I’m Getting an Inheritance, but Grandpa Forgot About My Sister

Dear Penny,

My grandfather worked hard his entire life and eventually became a fairly wealthy man. When he wrote his will, I was just a baby and my little sister had not yet been born. Half of his estate (minus personal property) goes to our mother, and half goes to me. Our mother has told us our whole lives that when the time comes, I am to split my half with my sister.

Unfortunately, the time has come and it appears that the will was written to say my half is actually to go into a trust, which the lawyer will set up once my grandfather’s properties have been sold. Once funded, there will be hundreds of thousands of dollars in it and I will be the sole beneficiary. My mother is to be the trustee.

(This in itself is an issue since we are estranged and she has proved herself to be untrustworthy time and time again when it comes to money. This is not why I am writing you, although I am curious what, if any, rights I have as a beneficial to ensure she does not just take the money out of the trust for herself.)

I know that I am not legally obligated to share my half with my sister, but how can I? If my mother elects to just disburse the funds all at once (highly unlikely but I suppose is a possibility), how can I give half of my share to my sister?

Lastly, do you have any advice on what to do with the money itself? My sister and I both have worked to become fairly well established and debt-free so we are both mostly looking at putting most of the money toward our retirement. ‘t think inheritance can be put in a 401(k), though. What other options are there?


Dear A.,

It’s always refreshing when someone wants to do the right thing, even though they’re not legally obligated to do so. Sharing your inheritance with your sister falls into that category.

As the trustee, your mother has a fiduciary role, which means she’s required to put the interests of the beneficiary (you) ahead of her own. As the beneficiary, you’re entitled…

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