FIL Has Died - Now a Mess

Updated on July 10, 2015
S.E. asks from Landenberg, PA
19 answers

FIL has been ill for over a year now. But, his wife and son who lived with them were managing with our help. Son announced about a month ago that he had a girlfriend - we had not heard one word of her AND that she was moving in. He is a 48 year old who has been living with and off of his parents for a decade now. And now suddenly he has a girlfriend who is on SSDI (as in little to no income) who is moving in.
Our family had a huge trip we had been planning for a long time related to my work. When we left, Dad was stable. GF moves in on a Sunday. BY wednesday he is taking a serious turn for the worse, By Friday he is dead. We are over a thousands miles away with no way back. They say no worries we knew this was coming its all OK, services wont happen until you return. We get back not quite a week after the fact. And we find son and GF moving into Mom's bedroom and moving her into a small second room.

How would you respond to all of this? GF won't even talk to me and I still don't even know her last name! I am really worried for them both. What would you do?

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answers from Baton Rouge on

You have no control over Sonny and his Honey. If they are living in Mom's house, then Mom is the only one who can tell them to GTFO, and if she's not willing to do so, then you can't make her.
If you have been sending money, stop.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Sounds like MIL needs to evict her son and his girlfriend.
Or, if she no longer wants to live in the house (too many memories) maybe she needs to sell it, down size (one or 2 bedroom senior condo) and move to Florida.
Her son and girlfriend can manage on their own without her.

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answers from Austin on

If I'm understanding this correctly, they weren't residing with you and your family, but had their own home (FIL, MIL, and their son), and you helped them out? Did you contribute financially, or help with making meals, or go over and dust and clean sometimes?

My daughter receives SSI, not SSDI, but there is a lot of review/management that goes on with both situations. She gets SSI because she's never worked due to her illnesses, but someone who gets SSDI has held a job, and has become disabled or ill after working for some time, and contributing to Social Security through her wages. But both are dependent on one's living circumstances. My daughter's SSI case manager calls from time to time, and they are check to make sure that her dad and I provide a home for her, take her to medical appointments, provide food for her, etc. Her monthly income is limited by the fact that she is not forced to live on her own, and she doesn't have to pay our mortgage or her own rent (we ask her to pay minimal expenses, like her phone data share, and she pays for extras that she wants like a video game, etc). This woman (the GF) will now have to declare that she is living in someone's home, and if they're not charging her rent, or legally married to the son, that could affect her finances. I hope she will be honest, as that could also affect the son and your MIL, if she were to attempt to defraud the Social Security system while living with them. Social Security informs us frequently that we must notify them if our daughter's medical situation changes, if her living situation changes, if she has more than a set amount in unused funds, if she has to suddenly pay rent, or her expenses increase or decrease. We go through these reviews periodically. Your MIL should be made aware of this, and finances should be very very carefully managed. Of course it's not illegal for her to move in with someone, but your MIL should not just provide a free house for her without Social Security knowing this. And if your MIL makes her pay rent, that's got to be documented. SSDI does not mean little to no income automatically - if she had a well-paying job previously, or if she sustained a serious injury at work, or if she developed a disease that was caused by her work situation, she might be being well compensated.

I would sit down with your husband and his mom, privately, and make sure that she is safe, comfortable, and being well cared for. If she has concerns or fears or suspects suspicious activity, or if she's not able to manage finances, or hasn't had a say in things, or seems unaware of who's paying for what or what's going on, then someone needs to defend her. She needs a will, and financial advice, and careful management of her resources. It's difficult enough for anyone after a death. Someone who is older, and experiencing a change in the household status, might be confused or afraid or unable to make those big decisions. (Actually, anyone might be, old or young, after the death of a loved one).

I'm sorry for the loss of your FIL. Praying for comfort for you, especially with being away while traveling, and this potentially difficult situation.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

I am not sure how you need to respond.

I am only hearing that the FIL was the reason for you to be involved with these people. The wife, son and new girlfriend should not require you to help.

Are you suspicious of his death? You didn't say that, but someone mentioned getting an autopsy.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

what a miserable situation. i'm so sorry. :(
is the wife your husband's mother? what does he say?

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answers from Washington DC on

I'm sorry for your loss. I hope your husband is dealing with it okay. I know it's not easy.

