My mother died before the final papers concerning her estate could be signed. Should I fight my sister to make sure that our parents’ wishes are carried out?


Our family recently lost our mother and father.  My dad knew their time was short and was trying to get his affairs in order before he passed but wasn't able to do so.  My mother was suffering from Alzheimer's and passed a few short months after daddy.  There was a trust made up by an attorney with Mom's final wishes that everything is to be split five ways equally; however, she passed away before it was signed.  There are five children total, but my brother had passed away years prior and mom stated that his part was to be given to his children.

My mother requested that I be an executor; however, the attorney recommended that because I live some distance away that it should be one of the kids who lived closer and mom reluctantly agreed. I was thankful because I could not afford to make the drive as often as it would have been needed, but would have done so if mom insisted.

My daddy's final wishes were for them to be cremated and when the other one passed then they should be put together and their ashes spread at their favorite fishing hole.  My mother agreed; however, she was concerned that it was illegal and that she didn't want her final act to be something illegal.  But her main wish that she vocalized our entire lives is that when they were gone we would not fight over their money and stuff.

I've tried with everything inside of me to keep those wishes.  However, my sister, the executor, has decided that my deceased brother's kids have gotten plenty and that she isn't going to give them their full share of the estate.  I decided in my attempt to keep mom's wishes about not fighting I would give the kids the part they would have gotten out of my proceeds; thus, they don't have to know about their aunt cutting them out of their part and everybody is happy.

Then she called me yesterday and told me that she had decided she was going to bury mom and dad in the same grave as my brother, despite the fact that mom and dad own the two plots next to him because she wants to keep those two plots for herself.  I explained to her that mom and dad had said when they decided to be cremated that those plots would go to my deceased brother's children that way they could be buried close to their dad if they chose to.

My question is to you, but mainly to God, is at what point do I go against my mother's wishes? I or my brother's children are not OK with his grave being opened up and mom and dad placed in there.  I feel that I should honor my dad's wishes by insisting that their ashes be spread as they wished, but I told my sister I was willing to compromise and bury them if that is what she felt like she needed to bring her peace.  My mom always told us that the funeral was for the living the deceased were not there anymore and it should be done in a way to provide peace to the living.  But I cannot bear the thought of allowing my brother's grave to be open and mom and dad thrown in there.

I'm not sure if I will even have a say in the final outcome, but my next question is my brother has already had their ashes mixed together and took part of them to keep with him.  I can hardly bear the thought that their ashes are not all together, but it's already been done.  So I ask: do I take part of their ashes and go spread them on the lake and allow my sister to do whatever they decide to with the rest or do I leave the remainder of their ashes together and fight that they either be placed in their own grave or their ashes spread as they wished?

I am embarrassed that I even need to be counseled on such a revolting subject, but I am at a complete loss on what my place as a Christian is here.  Honor my father and mother by giving them a proper burial but by disobeying my mom's main wish for us not to fight or do I stand up and fight and say this is evil, absurd and not going to happen?

I'm sorry. I tried to make this as short as possible.  Thank you for your time and God bless you for taking the time to listen to my heart.


"But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 9:4-6).

It is nice that you wish to respect your parents' wishes, but the fact is that you have little ability to enforce those wishes. The legal documents were not completed and therefore carry no weight. This isn't your fault; it is the result of your parents' procrastination. Even if your mother signed the documents, it might have caused problems since she was suffering from Alzheimer's. The law requires that legal documents be signed by someone mentally fit.

Your sister doesn't have free reign in disposing of the estate. Without a will, the laws of the state come into play and must be abided by. I don't know what your state laws are that come into play when there is no will. Intestate Succession Rules describes what typically happens in most states and some of the variations between states. In most states, your brother's children cannot be skipped for inheritance when your mother died intestate.

Typically, your sister cannot open your brother's grave without permission from his descendants. Since they object, the matter is settled. She has no power here.

Where your sister does have decision-making power, you have no say since she is the executor and you are not. You can state your wishes, but in the end, what the state leaves to your sister to decide is her decision alone.

Where your parent's ashes go makes absolutely no difference. When we are resurrected we are given new bodies. "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (I Corinthians 15:51-53). What happens to the molecules of the old body doesn't matter. As your mother pointed out, now that they are dead, they aren't here anymore. Their spirits are waiting elsewhere for Judgment Day to come around.

None of this is worth fighting over. Find out the laws that apply. Make sure that your sister is aware that she must abide by those laws. If she does act unfairly, though within the limits of the law, then do what you can personally do to minimize the impact of her greed.


I cannot thank you enough for the peace you have given me. Thank you so much for you time. God bless you!

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