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Should inheritance be distributed equally between siblings?
May 31, 2010 8:43 PM   Subscribe

Should inheritance be distributed equally between siblings?

My brother and his family receive lots of financial support from our mother, his wife's parents, and sometimes me and my family. He's a pre-school teacher with no benefits and he makes a pittance of $25K per year to financially support a family with 2 children.

I've been slightly luckier with finances. My spouse and I are self-employed with a home business and make about $110K per year. We also have children and we do not receive nor do we need financial support from family.

Recently my grandfather passed away and left a relatively small inheritance to his daughter (my mother). She chose to give my less financially fortunate brother's family $5000 from this inheritance but did not offer a similar gift to me.

The fact that my mother provides my brother with financial support to help pay the bills does not bother me at all. My brother works very hard and I think it's a shame that he doesn't make more money doing such an important career. However, it does bother me that I was not offered a similar inheritance or at least an explanation of why I did not receive it.

Now, our other grandparent has passed away and there is a significantly greater amount of money being inherited and unequally distributed. This brings up all kinds of conflicting feelings inside me and I'm not sure how I should approach the topic with my family. I just come off sounding greedy if I ask for equal treatment but at the same time I feel that an inheritance should be distributed equally between siblings regardless of their financial status. How should I talk about this with my family? Or should I?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would be pissed if I was you. Just because you made choices and your brother made choices and he chose to take a job that pays lousy and has no benefits it is not fair that the inheritance wasn't split equally between you and your siblings.
p.s. The parents shouldn't be subsidizing his life either...it doesn't help him grow up and accept responsibility for his choices.
posted by MsKim at 8:50 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, if you don't make your thoughts known then you're pretty much guaranteed to not get the cut of the inheritance that you think you are owed - so if it bothers you, then yes you should talk about it with your family. But having said that, I personally believe that you're only entitled to exactly what the will or the will's executor says you are. If that happens to be less than is given to someone else.... well, that's just the way it is.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:56 PM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


It sounds as if you mother is the recipient of the "inheritance." It is her money and not your inheritance---what she decides to do with it is up to her. Why is this money any different than the money she provides your brother as financial support?
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 8:57 PM on May 31, 2010 [46 favorites]


The way you worded the description of the $5K inheritance makes it sound like your mother did not distribute the whole thing, which in turn makes me wonder if she has decided to give your brother his share up front since he needs it now. In other words, she might be planning to split things evenly over the long run, but is giving your brother his portion now when it will help him the most.

Is there any way you can suss out whether she's doing this? Is she the type who keeps meticulous accounts, who might be tallying everything up as she goes along?
posted by Quietgal at 8:59 PM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I just come off sounding greedy if I ask for equal treatment but at the same time I feel that an inheritance should be distributed equally between siblings regardless of their financial status. How should I talk about this with my family? Or should I? "

Probably not. You may feel inheritances should be distributed equally, but not everyone shares that attitude -- apparently not your parents. You have no control over what others do in their wills, nor of what they do with their gifts while alive.

What would an explanation do for you? You already know the why -- you make more money and are more financially stable. Do you need validation of your life choices by hearing your elders tell you, "You're made good decisions, so we help your brother who made bad ones"?

I don't think there's anything wrong with mentioning to your mother that the unequal distribution makes you feel uncomfortable/unloved/whatever, but you're probably going to get the answer you already know: she's helping him because he needs it and you don't.

I practiced estate law before I became a SAHM; it is INCREDIBLY common for people to leave different amounts to their different children, for a huge variety of reasons: one child was a caregiver; one child earns less money; one child has grandchildren; one child uses drugs; one child was given generous support (college paid for, f'ex) during life; one child has a disability; etc. I DO think it's a good idea for the dying person/gifting person to explain their rationale to their children, as it tends to prevent battles later, but many choose not to, preferring to keep peace while alive and let the battles rage after they die. (As one testator told me, "What do I care if my kids never speak to each other again? I'll be dead!")

