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Senior Reader

What to do?

Question for all of you that understand farming/ family issues....

my father has farmed all his life, a large operation and no one will succeed him (long story).  Owns 1500 acres of high priced farm land in central Iowa  and full line of machinery.  He's in his early 80's.

I am the oldest of 4 daughters and the executor of his estate.  He has done very basic estate planning that drastically needs updating with the present land values, but  he doesn't  seem to understand it all and gets quite upset if we "overstep".

Recently,  one of my BIL's upset him about something  we all deem very minor, but none the less,  he has decided to leave

my sister out of the will as he doesn't want that SOB to see any of his money.  Not everyone knows about this decision and I am put in a precarious position.  There is no talking him out of this, my mother is of the generation that the man is always right and this is just the way it is.  My hands are tied.

My siblings are very important to me, more important than $$.  I know that this situation will eventually undermine my relationship with them even though I am not behind it.  None of us kids "needs" the inheritance in the first place, we are all fine.

Question is...should I explain this to my siblings while parents are still able to be asked about it or keep my mouth shut as parents request?


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35 Replies
Senior Contributor

Re: What to do?

I truely feel for you.   So,  both parents are still living?      My mother's family has broken up over 2 slaps in the face after the fact wills.    No one knew what was coming except the relative that had orchestrated the "steal".     How my mom wishes they had known what was in her Dad's will so they could have asked him why.   If he told them  why and understood the ramifications  then I think the siblings could have remained family.  


So,  having said this.... I'd tell my sister.   Tell her the parents did not want her know.   Maybe there is time for the SIL  to apoligize and all can be good.   


Minimal estate planning and 1500 acres.   The state of Iowa and the US government will be saying thank you.   I suppose there is an estate auction in your future.   All of my husband's siblings are very concerned about the inheritance taxes we could be looking out.    We are thinking of having a family meeting with:   all in attendence,  the lawyer,  and the tax preparer.   With the 25% rise  in farm land values the past several years,  we have to be proactive.    My husband and I are the farming heirs.   We want to keep farming it and hope that our kids can too.   But,  $10,000/acre  we can not do.   My in-laws are obsessed with paying down debt.   They have just keep paying down land debt.   More that they need to.   And refuse to give any away to the family that is to inherit it in the future.      I think they are finally understanding  that the taxes are going to kill their dreams.     The family on the other hand needs to know whether their estate plan is going to save it.    Trusts, promises and everything equal.    Throw in a pending divorce and we need to make sure the farm legacy is protected. 


At least you know what could be happening.     Can you as excecutor be able to do something  after they are gone.   If your dad goes first can Mom change hers?     Is there any question on "sound mind"?     80,  is he still doing most of the farming or is it rented out, or customed?     How about the banker , tax preparer, or lawyer  could they get him/they to understand the need for an update?    We contacted the folks lawyer and asked him to call them in to discuss the  change in net worth.    Not impressed with their lawyer.   Seems to want to talk lawyerese  rather than answer the question.  


Best of luck.    You are right  you are in a difficult situation.    You've got my vote to tell the siblings. 

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Honored Advisor

Re: What to do?

Rarely do I disagree with Suey, but I have experienced begin "disowned" by my father. Hear from my mother in the mail occasionally, usually a clipping from Dear Abby or some other advice monger, about some prodigal child and how they need to kiss up or regret it. it is a high price to pay monetarily...but, money isn't everything.

I do not know what your BIL said, but my experience is that the old man is just looking for an excuse, and if it hadn't been this, then it might have been some other reason another day. These situations work out such that you are either deemed to be " with him or against him".
He sounds suspicious and is prhaps narcissistic, in the sense of never being wrong...that is the dynamic with my father. If you have been told to stay out od it, then if you don't, you will likely be accused of plotting against him, and might be disinherited, too. worse things can happen, and hea is going to blow a lot on taxes, as said above...and it is his and you cannot stop him from being stupid.

If none of you " need it" and you are the executor, see if your OWN attorney can advise you as to how you might be able to agree
with your other siblings to provide for your sister. Of course, you could not guarantee that any of them would pitch in, but a lawyer practicing in your state can advise you on options. If not to benefit the BIL, perhaps there is a way to split the bequest and establish a trust to her benefit.

It is really kind of you to try to resolve this. You never know what conditions might change by the time he tax law can change, the two of them may eat up the estate on skilled nursing care, or the value of the land and machinery may fluctuate immensely, up or down.

