DEAR ABBY: My wife is concerned about potential problems with her older sister. In January, they lost their father. Their mother is still alive. Her sister is executrix of the estate. She has told my wife to her face that she hates her. She accuses me of being a liar, thief and scam artist. (I have never done anything to her. I have always been courteous.)
She informed my wife that she would do everything in her power to see to it that she (my wife) gets nothing from their parents whatsoever. Can my sister-in-law cut my wife out of her rightful inheritance?
My mother-in-law is aware of the bad blood between them, but chooses to ignore it. What can my wife do to protect herself when the awful time comes to confront her sister? According to the will, anyone contesting it would get nothing.
The two sisters have never gotten along, and this will really make them enemies. We both read your column and trust you implicitly. What do you think? -- MARRIED TO THE LESS-LOVED SISTER
DEAR MARRIED: Your wife might suggest to her mother that she name an impartial ("without prejudice") person to be executor of her estate, in order to prevent a problem now or in the future. However, if she is aware of the antipathy her firstborn has for her younger sister and ignores it -- she's condoning it, and that's a shame.
If that's not agreeable, your wife's fears might be eased were she to consult a lawyer who is knowledgeable about wills and trusts in the state in which her parents lived. When someone who has a will dies, that will is filed with the court for probate. The purpose of the probate (a court supervised administration process) is to ensure that the wishes of the deceased are carried out. For instance, if the will says the estate is to be divided 50/50, that's how it must be. As executrix, your sister-in-law may be entitled to a fee, but if it's out of line there may be legal remedies.
It's sad that there's so much ill will between the sisters -- but whatever enmity the elder has for the younger, she's legally obligated to follow the terms of the will. Be prepared for any eventuality, but hold a good thought.