How the inheritance is distributed is solely the business of the testator. (And, in this case it sounds like, the business of the recipient redistributing it to her children.) But, even if we agree you should get an answer, what will that answer give you? What are you hoping for? Chances are it will validate what you already know -- do you require that validation? Will it make you feel better? Are you prepared to cut out family members whom you feel aren't being fair to you? Will you cut out your brother for receiving support when you don't?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:00 PM on May 31, 2010 [17 favorites]


It depends on the sum of money. At the end of the day this is your mother's money, not your grandparents. If your grandparents wanted you to have the money, they would have left it to you explicitly. Therefore you should stop thinking of this as inheritance and start thinking of it as more financial support for your brother. Unless your mother's financial support for your brother becomes unreasonably large, you should say nothing. As long as the amount of support in question is less then your income disparity, there is no way to say anything and not look like a greedy jerk. If the support becomes on par with your income disparity, then it might be worth asking questions.

For whatever it is worth, I think it is a bit gauche to give him money (apparently directly from the inheritance) and not at least offer you a quick explanation. I don't think it is unreasonable for you to feel upset over this. Given you didn't mention the amount of money I'm going to assume your really upset over being treated less favorably then your brother. Sit back and realize that he could probably *really* use the money and you will feel better.
posted by An algorithmic dog at 9:02 PM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bequests and their amounts should be the sole decision of the person whose assets are being distributed. You have every right to be upset but have no right to actually alter the way your mother is distributing her money, nor should you try. She could have spent it all on a solid gold hat or building a miniature donkey powered ferris wheel.

(I think your brother is being done a disservice with the "economic outpatient care" he is receiving, but that's the choice of those distributing the money.)

A friend who is much better off than you tried to get me to be sympathetic to a similar dilemma he sees: he thinks his parent's wealth should be equally distributed between him and his brother, whereas his parents seem likely to leave most of it to their grandchildren. He thinks the grandkids share should come out of his brother's share, whereas the only correct answer is that the person whose money it is gets to decide where the money goes.

An even better anecdote. A wealthy friend of my parents got a call from a niece one day asking that since she was buying a house if she could have "her share" of their estate now instead of after they died.
posted by maxwelton at 9:05 PM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Inheritances are tricky, and they bring up a lot of weird emotional stuff.

If I were in your shoes, it would not really be about the dollar amount so much as it would make me feel like I was being left out of the family by not sharing in the inheritance.

Could there be a compromise that makes everyone feel equally valued by your mom? Maybe your brother gets the greater financial share because he needs the money, but then you get first pick of some sort of property that means something to you?
posted by desuetude at 9:09 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


If the money was left to your mom, she can give it out as she wishes. It may not be fair, but it's her call.
posted by ishotjr at 9:10 PM on May 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's up to the person who made the money to decide what happens to it after he or she dies. Too many families have come apart because of this bullshit sense of entitlement that some have that they should get something or someone else shouldn't because they're somehow unworthy. Enjoy what you get. Be grateful for it. It's a gift no one owed you that was given freely. Don't envy others.
posted by inturnaround at 9:11 PM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


You have no right to any inheritance. Please let this go. The moneys are your grandparents to distribute. If they leave it to your mother, then it is her money to do with as she pleases - take a cruise, support your brother, or buy collectibles off ebay. Also, when the time comes, neither of your parents have any obligation to leave any money to you.
posted by hworth at 9:16 PM on May 31, 2010 [16 favorites]


I think expectations about this vary from family to family. My parents never talked to me about their estate planning, until maybe 10 years ago when they re-wrote their will to no longer simply divide everything evenly between me and my brother, and my mother wanted to explain to me their rationale for the change.

