With M’s father’s death in November a firestorm of family politics broke out. Having been estranged a few years by that point, we were mostly insulated from the direct assaults. However, SIL1 and her grown son waded in directly and have endured some drama and trauma. It is difficult to be sympathetic to their plight, because M and I both strongly suggested they step back and away and tread very carefully with their father/grandfather’s widow and her treacherous family. SIL1 knows what we went through at their hands, as she was present during that hearing in which they tried for a completely baseless restraining order against M and lost. Apparently she and her son thought the problem was isolated with us.
Having just gone through/still trying to complete the probate process with my mother’s estate, I am fairly well versed in the process. Having been married (twice) in a community property state, I know quite a bit about what happens to property and married couples in this state when there is no will (basically the surviving spouse gets it all). Even if there is a will and specific bequests, unless you have a copy of said will and can present it to the court to start the probate process, you’re basically out of luck in securing property bequeathed to you. Once married, what my father-in-law owned prior to his marriage is a moot point. Once married, how much money he brought into the union is irrelevant if those assets are commingled with the new bride. These are not rules that only lawyers know; these are things most married people know before, during, and after their marriages.
SIL1 and her son have never been married and are not well educated. They are operating on pure emotion. “These things were my father’s and my grandfather’s and we want them back!” they have wailed plaintively to the widow. When that did not work they screamed it loudly, to the point that the widow retained legal counsel to write a letter asking them to cease and desist direct contact and utilize the attorney for all future communications.
Now they are both calling M to see if he knows if there is a will. M, to his great and patient credit, has told both of them repeatedly that he has no idea, but if there is a will and any of them are named in it, they will be contacted by mail when it is filed with the court. He knows this because he’s been right here listening to me bitch, moan, and whine about what a PITA the whole probate process is, and my mom had a simple will and there is no drama involved with me, my grown kids or nephew. It’s just the whole process is ridiculous and ridiculously expensive. M has also advised SIL1 and nephew that it will cost a whole lot more money than either of them can spare to retain legal counsel to be told what we have told both of them for free.
Yet still they try. Yet still they call and wonder if we have any new ideas about how to “make” her come clean about the state of affairs and returning family heirlooms. What about life insurance, they ask? Again, if they had been named as beneficiaries they would have been contacted by the insurance company … assuming his widow had called and filed the appropriate paperwork. But again, in the unlikely case there is any sort of insurance, most likely the widow has been named as beneficiary.
It is extraordinarily frustrating trying to get through to them with the realities of the situation, and I feel for M because he is the one who has to deal with them and their increasingly desperate phone calls. I am sympathetic to their plight, because there are a lot of items M would love to have back that were in his family and belonged to his mother and his father. But reality bites, a legal marriage and possession of property trumps all at this point, and SIL1 and nephew continuing to call only prolongs M’s angry grief.
I want them to stop. If they cannot stop, I want them to stop calling and bringing the same thing up with M over and over and over again. Unfortunately I cannot tell M to stop taking their calls, because the voice mail messages are almost worse, only they could be deleted without listening. M is a caring and compassionate man, and at his core he has the soul of a rescuer, something he is careful to keep tightly leashed. Because SIL1 and nephew truly have very little to nothing, it’s impossible for him to completely turn his back. I respect it, I accept it, but I truly do not like it. And M knows it. I believe my distaste for the ongoing drama keeps him in check and gives him the strength to turn away from their pleas and not indulge his own anger. We know what those people are capable of trying to do when challenged; it is much healthier and safer to remain silent and keep our distance.
Added to this stress is the car drama. *sigh*
SIL1’s damaged vehicle remains in the parking spot where it was hit. She has not followed through with following up with her insurance company and filling a claim through them if the injuring party’s insurance is in no hurry to make the claim and repairs happen. M was misled and there has been no one out to examine the vehicle or claim filed by anyone, and SIL1 is apparently content to sit around wringing her hands. Two months have passed. M is not willing to take over her life in this matter, nor are we willing to wait much longer to assist her with our offer of a replacement vehicle. She balked pretty fiercely about paying anything for a vehicle we would provide to replace the (likely) totaled car if she received any kind of financial settlement, so M let the matter drop and we will be selling his former vehicle. I am biding my time, giving him until the end of the month to get the former car cleaned out and up before I take matters into my own hands. It is not so much M dragging his feet about SIL1 so much as M just dragging in general. Depression and grief have him in their clutches at the moment and I am trying hard to balance being sensitive to that with my usual brand of tough love, aka suck it up and deal. M tends to respond pretty well to that, as once the goal has been decided (and it has been in this case), it is either better to pitch in and help make it happen or get the heck out of dodge until it is complete.
I have no issue helping those who need it, but I have certain (fairly low) expectations that the party in need is somewhat sensible and willing to at least TRY to help themselves. This is why I think I am not quite a terrible person, but I have my moments of not being all that kindly and nice. Disparage and mock me if you must; I can take it.