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WyomingGal

Can I compel my mother to give me a discretionary distribution from my father’s estate?

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I live in Wyoming and my father died in Wyoming. 

For two years after my father’s death, my mother and brother hid from me a section of my father’s living trust  which says “Guidelines for the Discretionary Distributions:  With regards to my Trustee’s (my mother’s) discretionary authority over the distributions of income and principal to (me), it is my desire that my Trustee be liberal in exercising such discretion.  It  desire my Trustee (my mother) to give assistance to (me) for a) purchase of a residence b) purchase, establishment or continuance of a business or professional practice; c) any other extraordinary opportunity or expense deemed by my Trustee to be in the best interests of (me). “

When my father wrote that, I had a good job. Now I’m medically disabled, 56 years old, have no spouse or children, no retirement savings and no house.  My brother received 95% of my parents estate, which was a working cattle ranch. I received an illiquid piece of property in a very remote region of Wyoming  that has not had any sales for 10 years. 

There is identical language for my brother, but he inherited a working cattle ranch valued at $22 million with water rights worth millions and a very liquid piece of property valued at several million along a river sought after by wealthy businessmen into fly fishing. 

For a long time, I have had a business idea, but don’t have the energy to do it all myself, but could get it done if I could hire some people. 

Shortly before my father’s death, he asked me to give him a business plan for him to review to fund my business idea.  Then he told me he had made nearly $1 million in loans to the ranch (assets to him, loans to the ranch) which total about 5% of his and my mother’s assets.  These could be used to fund my business idea. 

I showed my mother and brother a balance sheet for the ranch that  I found that depicted two loans totaling nearly $1 million to the ranch from my father and mother, but they tried to convince me I didn’t know what I was talking about and they were not loans. (I spent 9 years as a financial analyst, including working as a commercial loan officer and an equity analyst and have taken graduate level accounting courses, so I know what loans look like on a balance sheet). 

My mother has said she does not want to give me money in accordance with this section of the living trust because she asserts that my tone of voice 8 years ago was offensive to her when she and my father were discussing giving me the illiquid piece of property. 

Additionally, my brother (the executor of the estate) has turned in the paperwork to the estate attorney to settle the estate.  He said he did not give me money in accordance with what I wrote above because I did not have a lawyer. I’m also concerned he may have not reported the $1 million in loans to the ranch from my parents, as then the ranch (which he now owns) would have to repay them – or have my mother cancel them. 

I have asked for an accounting of the assets and debts of my father’s estate and received nothing from my brother. 

My questions: 

Can my mother legally refuse to give me money just because she does not want to, or or does she need to “be liberal” in distributing assets as per the language in my father’s living trust?  

What is the likelihood that I can compel her to agree to the payment  if I hire a lawyer? 

What can I tell her and my brother to increase the likelihood of them giving me the money from the loans without hiring a lawyer (because I’m quite broke ) (ie threatening them with a law suit, etc)

How can I compel my brother to give me an accounting of the assets to ensure the loans are included in my father’s assets?  Can I legitimately tell him that if he does not provide me with the accounting, I can hire a lawyer to compel him and he will have to pay for it? (This is what I did to get a copy of the will). 

Can I demand that he provide me with a copy of the loan agreements to ensure there were not stipulations for interest repayment? 

Thank you for your time! 

 

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You'll need to take a copy of the trust to a lawyer. Your mother has discretion but it is not absolute given that the trust gives direction concerning the sorts of things for which he thought would be ok for distributions. Your mother can, of course, say no. The real issue is how likely it is that a court might overrule her and compel the distribution. And without reading the entire trust, knowing the details of this business idea, and not having researched Wyoming law on the subject I cannot say what the likelihood of that is.

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Are you named as a beneficiary in the will?  Please visit the county courthouse probate court or order a copy of the will by mail to make sure that the will you received exactly matches the one that has been submitted to the probate court?

 

Is the $ 22 million dollar working cattle ranch (that your brother inherited) mentioned in the will?  Is there phrasing in the will that disinherits anyone who contests the will?

 

Where or how did you get the balance sheet--was it honestly given to you or acquired by you, or is it possible that your mother and brother could be mad at you about how you got it?  The trustee's reason for being offended at your tone of voice is ridiculous, and she has a legal obliglation to administer the terms of the trust as it is written and your request is reasonable.

 

She can legally deny your request but in my opinion you should give up your request for a business loan and instead submit a request for a home, which is what you need and which most likely would have a better chance of being approved.  You may want to hire the services of an attorney to write this request on your behalf and perhaps the letter should also ask the trustee to reply in writing to your request.

Business have such a high failure rate that this is the main reason the trustee will be inclined to want to deny your request.  If you want to, later on, in a few years, ask for a business loan (do you have a business plan written up?  What type of business is it?), you can decide whether you want to ask for a loan or take out a second mortgage for financing.  You also need to find out from your attorney if your request for an accounting of the trust should be made in writing.  Ask if it is also possible for you to request a copy of the trust tax return.