My parents are very generous with both me and my brother, but over the years they have, I think, given him more practical support than they have given me (though a recent crisis they helped me through may have tipped the scales on that). I'm not sure, because those kinds of transactions (financial or otherwise) have been between my parents and the child in question, and I really don't think it's any of my business how much money (or other help) my parents give my brother, or his business how much they give me, any more than I think it's my business how much they spend on a car or a vacation or groceries or buying new furniture. This is because it's their money and they get to do what they want with it.

You have feelings about how inheritances should be distributed. Great! When you receive an inheritance, you can do what you like with it. Your parents get to do what they want with theirs. I believe that very strongly, that I am not entitled to anything that belongs to my parents, and on the occasions when I do find myself feeling whiny about my perception that they do more for him, I remind myself of that.
posted by not that girl at 9:18 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


It sounds like you don't need the money, you just don't want to feel left out. Could you ask if any of your grandparents things are available for you to choose something to remember them by? Or you could ask if there are things to help out with, funeral arrangements, sorting through old clothes and furniture, getting a house ready to sell, things to be involved with and part of with your mother. (These are a few ways to let her know that you'd like to be a part of it.)

And I get that you're upset, but I have to say, any time my parents have let me know that they'd like to give me and my siblings things unequally, I've always encouraged them strongly. I'd rather have my siblings helped out more when they needed it. (It was nice that they always talked it over with me, though.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:18 PM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


My mother came from a large Catholic family, 18 siblings in all. Now, there is a large range of levels of income, responsibility, and need among the 18. Professions range from Judge to Jailbird. Because the family is so large and it is so impossible to treat everyone differently and still be fair, so there are rules and procedures to keep order:

1. Equal shares of inheritances or windfalls per sibling, no matter how many offspring each has
2. Everything else is determined by lottery, usually drawing slips of paper out of a bowl

These rules are adhered to rigidly because otherwise there would be MAYHEM and CHAOS and no one would go to anyone's baby showers or middle school award nights. The rules are old and well respected because with a family this large it is impossible to do anything without some kind of mutually agreed standards.

I didn't appreciate the complex dynamics of my mother's family until I got older. Everyone cooperates, no one complains. More established family members feel free to help and give loans to less established ones without resentment.

Still, this kind of thinking can apply to smaller families. I'm not even saying that you should use the same rules, but there needs to be something up front because things like this are going to happen over and over as your family ages. I would write this incident off and then have a family meeting to set future ground rules, ones that seem fair and that everyone will feel comfortable following. It's fair to feel slighted, but it's best to try and change your family dynamic going forward, rather than changing what's already done.
posted by Alison at 9:18 PM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


My mother doesn't like me despite/because of my financial support of her for many years (I own part of the house she would never have been able to buy alone). I believe her will is written to favour my disabled pensioner brother (out of the 5 siblings). I have no problems with this, because a. yeah, he needs it much more, even though he will probably piss it up against the wall, b. it's not my money - it's hers to distribute as she chooses, c. she may just as likely leave it to a home for drunken cats.

I suspect a part of her will is in the favour of the children she is talking to (as far as I know, I'm the only black sheep). And you know, it's her money, and she's entitled to give it to whoever she wants. I used to care. I used to think, hey! this is not fair, I took so much shit from you, or, this is not fair - I'm 1/5 of all your chidlren. But now, I honestly don't care. It's not on my horizon, even. If she did leave me something, I would be shocked. (unless it was a preloaded poison dart).

It's not your money. It says nothing about your worth. You don't get to decide what other people think, feel or do. You're not automatically morally entitled to a portion of your ancestors' assets.

TLDR, let it go. It will bring you no happiness to chase this, and you're managing just fine without it, good for you!
posted by b33j at 9:21 PM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


An inheritance is a gift of the giver, not a right of the recipient.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:30 PM on May 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


I think there is a big difference between "equal" or the same and "fair". Fair is not always the same. If I gave all my kids a size 10 sneaker, it would be equal but only fair to the son who wears a 10.

