Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Should I Sue My Dad?”

Pensive woman

I’m 23 and moved back to my home state a year ago. My mother died when I was 14, and my dad (who adopted me when I was four and took care of me after my mom died but is not my biological father) won’t give me the key to the house to get my belongings he held for me when I moved out of state. He also will not give me some things that belonged to my mother (wedding dress, veil, her wedding rings, etc.). He is engaged to be married in early 2016. His fiancée has four kids who live at home. He doesn’t make time for me and would rather be with them than talk with me or even take me to the ER when I couldn’t drive myself. For the last seven months I’ve been trying to get the key to the house whenever I have a day off so that I can get my things, which is becoming my urgent since the house is falling down. My father always says no or he doesn’t want to ask his fiancée for her key. He will say that the next day off we have together we can both go out there, but he’s cancelled on me the last four times, two times for which I’d rearranged doctor appointments. As for my mother’s wedding rings: He gave to his fiancée to put in her safe.

I’ve been dealing with my feelings toward him and his new family, but I also want my items that belong to me and the items that were my mother’s that I want. Do I have the right to sue if this continues? — Ignored Daughter

For legal advice, you’d have to speak to a lawyer, and if you don’t have anything in writing — like a will or some kind of agreement — stating what items should be returned/given to you, I’m not sure you have much of a case. But, again, you’d have to speak to a lawyer for legal advice. As you know, I’m not a lawyer; I’m a relationship advice columnist. And since you chose me to reach out to, I have to assume that what you’re really asking for is not legal advice, but relationship advice. So here we go: It’s natural that you feel betrayed and hurt and angry at your father for ignoring you, abandoning you, and replacing you with four soon-to-be step-kids. It’s natural that you want to get his attention and even seek some revenge — make him take notice you, if not hurt him the same way he’s hurt you. But I’m not sure continuing to ask him for a key to a house you say is falling down and for items he may not feel are appropriate to give to you (either now, or at all) — like your mother’s wedding rings, for example — is the best way to get that attention from him.

I know it’s difficult, but you need to separate your feelings toward your father from your desire to get certain items. You need to assume you can’t accomplish both at the same time, so decide which is a more immediate need — trying to heal your broken relationship with your dad or retrieving your items? Since there is a likelier chance of your retrieving items if you can get a relationship with your dad back on track, I’d focus on that if I were you. How can you do that? Well, for starters, you could reach out to him as you would someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. You could wish him happy holidays and ask if you could get together at some point and celebrate the new year. Have you congratulated him on his engagement? Maybe you could ask to take him out to lunch. Does he work anywhere near you? You could suggest a lunch date during the work day when you both have a break, rather than waiting until a day when you’re both off. You could simply tell him you miss him and you love him.

If you make a point to focus on simply being together and catching up rather than on getting a key from him or asking a favor of him, he may be more responsive to you. Then again, maybe enough damage has been done that meeting for lunch is too little, too late. And when I say “damage has been done,” I don’t just mean damage he’s caused you. I don’t know the details of your relationship, either before your mother died or after. All I know from your letter is that you left the state, you returned, and now you want your belongings. Is it possible that your father felt abandoned by you? Does he feel like all you want from him is storage space and rides to the hospital? I don’t know. I’m merely suggesting what might possibly be going on in a father’s mind to foster such apathy toward his daughter following the death of her mother. Grief, as I’m sure you’re aware, affects everyone differently and can test even the strongest of bonds (and if your bond with your dad was shaky at all to begin with — as many father-daughter bonds are during the teenage years, even without a huge loss or the absence of a biological connection — then the grief you both felt having lost your mother may have had an even greater affect on your relationship).

If you decide that the bigger and more immediate need is to get your things back and to secure the possession of your mother’s wedding dress and veil and rings, then I’d suggest reaching out to a lawyer for advice because I’m not sure you’re even legally entitled to those items. Just be aware that if you do turn this into a legal case instead of just a case of hurt feelings, the broken relationship between you and your father will probably never be healed. And the sad fact is that it may not be healed no matter what you do. And that is especially painful considering he’s your only living parent who raised you.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