If you do any end run now, you will be set out in the cold, and cannot do anything to address the inequity from there. In my case, I decided that whatever the money involved, I had spent over fifty years trying to please someone who couldn't be satisfied, and who never said a cross word in his life, according to him.

I am at peace with my choice, but I do mourn the father i wish I had been born to...not the one I had. Sorry you are having to deal with this.
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Senior Contributor

Re: What to do?

I read this thread and thought I have been there, although not my own family, my wife's.

Read Suey's post and thought it sounded like good advice but then read Kay's and I think she has a good point about checking with your OWN attorney.

Kay's description of her father could fit my Father-in-law. He has never been wrong in his life, knows how to solve everyones problems and does not mind doing it.

His wife ended her days with us for 8 years as her health failed and disowned him, would have divorced him but her lawyer said it was not worth the expense and effort.

 They had a couple of farms, a dairy herd and in this country a quota for those cows which he sold all of.

My Mother-in- law had only a relatively small amout of invested cash when she lived with us and we have been led to believe he does not have a lot more. No one knows where all the funds have gone and from the little contact I had with him and his record keeping I expect he does not know where it all is or went. we strongly suspect a finacial advisor helped his invested funds shrink.

But it does not matter to my wife as he disowned her a few years ago over advice she gave him and he did not like.

He has 2 sons who live 3 hours and 8 hours drive away who he made executors and power of attorney and beneficiaries of anything that might be left but he still calls on my wife to truck him to doctor appointments and all those other errands since he lost his license after his 3rd accident. .Remember he has never made a mistake, it was the other guys fault everytime.

We of course live just 10 kms away so it is logical that we are the closest and most able to do these things.


Sorry for the vent but I see the same personality here with cher's father and I suspect that Kay is correct, Cher could get disowned too if he suspects she is 'coniving behind his back' so best tread carefully.

I expect the best way might be to just agree among yourselves to redistribute in a fair manner after the passing of this 'gentleman'.

One of my brother-in-laws has indicated his intent to do this with his fathers funds although it makes no real difference to us but he understands what my wife continues to do for their father.

Old age can do funny things to a persons personality sometimes and some personalities are just geared to do strange unfair things, we can not change that.

What you can do is make an effort to be fair to all especially if you value your siblings friendship over $$$.

As Kay pointed out many things can change the actual value of the estate when it comes time to cash everything in, some things may not be good. So keep that in mind as you deal with the present.

Good luck with how things turn out, some things in life are more complicated than others and all we can do is be fair and do our best.

BTW your father may not be agreeable to this given his personality, but in our case we made all 4 of our children executors of our estate. If this was possible it might make the decisions easier and those 'in the know' a little more understanding. I understand your one sister is unlikley to be invited at this point but maybe the others could help you. It is a big estate so you have a good point to put to him for some help with it.

Again, good luck.

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Honored Advisor

Re: What to do?

If you just look at the shares of the estate either way, it goes like this, after taxes:
Four heirs, 25% each.
Three heirs, 33.3% each.
If only one of you shares her share with disowned sis, those two shares would be 16.5 % each.
If two felt bad enough about it to share, then he portion rises to 22.2%, which is sort of negligibly different from all three sharing, which would bring her to her full 25% again.
Maybe this is not as bad as it first appears to you.

Sorry if I have tarred anyone with my relative's brush; but, it is personality type. When you have narcissistic traits, as I know I do, it is hard to fight them, and admit when your reaction is disproportional to the sin committed. if I am right about this man, and ot just sounded too familiar to me, no one can reason with is either his way or the highway.

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Senior Contributor

Re: What to do?

Kay,  it is okay to disagree.    I would agree with you that Cher needs to contact a lawyer or accountant first.   See what she can legally do after the death to share with siblings.   

Also,  we don't know the family dynamics with this family.   Can everyone keep the secret and not let Dad and Mom know they know?     If the Parents can not know that black sheep SIL  is in the know  maybe.... he can get back in the good graces.   Work into the conversation,   "Hey Dad I was looking into that situation some more  and it looks like you are right".  I'm not saying confort the father or mom.    But,  knowing what is in store  can change a person's plans.    If we know we have to buyout a sibling or that the inheritance taxes could be high  we could start making plans for saving.     Likewise,  if her sister thinks she is going to afford tuition,  private schooling,   pay off mortage,  or get enjoy visiting the home farm...   and it is not going to happen   imagine the hurt and shock.      Family dynamics could make a difference in how a person might handle this.     In my immeadiate family and my husband's family..... we would share  the information and keep the secret from the folks.    


