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BEL MOONEY: Should I fight for my "stolen" inheritance?


Dear Bel

I am so sad but angry and hurt at the same time. Everything my poor father worked hard for went to a stranger. He was with his fourth wife when he died – trying to tell me what was in his will on his deathbed trying to make sure I would be fine.

My mother died five years ago and my sister died a year before my father. He thought he had everything financially tied up and that I would get a fair share of his five bedroom property.

Thought for the day

Of all the unhealthy and darkened paths

Made for our search: yes, despite everything

Some form of beauty moves the pallor away

From our dark spirits.

From Endymion by John Keats (English romantic poet, 1795-1821)

It turned out that he had done something with my stepmother called a mirror will, and when he died it all went to her. Then she made another will and left me and her son 50/50 each in the house.

Unfortunately, her son died six months later from a drug and drink overdose. By then, his daughter (my stepmother's granddaughter) had had children very early. So my stepmother made another will, leaving me 25 percent and the granddaughter the rest.

I should mention that my stepmother never worked when she was married to my father, so all they had was due to him. She became very sad and lonely when he died and developed all kinds of health problems. I called her every week, otherwise she would call me. I was the only one she could talk to about my father, and so did I. We got pretty close.

One day she suddenly told me that she was leaving the house to her granddaughter, who at the time was living in a two-bedroom council house with three young children and no garden. My stepmother told me that her granddaughter had promised to move into the house and look after her, but the house had to be hers or she would never be on the council list again.

My stepmother changed her will to leave the granddaughter and died a year later. The granddaughter never moved in. How can something so morally wrong be considered legal?

I feel so terrible that my stepmother disregarded my father's wishes. How can the granddaughter live with herself? That eats me up.

Lawyers keep telling me this happens all the time – and they make a fortune out of controversial wills. Also, let this be a warning to people who are remarried that they need adequate advice to protect their children.

I wish I could let go of the bitterness I am sadder for my father than for me. What can I do to calm down again?

GAYE

This week, Bel advises a reader who felt bitter after her stepmother inherited her late father's estate and passed his house on to her granddaughter

Oddly enough, after years of receiving no letters about wills in this column, I recently published two. The situation you are describing seems completely unfair as you have no family (a detail in your uncut letter) and your father had every intention of looking after his only surviving child.

In your situation, most of us would feel eaten up with a deep sense of injustice and grievance. And it's not good purists and idealists who wave their fingers and say that money is the root of all evil.

You deserve to be at least half the value of your father's house – and I don't see why that shouldn't be recognized.

Your warning to others is very useful, so please take note of everyone. Make sure your will is in order, and if you are part of a merged family please think about it – even to an extent that can be painful.

Always ask the question "What would happen if …?" And try to rethink possible scenarios. Money and possessions tend to make people incredibly selfish and understanding – and it always has been.

For you, Gaye, the problem now is exactly as you put it – how to move on from all of this. If you don't, I fear that you will never have "peace of mind".

Hope you do not think about contesting the will because you will most likely fail and it will only prolong your bitterness.

I feel that you are now as sad and lonely as your stepmother, that you not only mourn your father (a pain that has awakened again), but also miss regular contact with her and that you are separated from the woman who you have come close to feeling unloved – and cheated of your inheritance.

I suspect you have suppressed the feeling of disappointment in your father by being angry with your stepmother and that granddaughter who will take it all.

Try to control these feelings – because the chaos is nobody's fault. This is a story about carelessness and people trying to do the right thing (your stepmother thinks she needs to help her great-grandchildren) but ignoring the consequences.

It is not malice; nobody wanted to hurt you. Right now you think the granddaughter is morally wrong – and maybe she is – but we could all wonder what we'd do in her shoes.

Over time, your anger and pain will subside. Until you get to that point (and I pray it can come soon), all you can do is look at the rest of your life, maybe make some changes to recreate it, and be determined to remember your Father with love , not with guilt.

At 70, am I too old to start a new life?

Dear Bel

I don't want to be identified, please, as I couldn't stand the shame, but I think I need your help.

I turned 70 in July and have been married for 50 years, have two daughters – but I'm in an uproar and need outside advice.

I have always worked with my husband and helped with various aspects of his company. He was always able to manipulate me and I have no experience in other professions.