45 comments… add one
  • avatar

    SpaceySteph December 17, 2015, 9:53 am

    Disclaimer– I’m not a lawyer either, but in absence of a will things generally belong to the spouse when a person dies. So your father very likely is the legal owner of all your mothers’ stuff, including her wedding rings and dress.
    From your letter it sounds like some of this is your own belongings, too. Perhaps you could leave aside your mothers’ stuff and focus on your stuff. Explain that you need X furniture or Y clothes at your new place and see if you can get him to just give some of those things to you, even perhaps meeting in a neutral location for him to hand it over or having him put it out on the porch for you to swing by and grab. That way he doesn’t have to fear that letting you in will result in you taking stuff he doesn’t want you to take. It sounds like he’s got some sort of attachment or issues regarding your mother and doesn’t want to part with her stuff.
    I like Wendy’s suggestions, but I’m not convinced they’ll work. He might be suspicious that you are only suggesting lunch/whatever to get in his good graces so he’ll give you the rings. If you demonstrate that you have backed off mom’s stuff and only want your childhood bedroom stuff, then maybe he’d be more receptive to meeting for lunch and to give you a box of keepsakes, then you can rebuild the relationship and revisit the rings after you’re on better terms.

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    • avatar

      Ron December 17, 2015, 11:02 am

      That’s not the case in my state. The kids get 2/3 and the spouse 1/3.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom December 17, 2015, 1:52 pm

      In the state where I was raised the spouse gets 1/2 and the kids get 1/2 if there is no will. In the state where I currently live the spouse gets everything. This is something that definitely will be determined by the state.

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    • avatar

      Texas T December 21, 2015, 4:34 pm

      In my state, which I believe is pretty obvious, with no Will it all goes to the spouse. And honestly, I cant say that I disagree (in most cases); that is the person they chose as their life mate. But in this situation it seems like your father is being a huge dick. He should let you have some mementos that mean something to you and compromise with you. But it sounds like he is pussy whipped by some control freak who is threatened by you for some crazy reason. I am so sorry. =(

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  • FireStar

    Firestar December 17, 2015, 10:51 am

    Yep – you need a lawyer. If you don’t have funds for one maybe start at the estate office in your area. Probate is public record so speak the registrar to find out what happened with your mom’s estate. Maybe she had a will; maybe she didn’t. Not everything always just goes to the spouse when there is no will. At least not in my jurisdiction. The public documents will tell you what happened and what you are entitled to. Anything that is yours in the house belongs to you. So you can always sue for the return of those items. Things that were your mom’s would be covered by the probate documents. So maybe you could sue for them depending on the distribution of your mom’s estate.
    I find it odd he doesn’t want to take you to get the stuff. What’s it to him? Is there any other family you can talk to? aunts? uncles? grandparents? siblings? Someone to intervene and just impress on him that you need that connection to your mom? Sorry hon – it’s hard when a parent seems to have left part of his life behind to start a new life with a new family. But if your relationship has been decent – there is no reason why you can’t meet up once in a while to keep a connection if that is what both of you want. Suing tend to cause family rifts rather than mend them.

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  • becboo84

    becboo84 December 17, 2015, 10:54 am

    LW, I am so sorry that your dad has emotionally abandoned you in this way, and is causing you even more stress by not letting you access your belongings or a few sentimental things you’d like of your mother’s. Regardless of whether he felt “abandoned” when you left the state (given the timing, I’m guessing for college, perhaps), he is the parent, and you are the child, and as a dad, he’s letting you down.

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    • avatar

      csp December 17, 2015, 11:09 am

      I agree with your sentiment but I wonder if he feels like the only time she calls is when she needs something. Like not calling to say hi, just calling to get a key. That would hurt me.

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  • call-me-hobo

    call-me-hobo December 17, 2015, 11:00 am

    First thing, LW, I think that however painful it might be, you should expect to not receive any of your mother’s things that are currently in your father’s possession. It sucks, but you really don’t have a lot legal right to them. The second thing I’d like to know is what kind of stuff you left at the old house-if it’s stuff like furniture, childhood mementos and the like, I would probably write them off same as your mom’s stuff. It doesn’t sound like you’re going to get them. However, if it’s things like birth certificate, SSN, or any other sensitive personal documentation, I would do whatever I could to get those documents. You ARE legally entitled to that kind of stuff.

