Thank you so much everyone for all your comments. I would like to apologize for being an absentee OP
You all know the story, life just gets in the way. Also, I thought it best / easiest to take in what you all have said, which gave me a LOT to think about, and reply once I've had what will surely be the first of many conversations with my father. Fun fact, 7 years as a consultant post military with many many delicate client interactions and Facilitation training has clearly served me well
Let's address the elephant in the room, The Son
. Bottom line is my father's wishes / understanding of reality, has evolved and his stated wishes are, "I know he might end up living there after I die if Wife needs help. At least then he'd finally be doing something useful. BUT I DON'T WANT TO BE ALIVE TO SEE IT!
" So that's progress. No policing for me!!! His other stated wish, and the true goal, is ".. and I don't want that bum getting a dime!!!
" After which I was regaled with a solid 15 min of his misdeeds and freeloader tendencies. Right, wrong, or indifferent everything that comes next is driven by his two Prime Directives
- #1 Wife has a place to live out her days
- #2 Son has no access to any monies derived from my father's estate. This has the practical effect that my father is unwilling to put Wife in control of any funds because all historical evidence suggests Son will drain it. Any money put in place for her benefit will be controlled by me
The conversation went much better than I probably ever could have hoped. I stated, on several occasions, the fact that this is all ultimately his decision on his wishes, that my goal is to do everything I can to ensure his wishes are honored by having a will that clearly states them, that my concerns/requests are focused on the practical logistics of enacting those wishes, and how we can address them in the will so his Wife isn't put in uncomfortable situations. I also admitted that, "...and I have a selfish motive too Dad, I don't want to be in those uncomfortable situations either and being a long-distance landlord might cause a lot of that.
" He agreed he didn't want that for us either.
There was a lot of back and forth as I tried to prompt him to ideas outside my sister and I owning the house while Wife lives there. My father can be stubborn in thought even before his advanced age, and getting him off a train of thought can be difficult. But I managed to lift the needle on his internal skipping record and get him to hear me
when I said the whole situation is just full of logistical pitfalls as I live 8 hours away, sister is further, and it could get ugly fast. So much so that he had "... an idea! What if I put her in an apartment and set up an 'account' to pay the rent?
Could it be happening? Was I about to get everything I wanted out of this conversation???
Alas it wasn't to be so. After discussing the pros of such a situation he took a pause and said, "I don't think that will work. I know her pretty well after 10 years and she will feel like I'm kicking her out, even if say it doesn't have to happen for a year after I die
"You're right Dad, I can totally understand that. So no apartment. Let's talk about the house again.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, and somewhat as a lead up to his idea of the apartment, he even declared, "it's you and your sister's house, it's your responsibility to keep it up.
" This was a risky moment because I could hear the first signs of, and easily triggered, tipping point of anger in his voice. I could also feel my own frustration being triggered and heard my internal voice scream, "AND I DON'T FRIGGIN' WANT THAT RESPONSIBILITY OVER THE HOUSE AND HER!" Luckily I kept my cool and agreed with, "Yes I know. And that's why I want to discuss how you think it's best for us to do that while avoiding uncomfortable situations for Wife and myself.
So where does that leave us, and his wishes? Well the plan is still for the house to be immediately transferred to me and my sister upon his death and for Wife to be allowed to live there. Here are the changes / To-Dos
- Dad is going to come up with some wording to the effect that if she moves out for any reason, intentional, medical, etc, then her rights are forfeit and we can do what we want with the house.
- He is going to go through the last few years of expenses, do some more thinking, and come up with a list of things to be paid for related to the house. Then he and I will go through that list together to hash out what's reasonable for Wife to pay for and what the 'account' I'll control will pay for. He'll share the list with Wife before finalizing the will to get her thoughts and ensure she's fully informed so there are no surprises after he passes. I thanked him for this and reminded him that I don't really care who pays for what so long as it's clearly stated in the will to avoid ambiguity. I followed that with "What I really care about is who DOES what?" There was a LOT of unfruitful talk about this as I wasn't able to get him off the mantra that the 'account' will solve my concerns of upkeep. I sort of ended this part of the talk with, "we should also consider the costs involved for multiple maintenance contracts to include someone to inspect the home to prevent [entropy] from taking it's toll"
- He's going to have some golf buddies who are retired lawyers and judges take a look at it. This was after imploring him to not rely solely on NoLo Will Maker and to consult an estate attorney. This is another case of his stubbornness kicking in and is fight for another day. If I'm lucky they were good lawyers and judges who will refer him to a practicing estate attorney [fingers crossed] If he just won't do it, I might take the will to a lawyer myself to get their opinion and then present any red flags to him for consideration. The realistic worst case is he ignores the advice and at least I'm prepared for what may come.
A few more details to answer a lot of your questions
- The state in question is North Carolina
- The house is 100% paid for, Zillow values it at $330k, and it is deeded in his name only. He has owned that house for 20-ish years. It was purchased during another marriage that ended in divorce from which previous wife has no claim on the house based on the pre-nup and divorce decree. I don't know if NC allows him to totally skip Wife so that's something for me to look into of course
- All other assets of his estate (insurance, stocks, brokerage accounts, checking, savings) list my sister and I was TOD beneficiaries. Yes this means Wife gets effectively nothing from his estate. Keep in mind directive #2. The only thing she will "get" is a pot of money I control to pay for home expenses she "needs not wants".
- The financial assets involved are ~$1.2M
- Insurance and something else I missed: 550K
- Stocks, Bonds, various Brokerage accounts 650K
- Sister is standing on her own two feet in a home she owns, minimal debt (mortgage and student loan), running a very successful at-home business (but COVID took a huge bite). I know she has some savings, and she'll get some social security when the time comes, but I don't have a real sense yet if it can sustain her when she can't physically run the business anymore. Her and I will have that talk soon too at her own request. The real take away is that the inheritance will have a meaningful impact on her future financial stability. For me it just adds a lot of cushion to my already cushy situation.
- So while the house value is nothing to turn one's nose up at, it also isn't the primary asset. If my sister and I decide to just disclaim it entirely it might just be worth it. What's more, being a hard asset in Wife's name, Son would at least have to convince her to take out a mortgage to get his hands on any money. I could live with that if it means a clean cut
- Wife has a ~400k 401(k) and $1900/m in SS. So she has cash flow to live on, minimal expenses, and a nest egg for future care. She also has other responsible family besides Son to provide emotional, physical, and financial support. I don't know / assume that $1900/m is her SS now. When he passes is there any reason she wouldn't also get something based on his SS???
I do plan on addressing the home contents with Dad. Right now the will just says, "...ALL contents go to [Son] and [Daughter] except property of [Wife]" The problem of course is defining those items. I'd like a list of some sort, which Wife will see before hand, so there are no surprises like the home expenses. If she decided to contest the list after he passes, well, I guess we have a fight but I really won't care, she can have it all short of pictures of my mother.
So, progress, but not perfection. Sorry if I missed anyone's questions. If they are still germane and you're willing to continue pulling at the thread, please ask again because no doubt I need to hear and figure out how to answer it so I'm able to best manage this situation.