I do not know if your mother was being fair. I do suspect that your issue is more with either an explanation, acknowledgement or rational behind the difference more than the actual difference. I happen to think you deserve more than an explanation, you deserve the same as your brother, but I am probably in the minority in thinking that you have given a lot of your hard earned money to your brother and it wasn't your choice he chose a profession that pays crap and had two kids to boot. I do not understand why you "pay" for that decision.

If I were in your situation, I would not say anything, but it would alter my future thinking. And, even though I would probably not say anything, I think you should at least tell your mother that you are looking for a little understanding of the thinking in her decision.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:33 PM on May 31, 2010


You said that you have children.

One day, your children will be grown up, and one day your mother will pass away, leaving you money that you may wish to share with your children.

One child grows up and has no financial worries.

The other one struggles with their finances.

You have $5000 to split between them - how do you apportion it?

The decision is a little different when you're in her place, isn't it?
posted by MesoFilter at 9:35 PM on May 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


OK listen, this money was left by your grandparents to your mother. It isn't your money. You are, honestly, being chulish about this. You are, essentially, complaining that someone didn't give you a gift. But a gift is a gift; it is given freely, and free of obligation.

It isn't that I don't understand where you're coming from; my husband calls me a Recovering Heiress. I am the last of my line, and because of the complexities with my grandparents only son and my relationship with him, they left their 4 million to the Texas Home for Orphaned Cattle or something.

What can you do? No, I mean: really, what can you do? The only thing you can do is decide not to let the loss of something you never had contanminate your memories and relationship with your family.

Bottom line: it's not your money and not your business. The way you think it should be is irrelevent because until someone give it to you, it isn't anything to do with you.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:36 PM on May 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


1) The money your mom inherited was her inheritance, not yours or your brother's. Questions of whether bequests should be split evenly among siblings are irrelevant, since your mom is not your sibling. Once she had the extra money on hand, she chose to use some of it to help out the one of her children who needed the financial assistance. Presumably if you had been the one who was hurting for money she might have given it to you. As Napoleonic Terrier points out, this money is really no different from the other money she provides your brother with.

2) With regards to any other family members who might directly leave money to your brother or yourself - remember that none of it is owed to you. Your grandparents have the right to leave their estate to your parents, or you, or your brother, or your kids, or his kids, or donate it all to charity, or spend it all on touring the world before they pass away.

Remember also that unequal bequests do not necessarily indicate unequal love. If that is at the root of your resentment, remember that your family might be extra proud of you for having established yourself well and not needing the money.
posted by tdismukes at 9:41 PM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


You are and you aren't being childish. I mean, it's upsetting that your parents seem to value your brother more, but the problem isn't that they give him money that he needs and that you don't need, it's that they aren't showing you they value you in a way you see. Can you bring it up like that? You understand why they gave him money, but you feel like they are saying they don't love you, and that they don't respect you enough to talk to you about things.

What is it that you want from this estate? Do you want money to show you are loved equally? Do you want money because it's a way to remember your grandparents? If it's the first, you can explain that; if it's the second, you can come up with some items of significant personal meaning to you, and ask for those in memory of your grandparents.
posted by jeather at 9:45 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems odd to me that you'd know the details of who is getting what but not the reasoning. Is your brother telling you these things? If so, he seems pretty upfront about it. Maybe you can ask him what he thinks your mother's plans are--if he doesn't know, perhaps he's in a better position to ask your mother ("Gee, mom, I really appreciate the money, but I'm worried that sis will feel left out. Do you plan to give her an equal share down the road?"). But if you're getting this info directly from your mom, why not just ask her what she plans to do? If done right, that seems like an honest and reasonable approach. Just don't screw it up by coming off as entitled or victimized.
posted by mullacc at 9:47 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


If your grandparents wanted you to have the money, they would have left it to you explicitly.