    I don’t agree with Wendy on the relationship advice. I don’t really think it’s fair to accuse the daughter of “abandoning” the father. Children are generally expected to move out for either education or employment opportunities. Even if they had a rocky relationship when the LW was younger, the onus is on the father to provide the “unconditional love” aspect of fatherhood

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy December 17, 2015, 12:01 pm

      Oh, I definitely agree with you that it’s the father’s responsibility to provide unconditional love and it isn’t the daughter’s responsibility to stay put/ not leave the state out of a sense of responsibility to her dad. I only suggested the idea that the dad may have felt abandoned — regardless of whether him feeling that is right or not — to explain his apathetic attitude now. I also suggested some ways the LW could try to reach out in an attempt to heal the relationship (if she even wants to) that aren’t focused on getting her stuff back.
      .
      I think the dad is being a jerk. But he may feel like the LW is attempting to get things she isn’t legally entitled to — and frankly, the dad may not even have those items anymore — and he’s avoiding her because he’s avoiding telling her no. Also, a jerky move. I just wonder, if the LW weren’t pushing to have these items, whether the dad would be as distant.

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  • avatar

    artsygirl December 17, 2015, 11:10 am

    Hi LW- art historian here (so also not a lawyer), but I was wondering if it would be possible to reach out to your father’s fiancee as long as you have at least a cordial relationship. I seriously doubt if she wants her soon-to-be husband’s previous wife’s wedding gown and other sentimental items so she might be happy to open up the house to you. If possible you could even provide her with a specific list of items beforehand stating that some of it was yours before you left the state and the other items were important to your mother. You can frame the request around the fact that you and your father have not been able to make your schedules line up (DO NOT BLAME HIM!!! she is marrying him and would likely get defensive if you sound like your are criticizing him). Sorry that you are dealing with this but hope you can work everything out.

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  • avatar

    blink14 December 17, 2015, 11:41 am

    More information would be helpful – how long did you live out of state for? I’m assuming that if you moved for college, you lived with him for about 4 years after your mom passed away. Did you never come home to visit for holidays or breaks? What was your relationship like before? It seems to me that you were gone for an extended period of time with little contact.

    Reading between the lines here, I’m sensing that there were issues between you and him before you moved home. If you never came back to visit, perhaps he feels hurt. Maybe he doesn’t want to deal with your things and your mother’s things because he can’t let go of them or his attachment to your mom.

    From what I gather, it sounds like the house you grew up in is unoccupied and your dad lives with his fiance, presumably at her house? That could potentially create some sort of property loophole if he hasn’t lived in there in some time.

    Ultimately it sounds like you are very angry and hurt that your dad is moving on,and I would try cutting him some slack and perhaps attempt to build a relationship again. Its been nearly 10 years since your mom passed away and he does have the right to move on and be happy again. I also second the suggestion of maybe trying to work on a relationship with his fiance and see if she would be willing to at least get your dad and you together to discuss the situation.

    On the legal side, I suggest calling some firms in your area and try to locate someone who specializes in estate proceedings. They may be willing to meet with you for free and tell you whether or not you have a legal right to go after the items you want back.

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  • avatar

    Essie December 17, 2015, 11:57 am

    Are these the wedding dress, veil, rings from your father’s marriage to your mom? If so, they have just as much sentimental value to him as they do to you. As others have said, whether they’re legally his or yours depends on the laws in your state and any will your mother may have left.
    .
    The fact that the house is closed up, deteriorating, and he hasn’t cleaned out even the most important of your mother’s things makes me wonder if there’s still some grief there, and the house is a point of pain for him. Just because he’s remarried doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t still grieve for your mother.
    .
    I could be wrong, but I suspect that he’s avoiding you because he doesn’t want you to go in the house and take his wife’s things. He may intellectually understand why you want them, but emotions are something else altogether. He may feel very deeply that he can’t bear to part with the rings, etc, but not want to hurt you by saying he doesn’t want you to have them.
    .
    How about this: take a step back, and start with your own belongings, that don’t have sentimental value to him. Give him a call and say something like this: “Dad, I miss you and I get the feeling you’re not ready to part with mom’s stuff and that’s OK. Let’s get together for lunch/dinner/whatever and catch up.” Then you can make arrangements to pick up the other things you left behind.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse December 17, 2015, 12:58 pm

