Good old sibling rivalries. They can take on many forms when kids are young:
“Why is his curfew 11 o’clock, but mine is 10 o’clock?”
“That’s my doll, go play with your own!”
“I’m a better basketball player than you ever were!”
As people get older, many of these childhood competitions and jealousies tend to fade. Sure, people forgive and forget. And, more importantly, we mature. Many people even get closer to their siblings as they get older.
All is good, right?
Sure…..that is, until they have to deal with dividing up an estate.
Sometimes, when adult siblings have to deal with such situations, everything is handled well. It’s all fine, and people pull together and move forward in life. Other times, it’s a little different. I have a friend who recently had to deal with the very unfortunate situation of his mom passing away. In a situation like this, money is the last thing that most people are thinking about. Including for my friend.
He told me the story about how in the aftermath, he and his brother and sister assumed that the modest inheritance would be divided by 3 – in thirds for each of them, as documented in the will.
Then, when going through their mother’s home, they found a handwritten note from their mom, indicating that she wanted everything divided into fourths. Who, besides the 3 adult siblings, would get the other fourth? It would be my friend’s young nephew.
My friend’s sister had spoken up at the time, and said that since this was their mom’s wish, based on the handwritten note they all found, they should follow her wishes and divide it into fourths. This meant ignoring the actual will, which indicated it would be divided in thirds. At the time, my friend and his brother – the two other siblings involved – quickly agreed. They were in a mournful state of mind and didn’t have the inclination to even discuss things.
Fast forward months later, after their mom’s home was sold. As everything was to be distributed, my friend’s brother – the middle sibling – apparently had time to think about things a bit. He then sent an email out indicating that he thought everything should be divided in to thirds – as stated in the will.
Needless to say, my friend was caught in the middle. Does he align with his sister and support the idea that things would be divided by 4 – to account for his nephew? It would follow his mom’s handwritten note, but not the earlier, formalized will. The will allocated 1/3 for my friend, instead of 1/4 per the note. He wasn’t sure how to handle this.
Question #1: If you were in my friend’s situation, which position would you support, and how would you handle it? Please answer based on what you know up to now.
Continuing the story, my friend’s sister was livid. She thought that her brother (not my friend) should show more kindness to his nephew (her son), and be fine with him getting 25% of the estate. According to her, this was her mom’s wish based on the note. Plus, in her view, she has more needs than her brothers since she has a young child, so they should consider that when dividing the estate.
Question #2: What do you think of my friend’s sister’s view on this? Please answer based on what you know up to now.
So, the sister then sent an email to her brothers. She indicated that while their mother’s note indicated that it should be divided by 4, they could divide by 3 per the will. Additionally, if they wanted to make a contribution to their nephew’s (her son’s) 529 account, they were welcome to do so.
Question #3: What would you do if you were my friend’s brother, who took the initial stand of 1/3? Please answer based on what you know up to now.
Here’s the outcome. My friend’s brother sent a note back, saying that he was OK with it being divided 28% per sibling (84% total for the 3 of them), then 16% for the nephew. The sister went ahead and agreed to it. My friend, at that point, decided he would go with the two of them and get the whole thing over with. He didn’t want to continue this tension, and just wanted everything to be over and done with. He stated that he thought that these are the types of things that can impact family relationships, and he just wanted to avoid that.
I then asked him if his position would be different if it was, say, a multi-million dollar estate. He paused, and said, “well, um, you know…” I didn’t pursue it further, but his reaction told me that his response would have been much different in that case.
Money talks, doesn’t it? 🙂
Thankfully, all ended up OK here. Family is more important than material things.
What are your thoughts on this situation, consider the questions above?