This. If you're pissed off with your mother's decisions on how she distributes her inheritance, then your choices are simple enough: make your complaint known to her and deal with it openly, bottle it up and let your relationship with her and your brother fester, or let it go and sympathise with Luke 15:28.
posted by holgate at 10:00 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


No.

Distribution should be at the discrection of the distributor.
posted by pompomtom at 10:01 PM on May 31, 2010


Oops, hit post to quick.

Parents don't treat all kids the same. Kids get different treatment, simply because they are different people. At times this might seem unfair, but it's really the best in the long run.
posted by kylej at 10:06 PM on May 31, 2010


The only way to get an answer is to actually discuss this with your family members. Worrying about what's going on won't help you, and resentment will inevitably result. I am sure you don't want your relationships with other family members colored by that.

I used to have an issue with a family member about something completely different. So, one day, it clicked: I just needed to be proactive about it, and take the first step. I could be responsible for what happened. It was a really life-changing realization.
posted by annsunny at 10:20 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


you sound very considerate. lots of siblings would not even consider the whys and hows of the moolah distribution, they would just demand their share. it seems to me like family relations get rocky really fast when it comes to money/property distribution.

i think if your feelings are hurt you should make it known to your mother, quietly. it sounds like you care way more about the reasons than the money. asking your mom about it is reasonable and i think it is within your emotional rights (ha ha, emotional rights). it is definitely no good to feel sad and left out and to let bitterness grow.
posted by quiteliterally at 10:30 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


A great book about the problems that unequal inheritance can cause is 'Beyond The Grave: The Right Way and the Wrong Way of Leaving Money To Your Children (and Others)' by Gerald Condon.

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Grave-revised-Leaving-Children/dp/0060936312/sr=8-1/qid=1170983488/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/104-5054075-5691956?ie=UTF8&s=books

It's aimed at those making the wills but the stories it includes may be helpful.

What I got out of it is that if you care too much about this, you are shooting yourself in the foot. What is more important: your relationship with your mother and your brother? Or the amount of money in question?
posted by bq at 10:35 PM on May 31, 2010


1- Money is a trap.

2- Stop being, yes, greedy. You admit in the post above that you DO NOT NEED the money. In fact you make a solid FIVE TIMES what your brother does. So what're you irked about? Your family probably saw the same thing- You're doing fine and he's struggling.

3- Be happy for him, not angry about this. You admit above that his job is difficult and he's underpaid. So why not be happy that someone you think highly of has experienced some good fortune? You've obviously had plenty of it yourself.

I understand that you maybe feel slighted. But move past those feelings. Recognize that your brother has a greater need for the money and be happy at his good fortunes.
posted by GilloD at 10:52 PM on May 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


Listen... according to the US government, a family of four on 25K is just barely above the poverty level, defined as "lacking the resources to meet the basic needs for healthy living; having insufficient income to provide the food, shelter and clothing needed to preserve health." If your brother is truly supporting a family of four on only 25K, he probably has no savings, probably never eats in restaurants and never takes his kids to the movies, probably struggles to keep healthy food on the table, probably worries his kids will be unpopular because they don't have new clothes or cell phones, and good luck about ever sending them to college, etc etc.

The idea of sharing an inheritance for philosophical reasons when one sibling is in such dire need strikes me as a little naive. I agree that perhaps your mother could have provided you an explanation but perhaps she felt it was blindingly obvious. Your brother gets the money because every little bit is direly needed to keep them afloat and give his kids enough advantages to keep them out of poverty themselves, end of story.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:42 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your philosophical objection only makes sense if money has an equal value to all people. It does not, so your objection doesn't hold. Also, I'm glad none of my siblings are as cold as you come across in this question.
posted by meadowlark lime at 12:16 AM on June 1, 2010


Oh that's a bit cold, meadowlark.

I can understand you feeling a bit miffed, OP, but in posting this question you're at least trying to work it out and rise above it. I think ultimately you don't really get a say and you have to live with that.

