A real-life Cinderella story with three sisters, an inheritance — and a father who dies without a will

Dear Moneyologist,

My second cousin has been raised by her maternal grandmother, who is my aunt. Her mother is an addict and her father, who provided minimal but constant support, died a month ago. My cousin’s parents were not married and a support order was not in place. We recently discovered that the deceased father owned property and had two adult daughters from a previous marriage.

These daughters will not give my aunt their father’s Social Security number and do not want to include my cousin in any inheritance. There is no will. My aunt wants to file a claim for social security benefits on behalf of her granddaughter. The granddaughter will soon turn 15 years of age and wants to go to college. What can you recommend for my aunt to do regarding social security and possible inheritance?


Dear Constance,

Two greedy sisters who want to control their father’s estate by cutting off their youngest sibling? It sounds like a Grimm fairytale. But lucky for your 14-year-old cousin, she has relatives who have her back and want her to have her rights as a legal heir recognized. The best part of your letter: This money could help fund her education and change her life. And so it shall. Because these two sisters are betting on their youngest sibling not having enough knowledge or power to take any action. She is entitled to far more than Social Security.

But you’re right about the Social Security aspect. “When you die, members of your family could be eligible for benefits based on your earnings,” according…

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