Not being able to visit with my Mom's entire family is sad.     My mom can get along with both of her sisters.    But,  the 2 sisters can not be in the same room.    Don't know what the situation might be with us cousins...... haven't had the chance since Grandpa's will was revealed over 10 years ago.   


So glad that money is not the most important thing to Cher.... Hope her siblings feel the same and will give up a part of their %.  There should be lots of  $$$ with 1,500 acres.    So unless someone plans on retireing and traveling around the world for the rest of their lives  there should still be lots even after the government gets it's share.      No way it gets used up for life long care.   That would be over   $6 million.    With Medicare  medical bills are taken care of.  Nursing home  still can't use it all. 


Cher,  we'll galdly give our opinions  but they may only be worth what you paid for them.  

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Senior Advisor

Re: What to do?

Tell your dad to remove you as executor of the estate and simply step aside from the problem.  In your mind ,write off the inheritance and get on with life.  Or, you can refuse to accept the job after his death and ask the court to appoint another executor.  

BTW, it's pretty simple for him to leave your sister land  in a life estate (which is in her name only) so the BIL never gets personal control of the money.  Maybe that would make him feel better.

A similar deal happened when my dad and uncle were executors of my grandfather's estate.  They took the money as he left it, but then redivided it as if the old man had left it to all 8 siblings equally.  I don't know if there are gift tax problems with that or not.

He has put the monkey on your back.  You need to get the monkey off your back.  Give it back to him.  In the end, be willing and able to simply walk away from it.  You are not the savior of the world. 


Honored Advisor

Re: What to do?

Jim, it is true that no one has to accept the role of executor, and no one has to accept a bequest, unless they want to, as far as I understand.
My only reservation is letting the courts decide these things for you...which will only further erode the family's wealth when extra legal proceedings, and perhaps a lawyer appointed do the job, start running up billable hours.

This is why I suggested that Cher find out what her tikes are, as executor. If she maintains control, she can at least assure sharing her portion with her sister, either as a trust, or as direct proceeds. In some states, the state has set percentages for each heir, whether spouse or child.
In this case, this couple could shelter most, if not all, of their funds from estate taxes, if the estate plan could be updated to form the
right types of trusts. It is a shame that Dad has no concept of how easy and inexpensive it is to do this, with a good estate an ing attorney.
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Honored Advisor

Re: What to do?

I did not get that the disowned sister is unaware of the status her father has assigned her. Maybe Cher can clear that up for us. I took it that he had told her, but I may just be assuming so, since my father used the threat of disinheritance to try to manipulate me.

I was given a week to change my position on a business problem he had created, then handed to me to solve at considerable expense for counsel and consultants...not to mention that it has taken roughly 3-4 years out of my life. I told him not to wait a week, to call his attorney when we got done with the rest ofmkthe nasty things he had to say about me, Mike and our children.
Haven't spoken to him since. Good miss....
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Senior Reader

Re: What to do?

Kay, I must say that you have nailed it as far as my dad is concerned!  Very opinionated, always right and very strong political opinions that usually start a family arguement at holiday time! Truth is, anyone of us could be disinherited at any given time. We all

get along but tend to keep our distance.  I am very concerned about my mother as they are still trying to do a lot of farmwork

themselves.  Most of it is custom done, but they still do enough that a farm accident with serious consequences is very possible.

When we express these concerns, it usually only strives to make dad prove us wrong.

My BIL didn't back down during an argument and basically told dad the  truth, where the rest of us have spent 40 years not going that far.  BIL doesn't deserve this and neither does my sister.  No one else knows of dad's decision to disinherit.


I have talked to my attorney and have been told I will have a lot of work ahead of me.  They really need to update estate plans before the end of 2012 and  trusts/gifting  need to be done.  Dad won't transfer ownership, doesn't believe in it. 

As for my sister, if dad dies first we can try to talk mom into adding her back in.  I think we can accomplish that if done tactfully.

Otherwise, if we choose to bring her back in we are basically "gifting" her a share and that will create another tax situation.  I'd like to think the rest of my siblings would choose to do that, but I have heard enough horror stories related to sharing an inheritance that I know not to count on it.

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