This is being handled in Pensacola Florida.
My stepmother is being a bit shifty on providing details and I believe she intends to not give me any inheritance if she can get away with it. Her lawfirm is trying to get me to sign documents saying I know everything about the inheritance (definitely I do not) and that I agree with the distribution. I obviously did not and will not sign it unless I am offered a reasonable inheritance. Her lawfirm sent some statements from his bank accounts (and nothing else) and there are several problems with that. First, these documents show that for 2 of the 3 there was nothing in the accounts. For the 3rd only about 3000 dollars. Now I am familiar with how most banks work, and they do not let you have a balance of zero dollars most of the time. In addition, the dates of these statements are between 1-3 months after my father's death. Easily enough time to pull all the money out and then claim there was nothing in there. I have told my lawyer to request statements from these accounts from the months immediately preceding his death as that is the only way to be sure what the actual values were. Am I entitled to get that information?
Second, her lawyer is claiming he had no income or very little in the few years preceding his death. This is exceptionally doubtful as he worked for a federal agency around 40 years and had a substantial retirement, and I believe retirement distributions count as income. My uncle claims he had bragged his income was about 90k for the years preceding his death. I have requested to see his 2017 and 2016 tax filings (he died in june 2017). If he really wasn't making anything, then it should show up there. I doubt she will want to provide this willingly since it is clear she is lying about his income. Can she be compelled to provide it?
3rd, my uncle stated that when he retired, he rolled his government thrift savings account over to a t rowe price IRA and it had over 1 million dollars in it. I know this can not be held jointly so it won't necessarily default to going only to her. I do know that beneficiaries can be assigned, but this document showing the beneficiaries has not been provided. I suppose if it listed her as the only beneficiary then I am screwed, but at this point I just don't know. However, I doubt my father would have intentionally not given me anything. We were on fairly good terms. I would expect if it did only list her as the beneficiary they would have just provided the document. Note, neither her nor her lawfirm has mentioned the existence of this IRA, but he certainly had this or something like it. I have requested a statement from his IRA from March and may 2017 and the document, if any, that lists the beneficiaries. Again, can she be compelled to provide this? How can I make sure the existence of this account is disclosed? I assume there are a couple of ways the beneficiaries could be listed, either none, only her, or myself, my half sister, and my stepmother. What can I expect in these three scenarios? If its only her, can that be challenged? If none specified, would I likely be entitled to some of it or would it default to her as the surviving spouse? (I would likely request a third, or 330,000 dollars pending getting the statement of the actual amount). If it does default to her, will I be entitled to some of it when she dies? I mean, she hadn't worked for years prior to his death so all of that money was earned directly by him, not my stepmother.
Lastly, again from my uncle, she told him that he had a life insurance policy and that it rewarded over 100,000 dollars when he died. Again, the existence of this was not mentioned, and no document listing the beneficiaries has been provided. I requested to receive a copy of the policy and a list of the beneficiaries.
So, my major problem at this point is no documentation is being provided. I would like to know what kind of asset documentation I can expect to receive or otherwise she is required by law to provide. I can't make any good decisions on what is a fair inheritance without this information. I am not trying to be greedy here, but nothing for an inheritance is just completely unreasonable. I would expect to get a third of the above listed assets. Is that reasonable? If not, what is reasonable?
Are the things above requested documents reasonable? Is she required by law to provide it? Are there other documents required by law that I am unaware of? Anything else I should be pestering my lawyer about finding?
Given this information, what are my chances in challenging her on this inheritance in court?
1 Answer from Attorneys
You have a lawyer; ask your lawyer. This is not the forum ro get second opinions, especially since no one here will or could know all of the facts.