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How much should we know about my mother's estate?

Denver, CO |

My 3 sisters and I are equal beneficiaries of my 79 year old mom's estate. She is living but my father has passed. My older sister is the executor. How much should my other sisters and I know regarding all of the assets etc? Each year I cut the check on a life insurance policy that my dad set up for mom, as my older sister has been living abroad. We each pay 1/4 every year since 1995. I had a question on the current statement, however, when I called Mass Mutual, they claim they will only speak to my older sister. I found that unsettling. I realized my other 2 sisters and I know nothing about what is going on with the estate. I don't want to ruffle any feathers, especially my aging mom's, but I feel my younger sisters and I are not in the loop. Please advise.

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Attorney answers 5


This is a delicate question for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it seems like your family does not currently have any big problems with each other and you are sensitive to causing some. The other reason this is a bit of a delicate situation is that your mother is alive and, I assume, still has the mental capacity to make decisions for herself. It is good that you have recognized the need for delicacy.

One thing you should remember is that until your mother passes away she technically has no estate. An estate only exists when a person has died. Life insurance has death beneficiaries designated and will pass outside of a will. If you are helping to pay the premiums on your mother's life insurance policy, maybe you could just phrase it that way to your sister and ask her to fill you, as a payer of the premiums, your questions.

I hope this helps and I'm sorry for your difficulties.

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I like Mr. Elder's analysis.

Have you talked to your mother? Have you talked to all of your siblings about things? It seems that might be the best place to start.

Good luck and here's hoping your mom enjoys her golden years!


In no way am I offering you legal advice, and in no way has my comment created an attorney-client relationship. You are not to rely upon my note above in any way, but insted need to sit down with counsel and share all relevant facts before receiving fully-informed legal advice. If you want to be completely sure of your rights, you must sit down with an experienced criminal defense attorney to be fully aware of your rights.


Attorneys Elder and Deasy have offered you good advice. Tread very carefully here, as you want to enjoy your mother's remaining years and not cause undue discord within your family. The family relationships you have with your mother and your sisters are far more important than any inheritance you will ultimately receive. Good luck to you.

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This is a sensitive subject and you are right to want to make sure that your mother's estate planning is in order without causing any friction within your family. It certainly will make things go more smoothly if she has her documents in order. Ideally, in Colorado, this would include a will, medical and durable powers of attorney, and a living will. The life insurance policy will not be included in her estate, provided it has designated beneficiaries. One possible approach is to have a conversation with your mother about her planning, including the life insurance policy you refer to above. Are the beneficiaries designated pursuant to her wishes? Ideally, this would take place with all of your siblings present. The current March 2013 issue of Real Simple magazine has a great article on how to approach this important conversation with elderly parents, which can ultimately avoid confusion and conflict down the road. Good luck!


I agree with all of my colleagues. I would simply add that your sister cannot be the executor because your mother is still alive. She may be your mother's agent under a power of attorney form. That may be why the insurance company is not speaking with you. There is nothing wrong with ALL of the siblings being in the information loop. That is particularly true, given that your sister is geographically unavailable at this time. It may make sense for the estate plan to be adjusted, if your mother is capable of doing so, in order to name someone else, closer at hand, to take care of things, should your mother become incapacitated. If your mother is already incapacitated, then you will not be able to make these changes, but the documents in place may provide for alternates to act, if your sister is unavailable.

James Frederick

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