    Without more information about your relationship with him before this (I’m assuming you moved away for college?) it’s hard to know what could be going on. Unfortunately, I have had a few friends whose legal guardians behaved this way after they became legal adults. One childhood friend, his parents had passed when he was very little and his grandparents were his legal guardians. When he turned 18, they literally sold their house and moved away and left him to his own devices. They would barely answer even his phone calls. It was unbelievable! Especially since he was such a good kid, (not that “troublemakers” are any more deserving of this, just it was so out of left field!) and his grandparents had kind of hosted all the neighborhood kids after school and were a big part of the neighborhood and community.
    It’s hard to understand why people act the way they do. Perhaps they (and your dad) are just now getting to be “selfish” or feel that they’ve done their duty as a legal guardian and parent. Being a parent is hard, and maybe since you are older now, he feels like he can stop treating you as his child. I would hope I wouldn’t act that way, but we can’t know the reasons or emotions behind others actions.
    I would encourage you to reach out in a neutral way and to slow down about asking for all this stuff back. Had you talked about who that stuff belonged to at anytime other than just recently? It’s true, he may have gotten rid of all of it, not knowing your attachment. Approach him more diplomatically if you can, and see what you can gently dig up, in time.

    Or see a lawyer. I think if it wasn’t stated in the will (if she had one,) you have no claim to any of it.

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  • avatar

    Ignored Daughter December 17, 2015, 1:02 pm

    More information-me and my dad have had kind of a shakey relationship. I moved out for college in 2010 and have lived with him off and on since. I can call him to say hi and he wont answer or if he does he mentions his fiancee or the kids. Ive moved into my new apartment and he hasnt been by once. I have momentos, books, and clothing at his house. He currently lives with his fiancee and her family and has shut down the heat to the house. I have also tried reaching out to his fiancee and nothing gets returned. I felt like she flaunted wedding plans to my face and I havent been involved in any of the plans. My two half brothers from my biological father found out two weeks before I did that he was getting married and it took him a month to get me an invitation to the wedding after he told me. He cancels plans with me or says he’s busy with her and the kids. He will hang up the phone on me if she calls.

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    • avatar

      blink14 December 17, 2015, 1:30 pm

      Can you clarify the relationship your half brothers have with him? Maybe they could be a go between?

      Depending on where you live, time could be of the essence if the heat is shut off.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover December 17, 2015, 3:07 pm

        I don’t think the half-brothers are his kids, they’re from her bio dad, not her adopted dad. So he probably knows them somewhat through his daughter (the LW) but wouldn’t have a parent-child relationship with them.

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      • avatar

        blink14 December 17, 2015, 3:25 pm

        True, the reason I asked is because it sounded like her brothers found out pretty directly, instead of through someone else about the wedding, which would imply some sort of relationship.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover December 17, 2015, 3:27 pm

        I assumed it was through the grapevine, but yeah, you could be right.

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      • avatar

        Ron December 17, 2015, 7:42 pm

        I got the impression that she is her mother’s daughter from a prior marriage/relationship before mother married this man who adopted LW. I got the impression that the half-brothers are her mother’s children with LW’s adoptive father, with whom she is now feuding. I could be wrong, the letter is a little hard to follow.

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      • avatar

        Ron December 17, 2015, 8:58 pm

        Nope, you’re right. The half-brothers are no relation to LW’s mother. I guess from her bio-Dad’s second marriage. So, they are no relation to her adoptive father.

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    • honeybeenicki

      honeybeenicki December 17, 2015, 1:36 pm

      I’m sorry you’re going through this, but it sounds to me like you’re super jealous of his new relationship and I’m guessing he can tell that too. His fiancée and soon-to-be-stepkids are part of his life and if you see him talking about them as “flaunting” or whatever, he probably is picking up on that jealousy too. I’m sorry you lost your mother, but surely you want your dad to be happy too? Did you expect him to never move on?

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    • avatar

      ron December 17, 2015, 7:34 pm

      ” I can call him to say hi and he wont answer or if he does he mentions his fiancee or the kids.”

      I don’t see the problem with him mentioning his fiancee or the kids when you call? Aren’t they a huge part of his current life? How can he even respond to “How are you doing, Dad” without mentioning the people he is actually living with.

      You sound like you’ve been very out-spoken in criticizing your father for dating too soon, getting engaged too soon, becoming too attached to his fiancee’s kids. Likely you feel he must put his life on hold and more visibly grieve for your mother, as you are doing, and build his life around you and your half-sibs.

