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AlexiaEsq.
AlexiaEsq., Managing Attorney
Category: Estate Law
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Experience:  19+ Years of Legal Practice in Estate Law.
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I am a US Citizen born in 1974 and my biological

Customer Question

I am a US Citizen born in 1974 and my biological fatherbecame severely sick in 1986 (when I was 12) and was hospitalized. At the time my mother had custody of me and I lived in France with her, with my stepfather and my little half sister.
Unknown to me, my father was alive but had the locked in syndrome (lis) which leaves you fully aware and conscious but unable to speak or move except for your eyelids which he used to communicate. He passed away in 1988.
The whole time, my stepfather and myself were being told by my mother that my father was in a deep coma, brain dead, hooked up to breathing machines, kept alive for unknown reasons.(we were both wondering why in the United States, a hospital would keep someone brain dead hooked up to machines for months and months and she would say she did not know that it probably had to do with some money issues or life insurance, although we could not make sense of her answers we believed her.)
I recently found out through my older brother (half brother, from the same father but from my father’s first wife) that there was substantial amount of inheritance including lifeinsurances, pensions and other incomes that was"supposedly" inherited equally to all of us (3 children). Unknown to me, there was also alump sum paymentwhen I turned 20. I recently found out the aboveinformation.
I was always told by my mother nothing had been left for me financially except for a monthly payment she admitted receiving when I was a minor until I turned 20, but she never told me the amount and never told my stepfather about it…we recently reconnected and discussed this incredible situation. He is in shock over the reality of my father’s condition (being a doctor he is even more in shock because he knows we could have visited him and said good bye to him too.). He also is in shock over the fact that my mother was getting monthly payments since she never told him.
My biological mother seems to have taken possession of all the inheritancewith
Optional Information:
State/Country relating to question: Illinois
Submitted: 5 months ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 5 months ago.

Hello and thank you for contacting us. This is Dwayne B. and I’m an expert here and looking forward to assisting you today. If at any point any of my answers aren’t clear please don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Also, I can only answer the questions you specifically ask and based on the facts that you give so please be sure that you ask the questions you want to ask and provide all necessary facts. Please note: This is general information for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein, and no attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an expert on this site. By continuing, you confirm that you understand and agree to these terms.

Is there a specific question with which I could assist?

Customer: replied 5 months ago.

My biological mother seems to have taken possession of all the inheritance without my knowledge and at this point in my life, I'd like to know the truth about my father's inheritance. I'd like to obtain documentation to seewhat the real financial situation was like when my father became illand eventually passed away.

How can I get the documentations surrounding my father's
death and his inheritance from institutions/government, agencies/police/hospitals ?

My father worked at an university for a long time (over 20 years) . What legal steps do I have to take to obtain documentation from his
former employer ? I was told by HR mgr of that univ. that when my father became disabled, there was certainly money given monthly to my mother (since I was a minor and that it is their policy), that they also give a lump sum when you turn 20 or 22 if you are still in school etc. But the personnel office has not been very cooperative in digging for information, I asked for the file to see how much my mother was getting etc but she suggested I might be better off “letting it go”. She also told me I was just very upset right now. What would be the legal procedure to obtain documentation from all these institutions? From above mentioned Univ., Surs, from insurance companies? I saw paperwork from transamerica, and from Metropolitan Life insurance (now Metlife). How do I know how much my mother was getting monthly when he was disabled, how much money I inherited etc...

I also know my mother has at least one active bank account with associated bank in Madison, Wi. Is there any way I can find out how much there is on it? In France she tells the tax office she lives below poverty line. I for sure know that to be untrue also.

Please advise with some reference and links.
Thanks.

Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 5 months ago.

I'm going to have to opt out of this one. No need to reply, another expert will pick up at some point and one i opt out I won't be able to see what you enter.

Expert:  Phillips Esq. replied 5 months ago.

You would need to file lawsuit against your mother for your inheritance at the Courthouse in the County where your mother lives. Then, get the Clerk's office to issue a subpoena to the University for the disclosure of your father's retirement benefits including the amount paid to your mother.

You would need a local Attorney who handles probate litigation to assist you with the case.

You can use the following sites to find local Attorneys:

Lawyers.com

Justia.com

Findlaw.com

Kindly give a positive rating to my response so that I can receive credit for responding to your post. There is no additional cost to you for doing this.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.

My mother currently lives in France and that I do not want to sue until I actually know the truth..
How do I get the information concerning the inheritance and who the money went to and how much etc...knowing I saw paperwork from "transamerica" and "metlife" and "Northeastern".
Is there a formal way to write a letter requesting the information with some Law references to make them be cooperative?
Right now, Northeastern does not want to bother really, they don't feel the importance of my situation..
How do I get the information?
I do not wish to sue my mother until I have written documents proving she is at fault...I need the documents though...
How do I get the full information about my father's distribution of the inheritance? How do I make institutions look into it and give me the information?
Please advise.

