My ‘psychotic’ mother disowned me — but I still want her house

Dear Moneyologist,

I have not spoken to my parents or my siblings in six years. My mother is very controlling, verbally abusive and I believe that she is psychotic. I have four other siblings, three that have families of their own and live within a mile of my parents. I have a sister that lives in Massachusetts, and she is my mother’s favorite. My two sisters and I have always been very close. We shared ALL of our secrets with one another.

In 2010, my sisters decided to share ALL my secrets with my mother. And when I went home (a 4.5-hour drive) I wasn’t in the house an hour and my mother slammed me with all of those secrets right in front of my children. She started spitting in my face and called my oldest son a no-good ****ing ******. Needless to say, it upset me. I gathered my three children and we packed the car up and left for home.

My siblings agree that our mother has issues and is possibly psychotic, but because they live so close to her and expect to inherit everything from her and my father, they will not say or do anything to her. I could go on for hours. Because they have disowned me, when my parents pass, am I entitled to an inheritance? Can I inherit money from the sale of the house, property or personal belongings? Or does it need to be written in their will?

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How do I fight for what is rightly mine?

Disowned for no reason

Dear Disowned,

Now I am curious to hear all your secrets, too. I think it’s the capital letters that sparked my curiosity. My late father had a catchphrase that he liked to trot out from time to time: “I can keep secrets — it’s the people I tell them to who can’t.” (He wasn’t the first person to say that.) If you don’t want anyone to know them, write them on a piece of paper, read them aloud in the middle of the woods in the dead of night, burn the paper (make sure to abide by National Park Service rules) and never speak of them again.

You still sound angry, which gives me pause for thought, especially given that this happened six years ago. Your mother may have emotional problems and, from what you say she says — I thought it better to use asterisks than the profanity in question — but it sounds like you are better off focusing on your own family and future. Why do you want to go back for more? The “more” in this context being more family fights, more drama and more money. Stuck in the past seems like a very unhealthy place to be.

A friend recently told me that sometimes in tennis it’s better to keep hitting the ball back and wait for the other player to make a mistake. That works for life, too.

This is not the first letter from a distressed sister. Your phrase “what is rightfully mine” worries me. Money and other assets that don’t belong to you are not rightfully yours, even if they do belong to your parents during their lifetime. I’ll tell you what I told another reader: “This is not your money, it belongs to her. Your mother could give it all to the dogs and cats’ home, if she wanted to.” It’s not rightfully yours. It may stick in your craw that your sisters’ inherit your mother’s house and belongings, but that’s your mother’s choice, as unfair as it may seem. Your obvious hurt at how you were treated is valid and should be dealt with separately, perhaps through counselling.

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I was playing tennis with a friend of mine recently and we had a long rally and, although she is a far superior player and was helping me with my game, she hit the ball out and I won the point. She said, “Sometimes it’s better to keep hitting the ball back and wait for the other player to make a mistake.” That advice is good for life, too. There’s a big difference between disowning you (not speaking to you) and disinheriting you (putting a provision in a will to exclude you). Your mother may only have done the former.

If you really want a real relationship with your mother, regardless of assets that you may or may not receive, write to her. But I don’t believe you should pursue a relationship with your mother for the sole purpose of receiving an inheritance. I don’t think that would (a) work and (b) would only cause you more distress in the long run. Obsessing over your inheritance and raising the issue now might do more damage than good. You may actually put your mother on high alert to make or change her will to exclude you.

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As my tennis playing friend said, sometimes it’s better to keep doing what you’re doing. In this case, that would be nothing. Your sole aim to improve your quality of life now is do stop fighting.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyologist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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