      People grieve differently and for differing amounts of time. Your father gets to decide when he is ready to move on with his life. He doesn’t need your permission. Maybe I am taking the one sentence I highlighted out of perspective, but it sure sounds as if you don’t want to hear anything about his current life.

      Do see a lawyer. Depending on where you live, you probably are entitled to some of your mother’s estate. Has that estate even gone to probate yet? Your father does have legal obligations toward you and toward the state.

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  • avatar

    LisforLeslie December 17, 2015, 1:14 pm

    It’s my suspicious nature, but part of me thinks he keeps cancelling on you is because he’s gotten rid of everything and doesn’t want to face you when you find out.

    From what you describe, it doesn’t sound like anyone is living in the house, otherwise you’d just stop by and pick up your stuff right?

    I don’t know what recourse you’d have legally. I imagine you’d have to have some catalog of of the stuff you left behind.

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  • avatar

    Essie December 17, 2015, 1:36 pm

    Reading your update, and especially “I felt like she flaunted wedding plans to my face,” I’m kind of wondering how you reacted when he started dating the woman who’s now his wife, and what your relationship with her has been like.

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  • avatar

    Essie December 17, 2015, 2:13 pm

    LW, I don’t want you to feel like we’re piling on. There’s obviously a lot of complicated emotional stuff going on here: your grief for your mom, your dad’s grief for your mom, your dad’s new relationship. Even without the loss of your mom, it’s hard to blend new families together – it changes everyone’s relationships. It takes time for everything to settle.
    .
    The best advice I can give you is for you and your dad to give each other the benefit of the doubt. Start from a place of kindness. I really doubt that he’s looking at this like “Thank god I’m finally rid of that kid, now I can get a new family.”
    .
    Of course, I don’t know what happened with the wedding, or why you found out later than your brothers. But I do know that when people are slow to tell someone something, it’s often for one of two reasons: 1) They’re afraid the information will hurt or upset that person, or 2) They’re afraid the person will be angry and they’re reluctant to deal with a big emotional scene. I can’t think of any other reason that they would have put off telling you about the wedding.

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  • avatar

    saneinca December 17, 2015, 3:06 pm

    Yes. Your step dad is acting like an asshole. Your mother’s belongings have sentimental value to you – not for him as he is marrying again and definitely not his fiancée.
    Short of a report to police, or a legal notice, the only thing you could do is go through family. Do you have any step siblings or step dad’s family that you can talk to and prevail upon him to act decently ?

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    • avatar

      Ron December 17, 2015, 7:38 pm

      This makes zero sense. What does the father marrying again have to do with these items having zero import for him. He was the other half of this woman’s marriage. He is the one who picked out and bought the rings. I can’t imagine the symbolism of a wedding dress and engagement/wedding rings meaning more to a daughter than to a spouse. Remarrying doesn’t erase his prior life. Nor does it stop him from thinking about it.

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      • avatar

        saneinca December 18, 2015, 3:40 am

        Huh??? Did we just not had this discussion on this site about ex’s stuff ?

        Would a new wife like her husband take out his dead wife’s effects and look at them ? What would he do with a old wedding dress and rings ?
        Sooner or later he will also die. It is better to give the stuff to the rightful heir.
        He will have his pictures to look at. Anyway looks like he is closing the old house and stuff left there could be stolen or lost.
        For gods sake let him do the right thing. Old people can become such petty idiots.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki December 18, 2015, 11:14 am

        How do you see an EX and a deceased wife as the same thing?! That’s not even close.

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      • avatar

        Ron December 18, 2015, 3:14 pm

        Saneinca — you have a very low opinion of ‘old people’. These are remembrances of this man’s first marriage, maybe his first love. My father remarried after my mother died. i know that years later he never stopped thinking about my mother. She was his great love. Although her wedding dress has been used multiple times, none of the kids would have ever pressed him to just give the remembrances of his first marriage to the ‘rightful heirs’. Really, that is disrespectful and kind of whack.