Expert:  Phillips Esq. replied 5 months ago.

I do not have anything else to add. So, I will opt out and give another Attorney the opportunity to further assist you.

Expert:  AlexiaEsq. replied 5 months ago.

It may be possible to get any prior court related documents, such as his Will if he had one and it was probated, via the court house of the county in which he lived when he died. However, with regard to contractual amounts paid out by virtue of his employment agreement, assuming those documents still exist after all these years, in the US, we generally have no right these documents, as third parties - no 'natural' right. However, as noted above by PhillipsEsq., once you file a lawsuit, you gain rights of discovery. You also get the power of the court handling your pending matter, to issue subpoenas against third parties that are not part of the litigation. But if you have no pending business with that court, it will not issue subpoenas.

When people want pre-litigation investigation, they have to do it themselves, however they seem fit, OR, if they are not trained investigators, they typically hire a private investigator firm, even a skip trace type of firm, to gather what it can. Obviously, having others do it, costs, but it is what we do when we are not investigators (just mere lawyers or laypersons) - we outsource that activity to the professionals. Again, this is because you, a third party, generally have no right to force disclosure of documents by another, just as no one can generally force you to disclose your own documents of whatever source - not unless they sue you and exercise discovery rights and subpoena powers, as noted above.

I hope this clears this up for you!

Customer: replied 5 months ago.

Thanks.

So as my father's biological daughter and beneficiary, I have no right to obtain documents concerning his death and life insurance and payments made from his disability time until his death?

Even if those payments were for me?

I am considered a third party?

Would you please advise my course of action for this case ? I'd like to know the truth before even considering suing anyone. Please.

Expert:  AlexiaEsq. replied 5 months ago.

Yes, you can get his death certificate, typically, as his child...

If you are a beneficiary of an insurance contract, then you can contact that company and make a claim.

There is no basis as far as I can see that you can force the carrier to provide you payment information he or another made for him, to keep a life insurance policy in effect, whether he made those life insurance payments while he was disabled or not. Those payments are not for you - they were the premiums. Rather, if you are the beneficiary, you make a claim to that insurance company.

Yes, if you are not a party to the contract, you are a third (outside) party, generally speaking. Just as I am. So typically you won't have access to that info. But it is not the info you really need - what premiums were paid - you want to make a claim on a policy if you are the beneficiary, so go ahead and do that. Make the claim, since you know you are a beneficiary.

I can not "advise" you as to your course of action, because I would have to be your retained attorney to do that, unfortunately. But, typically, before one even has a need to sue someone, they make a claim. They present to the party they believe they are owed something, or they need info from, a simple polite but specific request for that which they seek. If the other side is unwilling to provide, and it will take a lawsuit, only then do you file. Remember to that there are statutes of limitations for each different kind of claim, for each state (so 50 different statutes for each cause of action, so you'd be researching your own for whatever suit you are filng, and just make sure you file the complaint prior to the expiration and get it served on the defendant.

So, for starters, ask whoever it is that you need something from, what it is you want. If you need to take it further, you do,and then is when you officially can get a court to back you up as to right to discovery. Whoever handled the estate and may have handled it improperly, would perhaps be who ends up being liable... and that sounds like someone here in the states, no? Not your mom, right?

Expert:  AlexiaEsq. replied 5 months ago.

I hope this helps! My goal is to provide you with excellent and accurate service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions.

Kindly rate me "excellent" when you are done. I look forward to assisting you in the future, should you have legal questions. Be sure to start future posts with "To ***** Esq., ONLY" if you want me to specifically answer it.

Sincerely, ***** ***** Joy, Esq.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.

Thanks for doing this...I am not asking for his death certificate, I have it...of course I had a right to it...
I am not asking for his premium payments either...
I wanted to know, how much was given to my mom monthly when my father was disabled and then what lump sum was versed to her (since I was a minor) when he died..
Also yes, I do want to know how much I got as a beneficiary of his life insurances...however, since I was a minor, and I never personally obtained any money, I wonder if that money was given to my mother since she had custody...
So I guess I am at square one, because my problem is that when I ask, they seem to not take me seriously and do not cooperate in looking into where the money went...
If I understand correctly, I need to write them a letter requesting the information and hoping for the best...I was wondering if there was a law article or something I could join in my letter to take me seriously...Like...according to article bla bla bla...I have a right to this information...since he was my biological father...but if I understand correctly, there is no law saying I am entitled to know what happened to the money that was meant for me as a minor and that I never got?
Maybe it is a language barrier (me being french) or maybe I am just dumb because I do not quite understand what I am supposed to do...File a claim for money that obviously has already been given to someone in my behalf back in the days when I was a minor?
Arghhhhh so confusing..

