy not to be involved in end of life planning.
posted by French Fry at 7:19 AM on November 9, 2012

I know I'm not supposed to hang about answering frequently but honestly, French Fry, that's not fair. I don't think anything awful about my sister because she didn't have the luck I had in settling down with a good partner. I mentioned it because it was suggested my dad might think I'd be a bad executor for being 'lazy? flighty? loony? drunk? drugged? tangled up with awful mates?' and I wanted to point out that none of those things apply, and if dad was approving his children based on adherence to traditional life structures, he'd have to give me the points. But there is no such reason! He just likes her best!
posted by tulipwool at 7:21 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Secretly removed as an executor by my father: how should I feel about this?

Relieved. Being an executor is a pain in the arse.
posted by flabdablet at 7:22 AM on November 9, 2012

Adding another key thing to think about: if being an executor is a pain in the ass, then being a co-executor is a MILLION TIMES WORSE. Neither one of you can do anything without the other one around doing it with you; you'd think that you could "divide and conquer" on the tasks, but instead, you have to basically tie yourself to this other person to get anything done. And if she's a flaky person, then that could be the worst experience of your life.

Lord only knows why your father did this. . . but honestly, it's a gift.
posted by KathrynT at 9:07 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is a distinction between in being the executor of a will, and being a beneficiary. The two are entirely separate.

The executor is the person responsible for making sure the instructions in the will are followed. In many jurisdictions, they are legally liable if the instructions aren't followed exactly.

The beneficiary, and there may be many in any particular will, is someone named in the will to receive some kind of property owned by the deceased.

You may no longer be a executor, but there may be no change in who gets what in the will.

In many cases, the executor is a lawyer or trust company, and doesn't get any of the assets, except for a fee for services rendered.

As others have noted, there is substantial legal liability, as well as time and effort in being the executor of an estate. Taxes, tax and legal filings, selling assets as needed. It's a lot of work. If your sister thinks being the executor is a free pass to take whatever she wants, she's in for a surprise.
posted by thenormshow at 9:54 AM on November 9, 2012

This is tricky. You can be happy with not being executor; you can be unconcerned about getting the contents of your father's estate; but right now this sort of partial secrecy about his will is defining your relationships. Having information reach you the way it did is hurtful, even if the information itself is inconsequential. You don't just step outside of this by being OK with the results of the will, because everyone else is going to go on acting like it's a big honking deal. (Honestly, kids getting drunk and spilling this stuff? People obviously think it's very important.) You can even say, "Hey, write me out of the will, and then we can have a relationship that's free of those issues." But if the dynamic in the family is messed up enough, that will be seen as a power move too.

So I'd sit down and say, what's important to me in this situation? And then figure out a strategy to try to salvage that. There really may be nothing you can do to solve the problem. That's why there are so many novels with a will as a plot point; it's a complex and intractable situation. But if it's the relationships you care about, figure out how to keep your side of it as you would want to remember it once that person is gone. And as you want to live day to day, in the time that's left.

On a practical level, maybe that would involve going to your father and simply saying, "So and so told me this." Not fishing for anything, just so that he knows there is a trickle of information that's reaching you. I'm thinking, though, that would just kick up another shitstorm. Better to try to keep lines of communication open on other levels.
posted by BibiRose at 10:01 AM on November 9, 2012

By the way,

But there is no such reason! He just likes her best!

My heart really goes out to you. Not being the favored one is painful; it is something that sticks with people for life. You're not being unreasonable to be upset about this part, nor to feel that there is something painfully symbolic about the will thing. Maybe not in your father's mind, but to you.
posted by BibiRose at 10:19 AM on November 9, 2012

FWIW my grandmother wrote her will in a way the pooled several people together and then left it up to them to split things after she was gone. All the boys were together and all the girls together, and each group got approx. 50% of the estate, FYI. It was a fairly large family, so there were 3 in one group and 5 in the other.

This was understandable in a way--the main bulk of the estate was large pieces of low value rural property with little frontage. All together it was worth quite a bit but any small chunk of it was close to worthless. So there wasn't really a simple way to split it 8 different ways, and all that splitting would have made all the pieces much less valuable--but . . .

This way of splitting the family into groups that had to work together on complicated financial matters having to do with fairly large amounts of money, exacerbated by the inevitable few insane people in each group (doubly so when the in-laws were figured in), led to literally decades of drama, intrigue, and family squabbles.

All this could have been avoided by Grandma just deciding that the estate will be divided in this way: X. X could have been fair, unfair, even, uneven, whatever. Any X she decided, no matter how bad, would have been better than leaving it up to the siblings to decide X later.

So, based on experience sitting in a front-row seat to all this, I would highly favor any scheme that doesn't require family members to work together/share in making decisions about money or property, particularly if they are people who don't naturally work together well in the first place.

What I would tell your Dad: Just give the executor's decision making power to ONE PERSON. Honestly, it really doesn't matter which, flip a coin, whatever.

That might have been his thinking and if so, I would cut him some slack, because (if that is his thinking) he is right. Of course, you feel bad and that is only natural--and I would feel bad in that situation, too.
posted by flug at 10:45 AM on November 9, 2012

From personal experience I concur with your statement about going with stupid. Men just aren't tuned into the emotional side of what they consider "rational" decisions. Parents do have favorites and parents for the most part still try to be fair, even though the only statement on the ticket they gave you when you entered their life was "Admit One."
posted by ptm at 4:14 PM on November 10, 2012

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