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      • avatar

        saneinca December 18, 2015, 3:46 pm

        Ron, I didn’t mean any disrespect to old people. What I meant was some normally decent individuals, start holding on to small grudges and punish relatives when they become old. Some of their grudges are really over petty things like you did not call me on birthday etc.
        In this particular case, I don’t believe that the step dad is acting that way because of sentimentality as he did not mentioned that. In fact he is moving to his new wife’s place and closing the old house.
        In fact, if he loved his dead wife he would hold on to the most cherished possession of her, the daughter. Not treat her like disposable now that he has a new family.

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      • othy

        othy December 18, 2015, 3:52 pm

        I think we don’t know near enough about the situation to judge the dad’s feelings with regards to sentimentality. Just because he’s remarrying and moving doesn’t mean that his love for his first wife goes away. Maybe he wants to hold onto certain items even more now that he’s moving on, so he keeps a small part of her to remember. Just because he isn’t talking to his daughter doesn’t mean that he loves her mother any less (especially because we don’t know what happened in the interim to get them to the point of not speaking).

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      • avatar

        saneinca December 18, 2015, 8:32 pm

        None of us know anything about anyone other than what the LW wrote. I chose to believe the LW. Looks like some of you want to believe in the step dad.

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  • findingtheearth

    findingtheearth December 17, 2015, 4:26 pm

    I agree that he may have sold some of the items. I also see a conflicted nature. It sounds like he has been in your life for a long time and I am sure there is emotional attachment. I guess you have to ask yourself is if you want him to remain in it. You need to figure out what you feel and tell him. If you are hurt because he is getting married and appears to be just ditching you, than you need to tell him that. You also need to see the will. Once you know what you want to do, you need to set up a time to talk to him. If worst comes to worse, go to his job and tell him you need to speak with him.

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  • avatar

    Ignored Daughter December 17, 2015, 8:47 pm

    Thanks to all who have replied and given advice. My half brothers are from my biological father and another woman. They had asked my dad, who has treated them nicely since they both moved here to MN from Ca, if they could deer hunt on his land. I found out two weeks later when we were both on lunch break (we both work at the same place). I love his fiancee. She has welcomed me with open arms but wont really talk to me as of late. When I call to talk to my dad he often interupts me before im done speaking and mentions the kids. I ask about them since he is marrying into the family and I am a part of it.

    My mother willed everything to my dad since I was a minor when she died. He then was suppose to will everything to me when he died. He has told me that when he marries her he is leaving her everything. He owns 200 acres of land. I also know he hasnt sold anything. The one time I was able to go out with him I made sure we found the dress and veil to make sure they were not damaged. He would not let me take them or move them from the store room. It is kind of complicated but im just not sure which direction to go. I want him to be happy but I feel like they could be involving me more in their lives

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    • avatar

      saneinca December 18, 2015, 3:46 am

      I am sorry to hear about this issue.
      Your mother did a very stupid thing. She should have left some money for you in trust. But as a minor daughter at the time of her death, you may have still have some claim on her assets. Check with lawyers.
      May be your step dad is having old age mental deterioration.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom December 18, 2015, 7:44 am

      If your mom left everything to your dad then it all belongs to him. It may have tremendous sentimental value to you but it legally belongs to him. I assume it has great sentimental value to him too. All of those items are from the wedding that they had. They didn’t get divorced, he lost your mother too soon, to death and he misses her and still loves her. If his fiance understands that then there is no problem between them. Your dad isn’t ready to give up those items just because you want them. They are his and for now they will remain his.

      You are 23. Most parents are letting go of their children to some degree at 23. You shouldn’t be dependent at this age and you aren’t. You go back and forth between sounding angry at your dad for moving on and also sounding accepting of his new life. It has been plenty of time for him to move on emotionally but that doesn’t mean he isn’t still emotionally attached to the items from the wedding. It probably means they had a good marriage with good memories and he wants to keep those things. Besides pictures and memories, they are what he has left of your mom. You also don’t know what your mom may have said to him before she died about what she wanted to happen to things like her wedding dress and rings. She may have asked him to hang onto them until you were a certain age because those who are young often do stupid things by accident that get things ruined. She may not have thought of those things and he is trying to figure out what to do on his own. You don’t know what she may have said to him or asked him to do but suing isn’t going to help. The items clearly, legally, belong to your dad and no amount of you wanting them will change that. The courts base decisions on who legally owns things not on how much someone wants something they don’t legally own.