 

Please be very cautious in bringing up the subject of the loans with the trustee, as that could be a very sensitive issue (do not mention anything to the trustee or your brother about these loans anymore).  Discuss with your attorney if the trustee has the power to forgive these loans completely, and whether it would benefit  you as a beneficiary to ask for these loans to be repaid to the trust.

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7 hours ago, knort4 said:

Are you named as a beneficiary in the will?  Please visit the county courthouse probate court or order a copy of the will by mail to make sure that the will you received exactly matches the one that has been submitted to the probate court.

 

Is the $ 22 million dollar working cattle ranch (that your brother inherited) mentioned in the will?  Is there phrasing in the will that disinherits anyone who contests the will?

 

Where or how did you get the balance sheet--was it honestly given to you or acquired by you, or is it possible that your mother and brother could be mad at you about how you got it?  The trustee's reason for being offended at your tone of voice is ridiculous, and she has a legal obligation to administer the terms of the trust as it is written and your request is reasonable.  Your brother's reasoning (about your not having a lawyer) is also silly and unjustified.

 

She can legally deny your request but in my opinion you should give up your request for a business loan and instead submit a request for a home, which is what you need and which most likely would have a better chance of being approved.  You may want to hire the services of an attorney to write this request on your behalf and perhaps the letter should also ask the trustee to reply in writing to your request.

Businesses have such a high failure rate that this is the main reason the trustee will be inclined to deny your request.  If you want to, later on, in a few years, ask for a business loan (do you have a business plan written up?  What type of business is it?).  You also need to find out from your attorney if your request for an accounting of the trust should be made in writing.  Ask if it is also possible for you to request a copy of the trust tax return.

 

Please be very cautious in bringing up the subject of the loans with the trustee, as that could be a very sensitive issue (do not mention anything to the trustee or your brother about these loans anymore).  Discuss with your attorney if the trustee has the power to forgive these loans completely, and whether it would benefit  you as a beneficiary to ask for these loans to be repaid to the trust.

 

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8 hours ago, knort4 said:

Are you named as a beneficiary in the will?  Please visit the county courthouse probate court or order a copy of the will by mail to make sure that the will you received exactly matches the one that has been submitted to the probate court?

 

Is the $ 22 million dollar working cattle ranch (that your brother inherited) mentioned in the will?  Is there phrasing in the will that disinherits anyone who contests the will?

 

Where or how did you get the balance sheet--was it honestly given to you or acquired by you, or is it possible that your mother and brother could be mad at you about how you got it?  The trustee's reason for being offended at your tone of voice is ridiculous, and she has a legal obliglation to administer the terms of the trust as it is written and your request is reasonable.

 

She can legally deny your request but in my opinion you should give up your request for a business loan and instead submit a request for a home, which is what you need and which most likely would have a better chance of being approved.  You may want to hire the services of an attorney to write this request on your behalf and perhaps the letter should also ask the trustee to reply in writing to your request.

Business have such a high failure rate that this is the main reason the trustee will be inclined to want to deny your request.  If you want to, later on, in a few years, ask for a business loan (do you have a business plan written up?  What type of business is it?), you can decide whether you want to ask for a loan or take out a second mortgage for financing.  You also need to find out from your attorney if your request for an accounting of the trust should be made in writing.  Ask if it is also possible for you to request a copy of the trust tax return.

 

Please be very cautious in bringing up the subject of the loans with the trustee, as that could be a very sensitive issue (do not mention anything to the trustee or your brother about these loans anymore).  Discuss with your attorney if the trustee has the power to forgive these loans completely, and whether it would benefit  you as a beneficiary to ask for these loans to be repaid to the trust.

Hi Knort, 

Thank you for your reply. Part of the issue here is that I'm vegan and they are not. My father offered me 40% of the ranch in 2000 on the stipulation that I could never sell my share while any one member of the family wanted to ranch. I turned it down because I wanted to start my own business rather than pursue my father's dream (which was a legacy cattle ranch passed down for generations) from beyond the grave. For years he promised me all "non ranch assets" but then he liquidated them to pay down ranch debt.  These are the loans I'm talking about -- valued at nearly $1 million or 5% of my parents' estate.  

1) Most of my parents assets were transfered into two trusts in 2012 in order to avoid estate taxes.  The ranch went into one trust for my brother.  The "cow camp" which is a piece of property in remote Wyoming near the National Forest was transfered into a trust for me.   My mother retains 96% of the voting rights on both trusts until her passing.  So my mother gives my brother permission to use the cow camp every year.  The cow camp has a theorhetical value of $1 million, but there zillow shows no sales of property up there for 10 years -- except for a few $1 sales which were presumably transfered within families.  

2) In addition to the two trusts, there is a living trust (which is where it says I'm to receive money for a house and a business) and a will.  

3) I checked with the court and the will has not been filed yet.  The living trust and will I received were sent to me a few weeks ago by the estate attorney after I told my brother that if he failed to give me parts of the will pertaining to me, I could hire a lawyer and he would have to pay for it.  