Maybe it's less to do with your brother getting financial help/gifts and more to do with you not getting acknowledgement or validation from your mother for being able to take care of yourself without any. The validation doesn't have to be financial, but it's easy to latch onto it because that's the "currency" that's being passed about in the family. Would you feel better if your mother said "I'm glad you are okay, Anon, I don't have to worry about you because you worked it out for yourself"?
posted by scuza at 12:58 AM on June 1, 2010


Everyone is talking about if he needs the money, I think another good question is if his parents can afford to get rid of the money. If he does not know to whom is the job of caring for your parents going to fall to if they fall ill for an extended period of time then he needs to find out. It is doubly unfair if you are going to be expected to provide extra care for them at the expense of your own life while at the same time they are giving all of their money to your brother. This isn't directly related to the question at hand, but it is a real question when planning estates. If they are currently providing a significant degree of financial support to your brother I would make sure that they have enough money to provide for whatever support they need when they can no longer work. It would be a really bad scenario to turn around and find out that you have to effectively subsidize their gifts to your brother by using your own money to support them when they retire. It is usually not the poorer sibling that ends up having to care for mom and dad.
posted by An algorithmic dog at 1:31 AM on June 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


If it were me, I'd feel ticked off about being permanently thrust in the role of the one who "is doing so well, she doesn't need anything so we are free to shower all our attention and caring on her sibling". If that's the case for you, too, I'd have a long conversation with your mother about this feeling, not about the money.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:50 AM on June 1, 2010


Not your money.

On the other hand, if your children and your brother's children are treated significantly unequally, it will ruin the relationship of your children with your mother. She should be made aware of that.

My husband and I have treated our children unequally in our will: my special needs son gets more. All of them know the terms, nobody is upset. It is our money, to use as we see fit. I do express my love and my appreciation for all my exceptional (mother speak) children in other ways.
posted by francesca too at 4:10 AM on June 1, 2010


So others have said it isn't your money, and I agree.

I have noticed in my own family that there are two kinds of thinking on this:

-Split everything equally always.
-Decide based on need or merit.

On my Dad's side, they are super concerned with fairness. This has had the effect of ruining plots of land and splitting up collections. Usually by auction. Everyone gets x% of whatever.

On my Mom's side, they are more concerned with need or merit. This has led to huge, bitter feuds and lots of hurt feelings, but things tend to stay more intact.

So there are pros and cons to both ways. When it comes to money and time, I tend to agree with my mother who, when we were talking about parenting styles a few years ago, said:

"It is not my job as your mother to treat you and your brothers equally. That's bullshit. It is my job to give you what you need as individuals as best as I can." Your mother may be thinking the same thing.
posted by Tchad at 4:23 AM on June 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd be peeved and I do think money is best distributed equally, if only to avoid hurt feelings. The thing is, your parents don't feel that way. They aren't worried about your financial condition, they're worried about your brother's, and this is a way to alleviate the worry, so they're just trying to address an emotional concern of theirs that is more pressing and ultimately actually more important, because it sounds like it will mean more to him than to you.

They should have said something but maybe just hoped you wouldn't find out, which would have been easier.

So yes, I understand why it's hurtful but I think you can shrug off the hurt if you think about it as them not loving you less or your brother more, but distributing resources according to need.

The discrepancy between your financial state and your brother's is pretty huge, it's not like it's ten or even twenty grand. When you look at it in that light, it makes sense that they would see his situation as much more in need of a stray five grand than you, and much more in need of whatever this new inheritance provides. It might not be fair, but as you said, it's not really fair that his profession is so undervalued either, so the unfairness is pretty all over.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:33 AM on June 1, 2010


Good point algorithmic dog.

