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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 11, 2006 / 11 Teves, 5766

Poor planning leaves children suffering stepdad's financial ‘abuse’

By Jan L. Warner & Jan Collins


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: After my mother's death, when it came time to sort out her estate and will under which my brother and I are the sole beneficiaries, we learned for the first time that, during the last years of her life, Mom's husband of 10 years — who has two children of his own — used our mother's power of attorney to gain access to her assets and income. This was a second marriage, and over the last few years, we felt as if he was keeping her away from us, but Mom assured us we were imagining things.


According to his story, the funds and assets Mom meant for my brother and me under her will were used to pay for her medical care and their joint living expenses. We believe our stepfather chose not to use any of his assets or income or any of the property, which had been set aside for him under the premarital agreement he and my mother signed. We firmly believe that our stepfather used funds that would have belonged to my brother and me, made gifts to his children, and otherwise diverted Mom's assets to preserve his own.


We talked to a lawyer, who told us that since our mother's power of attorney was so broad, our stepfather could have done practically anything with the money without making an accounting. He also told us that although our stepfather could not steal or act fraudulently, we must prove what we think he did. The problem is that we can't get any of our mother's financial records. The representative of her estate, who is a friend of Mom's husband, won't try to get records from him, and will not even get copies of the tax returns for the year in which Mom died. At our request, he made only a hasty review of withdrawals from her accounts, and performed no audit of medical bills and insurance reimbursements. He says that my brother and I cannot get copies of any of these records due to privacy laws — even though we are the ultimate beneficiaries under our mother's will.


Because our mother's estate was depleted, the lawyer suggests we just put it all behind us rather than run up large legal fees. We are devastated emotionally and financially because our father left Mom in good shape financially. Is the law such that a devious stepparent can walk away with everything, or do we have rights to ensure that family assets are passed on in accordance with our parents' wishes?


A: Your question raises a number of difficult issues that confront elderly people who enter into second marriages. Despite what one might believe are the best plans, many intra-family problems such as yours will happen unless they are meticulously addressed in advance with appropriate documents that clearly state the intentions of the individuals involved.


First, go to your father's estate records and find out exactly what he left your mother. This is a good starting point.


Second, read the premarital agreement to see what your mother and stepfather agreed to. If you and your brother were the sole beneficiaries under your mother's will, we bet dollars to doughnuts that in return Second, read the premarital agreement to see what your mother and stepfather agreed to. If you and your brother were the sole beneficiaries under your mother's will, we bet dollars to doughnuts that in return for the transfer of assets to your stepfather to which you refer, he probably waived his rights to share in her estate. In addition, we assume that there may have been provisions about support, including who was to pay what and for the transfer of assets to your stepfather to which you refer, he probably waived his rights to share in her estate. In addition, we assume that there may have been provisions about support, including who was to pay what and from what source.


Third, carefully review the wording of the power of attorney to find out exactly what authority your mother gave your stepfather, because if the powers are not sufficiently specific to cover what you think your stepfather did, he may have overstepped his authority.


Fourth, according to the law of most states, a general power of attorney does not automatically include the authority of an agent (your stepfather) to make gifts to himself using the principal's (your mother's) assets unless specifically provided for in the document. Since the Internal Revenue Service uses this legal principal to require the return of improperly "gifted" funds to an estate for the purposes of calculating the estate tax, as beneficiaries who feel there was an abuse, we believe that you should insist on an accounting and attempt to compel the personal representative to do his job and have the funds returned to the estate.


Fifth, as a fiduciary for your mother, your stepfather was bound not to enter into transactions that benefited him to your mother's detriment. This is especially true if your mother was vulnerable or unduly influenced, as you seem to think.


Unfortunately, much of the information you seek will not be available unless you bring some type of lawsuit. Where there is smoke, there may well be fire, so tread carefully and circumspectly. We don't believe that second spouses should be placed in positions of fiduciary responsibility where, as here, there was a premarital agreement that created a conflict of interest. We also believe that had your mother and father engaged in appropriate planning, including reciprocal documents and perhaps trusts, your current situation could have been avoided.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JAN L. WARNER received his A.B. and J.D. degrees from the University of South Carolina and earned a Master of Legal Letters (L.L.M.) in Taxation from the Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a frequent lecturer at legal education and public information programs throughout the United States. His articles have been published in national and state legal publications. Jan Collins began co-authoring Flying SoloŽ in 1989. She has more than 27 years of experience as a journalist, writer, and editor. To comment or ask a question, please click here.

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