Life Advice



Trust Troubles: Honoring Wishes Over Transparency

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: My 96-year-old mother has two children -- me and my older sibling, "Jennifer." Our mother's trust originally had Jennifer as trustee, but she moved to the West Coast, about 2,000 miles away. A year and a half before Jennifer moved, she tried to steal some small, expensive pieces of jewelry from our mother. She was caught standing by our mother's jewelry box tucking these items into her bra.

During the last six months before Jennifer moved, she completely stopped helping and seeing our mother, except to talk to her on the phone, even though she lived only 20 minutes away. Jennifer stopped offering to help with grocery shopping and taking our mother on errands and to doctor's appointments. Jennifer took advantage of an empty home our mother owned by storing dozens of her own personal items there without my mother's permission. She also threw out some personal items my mother had at that same home without mother's permission.

Jennifer's actions, of course, made my mother extremely angry, and because Jennifer was moving so far away, it made no sense to have her remain as trustee. It would be nearly impossible for her to fulfill her duties as trustee, which include the responsibility of power of attorney.

Afterward, I asked my mother to tell Jennifer of the change to the trust. I also volunteered to tell her in case my mother preferred that I do it. She said she didn't want me telling Jennifer. She said she would tell Jennifer when she was "damn good and ready" because my sister did many things to my mother without telling or asking her.

It's been four years now, and my sister has not been informed that she is no longer the trustee. In the trust, we do split everything 50/50, and I have all of the correct documents to prove I am now trustee. From my understanding, a person can change their trust and not disclose it to anyone if they choose.

I really haven't spoken to, or seen, Jennifer since she moved, except for an occasional holiday card. My mother does hear from my sister every few weeks with a phone call, and I get the impression my mother fears if she told my sister of the trustee change, my sister would be upset and stop all communication and her once-a-year, two-hour visit.


Should I take it upon myself to let Jennifer know or just honor my mother's wishes and inform Jennifer upon my mother's death? I don't foresee my mother telling Jennifer after all of this time. -- To Tell or Not

Dear to Tell or Not: You should not tell your sister. It would just cause unnecessary conflicts between the two of you and between your sister and mother. Your mom was fair and split things 50/50, so there is no need to start a fight.


"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to




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