I have had this happen to me. I, not rich at all, am expected by dint of actually having a job as a teacher, expected to pay for my siblings and my dad to have holiday flights to each other paid for, to come up with emergency loans [never paid back] etc. No one else can seem to figure out the internets and/or get a credit card apparently. When my dad does come into any money he pays them a dividend. When my mother was dying, I was also expected to pay for things, forgo my own mortgage, fill financial gaps without complaint, but was given significantly less in her will. This may not kill me financially, but maybe I could go on a holiday like my siblings, have a wedding paid for up front, have a house deposit etc. [Btw, I don't think a household income of $110k for a family with kids is wealthy or easy and comfortable.] I can tell myself all the rational people have told you - not your money/get over it/be grateful for your good fortune/love your brother blah blah. But it aches to have such differences exist, rational or not. Having done the brave thing and articulated this ache and how it would be nice if they thought of bailing me out from time to time, I was shouted down in angry mass hysteria. The family was aflame and it was NOT worth it trying to have a mature discussion.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:36 AM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gosh, I wondered how far these Irish family values had migrated! (joking!)

although certainly In Ireland both income and even children, no matter how old or independant of parent, are seen as "parentally disposable"

Sweetie, Aunty X is flying in next week, can you pick her up and put her up in your spare room for X weeks....? (note this is a rhetorical question)
Your brother is earning X% less than you so we all need to bring that up a bit.
I've had a really big phone-bill out of the blue can you pay it on your cc, (never repaid)
and much worse but you probably wouldn't believe the examples. I daresay there are some other Emigrant+American groups for whom this also holds true. And it jars with the individualistic culture where all your efforts are yours!

In your case, it makes you feel unloved and it clearly makes you feel like your contributions are not sufficently recognised. I get that.

Having done slightly better than my other siblings my only advice is to slowly remove yourself from the more practical aspects of this common ownership of your resource if it is making you unhappy. Also you will NOT get any validation for carrying an extra load because that is expected of you, as if it is only luck that has caused the discrepacy, and maybe it is. Clearly you also buy into that and you've said you value his job. But do you really? Be honest with what exactly you want out of this. It does influence what will happen with your parents estate so broaching the subject lightly now might help you get ready for what will be far more painful later when they leave everything in their estate to your brother.

In my case my younger sibling is a hairdresser and moved in and nursed my ill parents for 6 years. In a hot minute I signed over all my claim on house,car etc., once both had died. out of the four of us, she not only needed it more, she deserved it. (there wasn't much, but it meant she didn't lose her home). My brother who had two properties paid for at that time practically went to court cos he said Dad had always wanted him to have the car. You can imagine the awful rows and bad feeling, I barely talk to him at Christmas.

Your additional support will not be recognised.
What kind of relationship do you eventually want with your brother?
posted by Wilder at 5:19 AM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think estates and parental help are two different things. Estates, in my opinion, should be distributed as equitibly as possible. There is finality to estates and I don't get how people create a last will that serves as judgment and retribution.

In my family there is no hard and fast rule but aid from parents, grandparents and siblings is up to the giver and never questioned. But estates are split equally.

In your case the waters are muddied as the estate goes to your parents and then they can choose to gift it on or not. I would make a point to bring it up in a conversation with your parents, but they do not owe you an explanation and you need to let it go if they seem uncomfortable talking about it.
posted by readery at 5:30 AM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am single. I have no children. I am well aware that my parents are leaving all the money to grandchildren and that's okay with me. (More than $5k, but not enough to buy my own island.)

(My father is crafty enough that it will be left in such a way that parents can't do much with it until the children are of age.)

If I wanted to split hairs, I could argue that I've had less (far less) parental support than anyone in the family, I've jumped through more hoops and made more sacrifices (including lending money to people who would never pay me back because it was "the right thing to do" and I don't have kids and it would be easy for me), but fuck it. Why wouldn't they enjoy thinking they're doing right by grandchildren who will grow up and have long lives after they're gone? I'm sure my parents think of it as a way to be part of the future. Plus, they like the grandkids better than us. If they gave it all to sibs and but me out, well, I’m used to be the odd man out and I didn’t mind when they had it set up that way before the first grandchild.