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    • avatar

      blink14 December 18, 2015, 8:57 am

      I think unfortunately at this point, in terms of getting stuff from your old house, you’re going to have to wait. It seems like your dad has basically abandoned your old house and everything in it, which probably means he is not handling his grief over your mom very well. I would be very concerned if he’s left the heat off going into winter, and that is a legitimate concern, both for safety and for the house itself.

      I do think it would be worthwhile to seek out a lawyer who would be willing to give you advice as to where you stand legally. Do you know if your mom had an actual will drawn up, or was everything left to your dad by default? That would probably be an important piece of information.

      You may also want to consider seeing a therapist – both to work through your own feelings about what is happening and also to seek a third party view/advice on how to steer your relationship with your dad in a more positive direction.

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      Ron December 18, 2015, 10:48 pm

      Why do you say “then he was supposed to will everything to me when he died?” Was that a part of your mother’s will? If so, that might give you legal rights. That would be as if she was trying to leave him a life interest, with the residual rights going to you. Even if she didn’t do it properly, perhaps a good lawyer can make something of it for you.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom December 18, 2015, 8:26 am

    If I was your dad I’d wait until your life is stable to give you those items. I’d wait until you have your own place, not an apartment with a friend or even an apartment. I’d wait. It only takes one boyfriend with an addiction for your things to be gone for good. It only takes one boyfriend with a friend with an addiction for those things to be gone. The same for a roommate. It only takes one careless roommate for your things to be gone due to theft or fire. I had a roommate when I was 25 who twice, accidentally, started fires in our house (once cooking, once laundry) and I put out one and another roommate put out one. Also, in the same house, we had to ask the landlord to change all the locks on the doors because someone kept coming in during the night and leaving all the doors unlocked. It only takes one careless, stupid or addicted friend for those things to be gone. It only takes one former occupant who still has a key for all of those things to be gone.

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      blink14 December 18, 2015, 9:00 am

      This is a really good point – I’ve been living with roommates for quite a few years (way too expensive to live on my own right now) and for about 2 years I padlocked my bedroom whenever I left the house because I didn’t trust people that my former roommates were bringing over. When something doesn’t belong to a person, they can become very careless about taking care of it.

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  • avatar

    keyblade December 18, 2015, 5:52 pm

    I liked Skyblossom’s comments.

    “More information-me and my dad have had kind of a shakey relationship. I moved out for college in 2010 and have lived with him off and on since.”
    “I love his fiancee. She has welcomed me with open arms but won’t really talk to me as of late.”

    What do you mean by shakey relationship? Did things happen that made him upset? Were you courteous while you were living there? Did you ask before you came back to crash? Did you offer to pay rent or do chores?

    “He also will not give me some things that belonged to my mother (wedding dress, veil, her wedding rings, etc.).”
    I’m sorry you lost your mom at such a young age and you are feeling like you are being shut out now. My question is how are you relating to your dad and his new fiancé? Are you relating like a pleasant adult? I’m curious because I find it a bit odd that you are (apparently?) having discussions about what he plans to do with his property when he dies. I’m of the mind that children aren’t owed all their deceased parents belongings and assets if the parents wish to give them to someone else. Your mom left your dad her stuff and he trusts your future stepmom enough to follow suit. I hope to have something to leave my children but I wouldn’t want either of my boys hounding my husband for my wedding bands after I passed away. Those are ours. I can understand why you might want your mother’s wedding dress. But I still think it is something you ought to ask for, and not assume is automatically is yours and should be yours to collect whenever you want it. I didn’t hear you mention being engaged. Your dad is still very much alive. So I’m not sure why you are trying to get this dress right now. I still have my dress, but I’ve only kept it to maybe wear again on an anniversary someday. Fashions, times, and sizes vary so much that I wouldn’t presume my kids would want their wives to wear it if I passed away. I wonder if you asked if you could wear the dress when the time comes, if your dad would be more receptive? Perhaps he would be willing to move the dress and hold onto it for you? And how long has he been storing all your old stuff?
    I’m wondering if your dad who is busy raising young kids and figuring out new marital dynamics thinks you, as an adult , just don’t need as much from him anymore. How and why did you bring up wanting all of this stuff? Do you think he is feeling a little used?
    Also, I reaaally hope you haven’t played the you-aren’t-my real-dad card because it’s below the belt , in my opinion.