4) As for my mother (the trustee) being mad at me for my tone of voice, she has a habit of imagining offensive tones of voice from bank tellers, customer support people, and other people with whom she interacts,  which I believe it linked to emotional abuse by her father.  She she becomes enraged at nothing and holds long grudges.  Her identical twin sister has the same issue.  

5) Regarding the balance sheet, my sister-in-law had shown me the filing cabinets where the will and trust information was kept and told me I could look at them anytime.  They are in the ranch office, but also include family information.  After I spoke with the lawyer, however, they locked the filing cabinets before I could get a copy of the balance sheet.  

6) i'm not asking for a business loan from the trust.   My father made loans to the ranch from assets he spent years telling me that he intended for me to have (a condominum in Jackson Hole and stocks).  These loans are assets to my father, which are the ONLY assets he has that I know of that could be used to a) purchase a house for me and/or b) fund a business.  The only other assets were a) a small amount of money in a stock account which was transfered to my mother and b) a small amount of life insurance which was also transfered to my mother.  If the loans are not accounted for as part of my father's assets, there is nothing with which to fund my business and house.

7) As for the business, I have an MBA from a top tier business school, several decades of business experience, part of which has been consulting with small businesses to get funding and grow their businesses.   I also worked  as a commerical loan officer at a bank, and at an investment bank and a hedge fund and in product marketing management for a Fortune 500 company, so I feel competent in creating a solid business plan and getting a business off the ground while being congnizant of risks.  

8 ) I don't know if there is a clause about contesting the will. I will look.  

 

My concern is that my brother, as executor of the will, has not declared those loans as assets.  He would benefit from this because then the ranch (which he inherited) would never need to repay them.  And then there would be no assets to buy me a house or help me start a business.  

 

What do I do if my brother refuses to declare the loans from my father to the ranch as assets in settling my father's estate? Do I have a right to demand an accounting of the assets  prior to settlement?  

 

Thank you very much for your time! 

 

Best regards,

 

WyoGal

 

 

 

 

Edited by WyomingGal
New at adding comments and replying

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The living trust (that you say gives you permission to get a house and a business) should have already been funded with money from other sources and should not have to depend on whether the loans are repaid.

 

I am not familiar with Wyoming law, so you will have to consult with a Wyoming lawyer about asking for an accounting and about the loans.

 

Who are the beneficiaries in the will and what do they receive?  Hopefully the assets mentioned in the will are not the same assets mentioned in the trust?

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20 minutes ago, knort4 said:

The living trust (that you say gives you permission to get a house and a business) should have already been funded with money from other sources and should not have to depend on whether the loans are repaid.

 

I am not familiar with Wyoming law, so you will have to consult with a Wyoming lawyer about asking for an accounting and about the loans.

 

Who are the beneficiaries in the will and what do they receive?  Hopefully the assets mentioned in the will are not the same assets mentioned in the trust?

My mother, brother and I are beneficiaries, but it basically says everything goes to my mom if she survives him and is split between my brother and I if he were to survive him.  And the only assets I'm aware of are 1) stocks, 2) live insurance and 3) loans.

 

The loans are not mentioned anywhere in the living trust specifically, but one section reads "Distribution to my Descendants:  My Trustee, in making distributions to my descendants pursuant to this Aricle shall take into consideration, to the extent that my Trustee, it its sole and absolute discretion, deems advisable, any income or OTHER RESOURCES which are available to my descendants outside of the Family Trust.  A distribution to or for the benefit of a descendant shall be sharged to the Family Turst rather than against the descendant's ultimate share or the shares of those persons taking through such descendant upon the termination of the Family Trust.    DIstributions to my Beneficiaries According to their Needs:  My trustee may make distributions to or for the benefir ot one or more of the beneficiaries of the Family Trust to the complete exclusion of the other beneficiaries. These distributions may be made to a beneficiary or beneficiaries in equal or unequal amounts according to the respective needs of my beneficiaries."   

 

The section I posted above in my original post also states in the paragraph directly after what I posted above "In making discretionary distributions to (me), my Trustee shall be mindful of and take into consideration to the extent it deems necessary, any ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INCOME AND PRINCIPLA available to (me), which arise outside of this agreement and are known to my Trustee. "  

 

To me this suggests that he is referring to the loans.  Does it look like I am correct?  

 

I will find a lawyer.  Thank you for your insight and suggestions.  

 

 

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You say "those are the only assets I'm aware of", but I asked you what specific assets, if any, are MENTIONED in the will.  There seems to be some reason why they have not probated the will yet, and maybe your attorney will need to find out what that reason is.  There may be no need to probate it if it does not contain any  current specific assets.

 

The statement "ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INCOME AND PRINCIPAL AVAILABLE TO ME" is ambiguous--it could be referring to the loans, but I doubt that since the loans are not mentioned anywhere else.  It seems like a loophole so that if the trustee knows about any other personal income you have besides salary, that she could attempt to use the excuse that any amount she would give you out of the trust could be or should be reduced by any additional outside income you may be receiving other than salary.

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