Please advise one more time

Thanks.

Expert:  AlexiaEsq. replied 5 months ago.

"Thanks for doing this... ------- No problem.

"I wanted to know, how much was given to my mom monthly when my father was disabled and then what lump sum was versed to her (since I was a minor) when he died..------ OK, this will all depend on your FATHER'S work record, as that determines his Primary Insurance Amount "PIA". Once you have that, then you determine the "family maximum". If your father worked enough, he would have had insurance (SS insurance) coverage for not just himself but his dependents. If he didn't, then his coverage purchased would only cover him. Assuming he had enough for dependent coverage, you take the family max (150% to 180% of HIS PIA), subtract out what he was collecting (100%) then take the remainder (50% - 80%) and divide it equally amongst the eligible dependents, including mom if she was eligible as a caretaker. But being remarried, I suspect she may not have been. So, if there was just YOU, you could have your family max amount available, and YOUR amount is up to 50% as a dependent of a living disabled parent. So if your dad got $1000/mo than you'd be eligible for $500/mo. Your mom would likely have been your representative payee, in charge of using that money first for your basic needs, if any, then any extra curriculars (i.e. sports/camp/piano lesssons), if any.... if any is left unused, she has to save it for you. Obviously, usually there is nothing left, the cost of living and raising children being so high. But that is the general rule on how an RP must use the child's share. Now, if your father passed while you were under 18 or 19, then your maximum potential take is 75% of his PIA (it increases), still subject, however, to the family max and prorated amongst all survivors accordingly.

"Also yes, I do want to know how much I got as a beneficiary of his life insurances...------- That would entirely depend on what he decided to buy. You really need to look at that policy or contact that company - it is not public information for all the world to see.

"however, since I was a minor, and I never personally obtained any money, I wonder if that money was given to my mother since she had custody... ----- Possibly, and back then, things were different. Typically, however, a child's life insurance proceeds go into TRUST..... until you are above the age of majority... And remember, as a minor, you'd get those SS survivor benefits as well - although they are typically used to house and feed you.

"So I guess I am at square one, because my problem is that when I ask, they seem to not take me seriously and do not cooperate in looking into where the money went... ------- Who is they? What "they" would even know your personal financial situation and that of your mother? Are you talking about your mother?

"If I understand correctly, I need to write them a letter requesting the information and hoping for the best...Who? The insurance company? Sure, that could be a start. Maybe your mother didn't even KNOW of an insurance policy - that money could still be sitting there....

"I was wondering if there was a law article or something I could join in my letter to take me seriously...Like...according to article bla bla bla...I have a right to this information...since he was my biological father...but if I understand correctly, there is no law saying I am entitled to know what happened to the money that was meant for me as a minor and that I never got? -------- No, what I am saying is that there is no law requiring other people to divulge their files to you on a simple request without other action from you. Think about it, then I could say, hey, I want to know what ever happened to John's insurance policy he had privately with Allstate..... give it to me. They would laugh. But, if you are a "beneficiary" of that contract, you have a right to make that claim. Social security is a little tougher, BUT, since any payments would have your SS number attached to them (as well as your father), if you ask the SSA (and normally any request even I do takes, like 8 letters and 10 months - no joke). With regard to the SSA you can also ask your Congressperson for assistance (and you can go to his site, look for "help with a federal agency" and email him accordingly. But, again, since SS benefits are to be used for your living expenses when growing up, this may be less important because rightfully, there is probably nothing there.....

"Maybe it is a language barrier (me being french) -------- No, you are excellent.....

"or maybe I am just dumb because I do not quite understand what I am supposed to do...---------- No, you are not, it is confusing AND there is no one way to skin the cat. If money is no option, I'd hire a PI to do this, or a skip trace company to see if there is any money anywhere, owed you. If not, you have to start squeaking yourself to get it done. What is hard is that you don't know for sure that there IS money... so it is a fishing expedition, possibly.

"File a claim for money that obviously has already been given to someone in my behalf back in the days when I was a minor? ------- Again, a child's share can be used for the child's needs, at least as far as SS is concerned. And as you were in France and not here, you'd want to look to the French laws on how a parent can or can not spend any life insurance moneys.

Arghhhhh so confusing.."------- Yes! This is why it is often best to remain close to the parent so you can ask directly from the horse's mouth. If your mother is alive, what does she say about this?

Expert:  AlexiaEsq. replied 5 months ago.

Hey, try this: https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-3288.pdf

Expert:  AlexiaEsq. replied 5 months ago.

Did you download the form?

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