We lost everything and now live in an apartment that belongs to one of my children. I just discovered that my husband had several wives throughout our married life – even until two years ago.

I'm beating myself up over it now. He always managed to convince me that I was imagining it or that I was paranoid. I didn't have a good start in life myself and I didn't have the courage to leave it.

In early March I received an email that was meant for someone else. I also found nude pictures on his phone that I suspect he is sending to other women.

I really struggle to even look at him without wanting to shoot him – but I blame myself for not doing anything sooner.

You are probably wondering why I am contacting you now. Well, I am aware that I am getting older, and in lockdown things seemed to be getting worse. I fear the future.

Am I too late to build a new life for myself?

AMELIA

I assure you that I see absolutely no reason for you to be ashamed. Many people endure unhappy marriages long after they know they should have left.

The longer you leave it, the harder it gets, of course – and 50 years old will seem like a lifetime to much younger people who go in and out of living relationships.

Or maybe you are ashamed of becoming the "victim" of a man who should be older and wiser than leaving naked pictures of himself (oh dear … repulsive thought) on his phone. Can he really think this is attractive to women?

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail …

You feel trapped and you blame yourself. But thank God you still have enough spirit to want to punish him too. Who can blame you You look back on your life and see yourself as the gentle, dependent lackey of a man who has consistently "manipulated" you and "gas lighted" his infidelity – that is, you insist that you have been delusional all along.

The trigger for this email was reaching that milestone birthday and sticking to your husband during the lockdown.

And the current uncertainty (won't they lock us all back up again?) Is enough to make you pathetically insecure. Now you long for the courage to start over, but you know full well that it will take more of you than (maybe) ever been asked before.

My first question is whether your daughters have any idea how unhappy you are. I would like to believe that you can confide in one or both of them.

Since the apartment you live in is owned by one of these daughters, you'll need to put her on its side to convince her that your husband should move out.

I suggest that you record what your husband says and does and what incriminating evidence you find.

And I would study the Relate website to find out more about their services. You can speak to a counselor by phone or email and I think you will find this helpful in clearing your thoughts about the past, present and future.

You ask if it's too late to start over – and of course I shout: "NO!" Please imagine that you will live another 20 years and tell yourself that these years are yours – valuable time to be well used.

Imagine being free from the man who makes you so unhappy. Imagine finally standing tall and living the life you want. Is that possible? Yes. Will it be hard Yes. But are you ready to grab happiness before you die? Yes – because you wrote to me and you know it is time.

And finally … in dark days we need art to feed us

It was strange taking a week off but not having a vacation. I just sneaked, missed writing this column, reading emails, and wrestling with the twice-yearly switch from summer to winter clothes – which was even more daunting than usual.

I thought of getting older with these clothes and I was expecting winter. . . and yes, felt pretty down.

One of our dogs got sick, and my poor father also had a new health problem that included three hospital visits. . . So we canceled our highly anticipated two days in St. Davids, Pembrokeshire. No wonder my insomnia is getting worse every week.

Contact Bel

Bel answers readers' questions about emotional and relationship issues every week.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or send an email to bel.mooney@dailymail.co.uk.

A pseudonym can be used on request.

Bel reads all of the letters, but regrets that she cannot conduct personal correspondence.

Cheers for the big day. We made two (took the bad Chihuahua with us) and it made me so grateful for little graces. In “normal” life you can book a vacation (depending on your budget) without thinking too much about it. Now you have to think twice (at least) before doing anything.

So we made our way to beautiful Compton Verney near Warwick. The lovely 18th century house has been turned into an art gallery – and we have our eyes fixed on the work of the great German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder, on Chinese bronzes, on early British portraits, on delightful folk art, such as people, Die Hungern offered a slap-up lunch. The sun was shining too. Oh joy.

Two days later we drove to Tisbury, near Salisbury, where the Messums art gallery in London has turned a magnificent 13th century tithe barn into an art center. The sun was shining again, Sophie, the dog, felt a little better after antibiotics and again we were grateful to be nourished by the beauty.

I deliberately put it that way because both gratitude and beauty were essential to getting through these difficult times.

Out of gratitude – a big thank you to everyone who wrote an extraordinary number of supportive emails following my essay on Saturday deciphering the current culture of fear. I can't answer everyone, but I felt just as nourished by your rebellious enthusiasm as I was by the arts!

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