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      keyblade December 18, 2015, 10:32 pm

      LW, in my previous comment I took my stance based on how I imagined I might feel if my husband was the one getting remarried a decade after I had passed and my boys were adults. But I will also say that I remember my teens and early twenties and I had never felt so lonely and scared. There was so much I felt ill-equipped for. So much life ahead that just seemed so daunting to me. And I had support. I hadn’t faced the loss of my mother, right smack at fourteen like you did. I’m so sorry you lost your mom. You mentioned you have a biological father who you know. It would seem he was absent enough that your stepdad had legal grounds to adopt you. That’s a lot to go through when you’re little. And then right when you became a teenager you lost your mom. And then you hit college and you didn’t feel great about the parent you had left. And now he’s getting married and will have step-kids again. And you feel like you are losing him. I just want to say that I’m sorry. You obviously still miss your mom. I don’t know you and I can only imagine what things feel like for you right now. I could be completely out to lunch and mischaracterizing your this whole thing. Maybe some other commenter has already made this point. But if this about having something to hold on to because you are feeling abandoned, I hope you will know that this will pass and things will settle. I’m not a person who can relate to that specific pain. I really do hope you are able to find some resolution with your dad. I hope you lean on some friends and put yourself out there. Continue to talk about it. Even if people, like me, don’t always agree with your point of view of what’s “right” or “fair”, your feelings are valid.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom December 19, 2015, 8:58 am

    A comment specifically about wedding rings and their significance to me and maybe other married couples.
    .
    My husband and I picked our rings together. We picked them because we personally liked them. As usual, they were part of our wedding ceremony and specifically they are the symbol of our marriage vows. They have special meaning to us because they symbolize our marriage. I expect my rings to go to our kids someday but not while my husband and I are alive. The rings symbolize our marriage so I assume we value them more highly than the kids do. Not to say that I think our kids won’t value them but I think we value them more highly. The rings are a symbol of us. I wouldn’t leave them to the kids while my husband is alive. They belong to us until we are gone and then, and only then, do they go beyond us.
    .
    If the LW’s parents bought the rings in a more traditional way her dad saved the money for her mom’s rings and spent time searching for rings he thought she would like and then bought the rings. He put in the time and the money to buy the symbols of their marriage that her mother wore. Of course they have value and meaning to him. They are the symbol of their marriage and their commitment and their vows. Just because they have a daughter who wants them now doesn’t mean that they don’t have more value to her dad. Even if he gets remarried he can still value the previous marriage and the previous vows and the previous symbols of that marriage. The daughter says she was out of state and out of touch for a while. If I was the dad I wouldn’t give her anything until she proved she was mature enough to keep them in good shape. Just because you show up wanting something doesn’t mean that it is yours or should be yours. Her mom left them to her dad and they belong to her dad. The 200 acres is irrelevant but I think that in the back of her mind that is what the LW wants and so is demanding these other things now. Why else bring in the 200 acres? She should ask her dad to leave the things from her dad and mom’s wedding to her even if he leaves everything else to his wife.

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      keyblade December 19, 2015, 4:01 pm

      That’s what I think, too. My husband put a tremendous amount of thought into picking a stone and designing an engagement band. We chose symbols on our wedding bands that represented our bond to each other. Our rings are about us.

      Sometimes I do think grown kids can have tough expectations to meet. The parent-child relationship is still there. There is still the expectation of unconditional love and acceptance, support and attention. But parents are just people. And when the babies grow up and leave, which we are supposed to fiercely encourage without showing how painful it feels, life goes on. Kids get busy in college or careers and get buried in relationships. But parents are supposed to remain on call. Parents aren’t expected to go through busy periods in other day-to-day relationships. Or create new families. Grown kids are allowed to see their parents as extended family and separate from their own unit. But parents aren’t supposed to do that back. Kids expect roommates to be considerate and do their share. But they think nothing of leaving all of their stuff behind when they come and go from mom and dad’s home. And parents generally accept it because they love their kids. But you couldn’t do that without a second thought to someone else. If you left a bunch of your old books and clothes behind on and off indefinitely with anyone else, it would be considered perfectly understandable to remove the stuff.

      I don’t know how much of this relates to this particular letter-writer’s situation. If her dad tried to be a good caregiver and father to her then I would encourage her to think about how important those books and clothes really are and if they can wait.

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