Posted: August 6, 2014 at 2:02 a.m.
DEAR JEANNE & LEONARD: How can I find out if I was named in someone's will? Because my parents were old and not well, I spent much of my childhood in the care of my much older sister, even living with her for five years after my folks died. She and I lived in the same neighborhood as adults and remained close throughout the years, and I spent a lot of time with her in her last months as she struggled with cancer. During that time she hinted that she was leaving me $100,000 (her husband, who predeceased her, had been very successful in real estate). It's been a year since her death, all of the real estate has been liquidated, and no one has said anything to me about the $100,000. Short of asking her children, how can I find out if my sister left me any money?
DEAR L.L.: Sorry, but it sounds as if your sister promised you a bequest that she never made. It happens. And judging from the mail we receive, it happens every day.
But to answer your question: Your sister's will is a public document, and someone in the county courthouse can tell you how to get a copy.
Given their prosperity, though, chances are your sister and her husband put their assets into a so-called living trust -- a trust that includes instructions on how to distribute their wealth after their death.
Unlike a will, the document that establishes a living trust is not public. However, state law in California requires that you be notified if you are named as a beneficiary. So unless you believe that your sister's children are willing to break the law and that the lawyer who's helping them settle your sister's affairs is turning a blind eye as they do so, you probably should assume that you were not mentioned in the trust.
On the other hand, you can always tell her children exactly what you've told us, then ask if your sister left you any money.
It's not an unreasonable question.
DEAR JEANNE & LEONARD: I like my boss, but I hate my job. At what point do I have to tell her I'm looking for a new one?
DEAR CONFLICTED: Not until you've found one. Then give your nice boss as much notice as you can. In the meantime, though, it will do you no good at work to be thought of as someone who doesn't want to be there.
Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz are the authors of Isn't It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check? Dealing With All of the Trickiest Money Problems Between Family and Friends (Free Press, 2008). Email them at
Family on 08/06/2014