My mom passed away. Three daughters shared power and are shared executors of his trust. As the youngest daughter, I worked full time and was my mother’s main caregiver for 8 years. I managed his life activities, food, visits to the bathroom, medicines, medical appointments and performed his dialysis, etc. I handled her finances, including taxes, investments, and even got thousands of dollars back for my mother due to a bad business deal. involved in the past.
“‘My conscience is winning over me and I would like to be transparent about being the co-owner of this savings account.’ ”
My mom received a pension and Social Security benefits, so she also had the means to pay for a full-time caregiver during the days that I was at work (40 hours a week) for at least 2 years. I supervised all her care during the nights, even when we went on vacation with her. Long-term care would have cost a lot more and drained my mother’s finances. My mom also wanted to stay and be cared for at home. To appease my sisters and because they felt it was not fair for me to inherit a home from my father (her stepfather), who also passed away in 2013, I decided to disinherit a portion of my mother’s investments / annuities. My mother was upset about this and asked me to be a co-owner of her savings account in 2013, after we met with her attorney. Since then, I have cared for her in our home and even responsibly managed her finances, which earned significant interest over the years. Now that my mom has passed away, we are going to discuss her estate, which is significant and most of the beneficiaries of the account are my sisters, except for the joint savings account, which has a lot of liquid cash.
“’Long-term care would have cost substantially more and drained my mother’s finances. My mom also wanted to stay and get care at home. ‘ ”
My conscience is winning over me and I would like to be transparent about being the co-owner of this savings account. However, I do not believe that they are entitled to any of the money it contains, as they hardly participated in the care and financial support of our mother. We all had POA but it didn’t help much and now it’s irrelevant anyway. However, my sisters are also listed as Paid Beneficiaries Upon Death (POD). I am willing to divide her estate fairly and distribute the amount each sister will receive equitably. Am I required to inform you of this joint savings account? I’ve already told the bank, Social Security, credit card companies, and his retirement pension that he passed. As a co-owner, I have access to your account for survival. How should I discuss “fair” distribution with my sisters? They will come in a week and a half to attend his funeral. I plan to have this conversation with them the day after the funeral and before they leave. We are cordial and have a close relationship with a sister, but when finances and intense emotions are involved it can get tricky. Saddened by the loss of mom and suffering from inheritance guilt The Moneyist: My sister became my late father’s attorney-in-fact, obtained a reverse mortgage on his house, and used up his equity. What I can do? Do you want to read more? Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter and read more of his columns here. Saddened and guilt-ridden dear: It seems like you would feel better if you were transparent about your mother’s finances. The joint bank account and its contents are technically your finances now, of course, so you are under no obligation to inform them about it. However, if they discover this account and ask questions about it, it might appear to them that you are hiding something, even when you have nothing to hide. This account does not have to go through probate, so it is not a given. When faced with a difficult situation, I have always found that the easiest way to overcome it is to speak the truth as frankly as necessary, without rancor and without fear. Your sisters may shrug their shoulders and say, “Very good.” Or they may cry badly. If you had a problem with your father leaving his home for you, it’s probably fair to say that at least one of your siblings will raise an eyebrow at the amount of money in this account. If you divulge the digits. But you know what? Hard. Say it out loud after me. One, two, three: “HARD!” They had a lot of time to help with your mother for the last 8 years, and I’m sure they had a million reasons why they couldn’t be there. Paid-in-death beneficiaries only inherit money from a joint account when the last owner dies, so even if you pass away before your sisters, you have no obligation to do anything other than spend every penny on that account, if you wish. If you do? “HARD!” The Moneyist: My wife and I have 3 children. I also have 3 children from a previous marriage. How to divide our house between these 6 children? Tell them, “My mother made me a co-owner of her bank account, and I am very grateful that she did.” If it makes you feel better tell them, but make sure you don’t feel guilty dividing this between them. Ask yourself: Do you feel guilty about having this account (not necessary) or are you afraid of your sister’s reactions if they find out about you or someone else? It would be helpful to know the root of your anxiety before making a decision. If you decide not to tell them, that’s fine. Ask your attorney first. There is no right or wrong ethical answer to this question. You should do what feels right to you, but make sure you do it for the right reasons. Don’t act out of fear or guilt, and don’t act out of fear or guilt. Do what would make your self more secure and comfortable. Say nothing and whistle all the way to the bench, or say something and silently whistle through possible protests from your sister. Either way, he has the full support of The Moneyist. Hello MarketWatchers. Check out Moneyist’s private FB Facebook group, + 0.22%, where we seek answers to life’s thorniest money problems. Readers write to me with all kinds of dilemmas. Quentin Fottrell is a MarketWatch Moneyist columnist. You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. By emailing your questions, you agree to have them posted anonymously on MarketWatch.