I would find out if there is a will and trust. I would find out from Mom what SHE wants.

Personally? My husband would tell his brother to MOVE OUT and provide for himself. And support my MIL in what she wants. She is grieving the loss of her husband. She should NOT be taken advantage of and it sounds like your BIL IS taking advantage and has a "girlfriend" (and personally she must be one heck of a chick to be able to boss BIL around so easily)....

Tell husband he needs to stand up for his mom. But YOU BOTH must be on the same page when it comes to this. You REALLY need to find out what your MIL wants. You need to find out if there is a will or trust. MIL's interests need to be protected. I doubt very seriously BIL will be doing that.

Good luck! Again - I'm sorry for your loss!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Talk to your MIL, look at the will, and think about getting an autopsy.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Assuming he left everything to his spouse, as most people do,there is nothing for you to do. This is no longer your concern.

(Big assumption here that your FIL's wife is not your husband's mother, because if she were, you would have referred to her as your MIL, not as your FIL's wife.)

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answers from Washington DC on

I would talk to MIL about how she feels and what is going on and try to determine if the GF is pushing her around or if there were any mutual agreements.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

It's time to sit mom down and talk to her. If she's comfortable with this then you need to allow her to do what she wants.

If she's NOT comfortable with this situation then you need to help her put her house up for sale and help her move to a retirement village so she can be around active people and enjoy being on her own without this son.

I suppose if she wants to keep the house and can't maintain it without the son's help she is in a quandary.

As for SSDI that means she is medically completely unable to work. It takes a couple of years to go through all that and get it so she's not faking or anything. It's hard to get on SSDI.

IF she ever worked at an above minimum wage job she is probably getting close to $800 a month. If she had good jobs where she made an exceptional living she is likely getting close to $1200 per month. I know some on SSDI who get over $1850 per month so just because she's on SSDI that doesn't mean she's destitute.

If she is on another type of disability she might be partially disabled and allowed to work some but not much. That money is not counted against her monthly income but it does effect other things such as medical coverage co-pays and things. I might have that backwards but I think my friend that is on SSI can make a hundred a month and it effects nothing but if she makes $101 she has to pay $20 per med instead of $5 per med or something like that.

How does she treat your mother in law? Is she good to her? Does she speak respectfully and kindly? Is she a good person? She might be the best thing that has ever happened to the older son who might just think he's been living with his parents to help out due to his father and mother being older.

Maybe you can present the idea that they "buy" the house outright from her through a bank and let her continue to live there the rest of her life. Then invite her to travel with you and your family and spend a lot of time with her before she's gone too. With the money she'd get for the house she'd have a nice amount of a nest egg to live well on.

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answers from Portland on

Sorry for your family's loss. That's hard - especially while away.

I can see your concern for the FIL's wife (assuming this is your husband's step mother?). Sounds as if though they were ok with this situation. Not a whole lot you can do about it. If they are all ok with this - it's really none of your business.

I know. I have a similar situation and drives me bonkers sometimes. What can you do? Not a lot.

If your husband chooses to, he can just make sure his step mother is ok with the changes (room and what not) and offer to intervene if she requests him to. If she felt pressured for example. He could then talk to his step-brother (I hope I have the dynamics right).

I would stay out of it for now. It's a high emotion time, and doesn't sound like you and girlfriend are hitting it off - just stay clear for time being.

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answers from Dover on

Not your circus, not your monkeys. Nothing for you to respond to. Introduce yourself. Stay out of it unless your MIL asks for your help.

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answers from San Francisco on

Is there a will and trust? Talk with the MIL and see what their agreements are. Does girlfriend pay rent, expenses, plan to move out ever? Sounds shady yea... Does your MIL have a will and trust too? In the future if she doesn't she should get one. That way everyone knows what their last wishes and intentions are.

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answers from Boston on

Oh I'm so sorry about your FIL and about the sudden decline. It must be very hard for your husband to be far away when there's a death.

I think HE has to take over with his mother, so that his brother who lives there isn't making all the decisions and closing you out. If there is no trust set up, do it as soon as the funeral is over. Get your husband to take his mother to a lawyer (the same one who did the father's will), and set something up where he is the trustee or at least co-trustee with the live-in brother. Your husband needs to have access to all of your MIL's accounts so he can see every single ATM withdrawal and every single check.