If they gave it all to a home for orphan turtles - well, it's their money. They can do as they like.

As it happens, although I am young and healthy I have a will and a life insurance policy that splits (very little) money equally between nieces and nephews. Might as well keep it in the gene pool and not make too much of a fuss.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:17 AM on June 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I agree with those who point out that financial help given from time to time is dfferent from inheritance and the money from your grandparents' estate is not your inheritance unless you are named in the will. If your parents treat you unevenly with regard to actual inheritance, that's a lot more symbolic and potentially hurtful I think. But hopefully you can keep it from affecting relationships too much.

I say this having been in a similar situation to yours, twice now. My former brother-in-law was always being supported by my husband's parents. Brother-in-law had 3 kids and no stable employment. I quite liked him and his wife but after a while we (siblings and inlaws) were always avoiding him because he could not stop bringing up that he needed money for this or that, or trying to control what the parents did with their money. After a while it just poisoned relationships. More recently, there has been a certain amount of bad blood in my own family because my father is always making noises about how he's leaving his money, hinting that he's going to use his will to punish someone, etc. This has driven a wedge between me and my siblings just because we handle it differently.

All of this is a long way of saying, if you can preserve these relationships, do so by any means possible. You should feel proud and happy that you can support your family with no help from your parents. In that sense you are so much better off than your brother. Hopefully you show him and your parents love (if you are inclined) from that place of strength.
posted by BibiRose at 8:50 AM on June 1, 2010


It was only "inheritance" when the money passed from your deceased grandmother to your mother. Once that happened, it was your mother's to do with as she pleased, the same as any money your mother got any other way. Same is if she had gotten it by working, or investments, or winning the lottery. And you claim not to be bothered by any of the other money your mother has given your brother. So I don't see any good reason for you to act on your feelings here.

Or to put it another way: if your grandparents had wanted you or your brother to have their inheritance, they would have specified that and left money directly to you in their will. They didn't. They left it to your mother, and to her judgment as to what to do with the money thereafter.

Still another way to phrase it: you did receive the same inheritance from your grandmother as your brother did: you both received $0 from her.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:01 AM on June 1, 2010


When my grandmother was planning her estate, she decided to leave unequal amounts to my mother and her brother because they had very different financial situations. She talked to them both first to explain why this would be the case and to make sure this wasn't causing any weird/odd feelings since it's definitely better to work that stuff out while you're all around to talk about it. I think for my Mom [who was on the receving end of more actual cash] it was good to have an opportunity to talk about it especially to make sure her brother didn't feel weird and there wouldn't be any resentment going forward. For his part, my uncle understood and took the opportunity to ask for some specifically sentimenal things that didn't have high cash value but that meant a lot to him.

I'd suggest bringing this up in some way with your mom [and I agree with all the other posters, this is mainly an issue with your grandparents who didn't leave any money to you at all] and maybe saying "hey since you're giving more cash support to my brother how would you feel about giving me the [$SENTIMENTAL_THING] that I've always loved?"

People deal with money differently and have different philosophies about what is fair and what is a good idea. This is a good opportunity to share your own feelings with your mom and maybe think about some way that this could smooth over for you somewhat.
posted by jessamyn at 9:25 AM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's entirely up to the person making the bequest. I agree with comments that they should ideally discuss it with their children first to prevent disagreements.

My parents changed their will a few years ago to leave all their money to me and to distribute equally to my sister. Reasoning was that they could see her hemorrhaging money through her spendthrift husband and didn't want him frittering away her inheritance. Unfortunately, they were proved correct in that assumption and he's basically spent all their money. She's now in the process of getting divorced and I expect the will to be changed again to reflect this.

I told my parents years ago that they should spend all their money on themselves since they earned it and provided us with a great foundation in life.

You should have the conversation with your mother in case there's some reasoning behind it that you're not aware of.
posted by arcticseal at 12:38 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


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