'I was disinherited and it hurt'

FIRST-HAND; Catherine recalls the pain of rejection after being cut out of two family wills
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Indy Lifestyle Online
I'VE told my five children that no matter what terrible things they might do I would never cut them out of my will because it's such a hurtful and rejecting thing to do. I think it is so sad that greed for money should override the love between families. I've lost two families through arguments over wills.

When I discovered I was adopted I was about seven and my adoptive mother tried to deny it. However, finally she admitted it was true but refused to discuss it further, so I didn't know whether my natural mother was alive. Years later I learnt from my father that my real mother had come to the adoption courts and was reluctant to give me up. When I found my natural mother I tried to break the news to my adoptive mother, and tell her I still loved her, but she put the phone down on me and didn't talk to me for two years.

Then my natural mother died in America. I was with her when she died. Years before she had told me that she wanted me to be part of her will, but though I told her that I hadn't found her for financial gain, she was adamant. She gave me a copy of the will which stated that although her son, my half-brother, would get her property I would get half the capital. After she died years went by and nothing happened. My half-brother claimed the will hadn't been settled. I went to the solicitor again, who said that unless I found an American attorney I'd lose everything. The upshot was that I was sent pounds 288 because he had taken control of all the accounts except one. Thousands of pounds that should have come to me went to him. I've not heard from him since because I think he feels guilty.

Then my two sisters, one of whom is also adopted, told me my adoptive mother had cut me out of her will. I knew she was hurt and angry that I'd made contact with my real mother so I didn't discuss it with her until she brought the subject up herself, after we had become reconciled. She told me that when she died, everything in the house would be divided between me and my two sisters. I said that I knew she had cut me out of her will. She answered that she had decided to reinstate me, because she wanted to treat me fairly despite the fact that what I had done was wrong in her opinion.

I rang my sisters to let them know what Mum's wishes were but they replied that it would be unlikely that there would be any money left since she would probably be put into a nursing home. As it was, she lived at home until the last.

When she died and I travelled down to the funeral I went up to hug my elder sister and it was like hugging stone, she obviously didn't want anything to do with me. I wasn't allowed to travel in the family limo and there was also no place allotted to me or my husband in the church. I was excluded and it hurt a lot and I began to realise that undoubtedly the will hadn't been changed. I wasn't even told about the special family service that was given for my mother the night before the funeral.

After six months I did go to a solicitor but he told me it was too late to contest the will and advised me to ring my sisters and ask them for my share. They had decided that since I hadn't done enough for my mother I wasn't due any of her money or possessions. I felt it was unfair and was hurt at the time, but now I've let the anger. I am still sad about it, and I haven't had any contact with them since then.

Oddly, I didn't feel nearly as bad about the first case as I did about the second. Since I had appeared out of the blue as my American half-brother's elder sister, his resentment of me is so much easier to understand than my sisters'. In both cases there seems to be a lot of jealousy. I think there was also an element of revenge. I suppose my sisters and my brother felt so badly about me that they didn't want to give me any of the money. But my feelings of rejection are considerably more painful than any financial loss.

Interview by Katie Sampson