There are laws in place to protect elders from being taken advantage of by family members. Get a lawyer who specializes in elder law if you have to.

Do you suspect that there was something amiss with the timing of your FIL's death? Usually there is an autopsy with any unattended death (meaning anything not in a hospital under a doctor's supervision, except when someone is in hospice care, which provides some oversight). If you are away and you think anything is amiss, call the funeral home and the medical examiner/coroner (or the police if you have to) and demand an autopsy before the body is embalmed or cremated. I would think it would be automatic but just in case.

GF doesn't have to talk to you but she DOES have to talk to your husband if there's any question about undue influence, and certainly if your husband and his brother are co-trustees. Usually someone from the bank or another neutral party is also a co-trustee. That puts limits on what anyone else in the family can do to take advantage of a trusting elder. I'd have your husband get all his ducks in a row, and then sit down with brother, GF and you and lay it on the line. I know this is so hard to do when there is grieving going on, and I suspect your MIL is very vulnerable right now.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

It's for mom to speak up for herself. What's your husband's take on this situation since this would be his immediate family? There is nothing for you to do but support your husband during this possibly emotional time of sorrow, grief and decisions. If you get too involved you may get more than you bargained for.

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answers from Kansas City on

Although I totally get your anger with this situation…what is it that you want to do? You can't make your BIL do what you want, he has his own life, messed up or not. Have you talked to your MIL? Does she want or need your help? I think you need to start there. Maybe she's fine with it. Of course you are concerned about this, and you probably should be, but unless your husband is the executor of the will or has financial access to their accounts, there is nothing you can do without the request and/or consent of your MIL.

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answers from Houston on

Start with facts and short term goals. I would sit down with my husband and your FIL's wife (is she your husband's mother?). Ask her what does she want to do and also if her affairs are in order. Be aware she may not tell you the truth because she wants to keep the peace/not cause strife with her son (is that your husband's half-brother?). I would be supportive of her wishes. I think the elderly tend to be susceptible to bullying but don't necessarily view themselves as victims of bullying. They want to make folks happy, keep the peace, not be a burden, etc. I would let her know in no uncertain terms you want her to be cared for well and lovingly. If she should have concerns or complaints, you want to help her so she can always tell you what is on her mind with no strings attached.

Once you feel the wife is cared for adequately and immediately, then address concerns about the nature of your FIL’s death. I would contact his physician and go from there. The timing seems suspicious but be mindful there could be nothing there but bad timing. Those who are sick can take an unexpected turn for the worse with little to no warning.

In short I would take several deep breaths and prioritize the living over the dead. I would strive to be calm and focused in my efforts on caring for the grieving mom. I would ignore the son and girlfriend. If they are bad apples, nothing will help there anyway. Good luck and my deepest sympathies to your family during this difficult time.

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answers from Chicago on

Seems like the son and his GF feel entitled to the house; either bc they helped take care of the father or bc the wife is a stepmother and he feels this house is his dad's house. Either way, it is up to the mom to speak up. Especially since she's been moved out of her bedroom and placed into a small second room. Sometimes you just have to bite your tongue bc it's really none of your business. However, it's very hard to keep silent when you see someone being mistreated.



answers from Chicago on

Oh my gosh I thought my family was having issues - wow, so sorry to hear that your father in law passed away. Similar things happened to my husband's family last year. His father died a year ago in January, and was in a coma for six years, where Mother in law took care of him. Brother in law moved in with his girlfriend and her son, without an income,into a house my mother inlaw was having built. He basically took over the house.she moved out from there and into another frying pan so speak. Now a sister and her family live near her, but don't pay for anything, don't have jobs and go eat at mother in law's house. We live in the United States, and although not rich, we work hard and have enough to eat. She on the other hand is always paying for everyone, makes meals for them, and well, because employment is somewhat difficult there (meaning if you don't look too hard for a job, you are pretty well guaranteed you won't find one). Back to the issue: mother in law has a standing invitation to stay with us and another one to stay with another sister or brother in the U.S. She however comes there for brief visits (never to our place, I guess it's a couple of extra hours too far) and then runs back home to feed the hungry.
The point is even she whines about it but doesn't change it. Doesn't want to. Which makes me think she likes it because someone needs her. Perhaps this is the same with your mother in law. I'd just be polite and live your life. She'll do something if she wants to.

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