"We're giving it all to them, but don't worry, they have your best interests at heart!"
November 10, 2011 7:09 AM Subscribe
My aged parents are planning to cash in all their stocks and put them into an account in my two brothers' names to reduce the amount of money payable in fees to the government upon their demise. They have told me, more or less, not to worry, and not to doubt the good intentions of my siblings. How to respond to this?
posted by anonymous to human relations (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My aged mother recently informed me that, in order to reduce the estate administration (probate) fees payable to the government upon her and my father's demise, they were going to sell all their stocks (wherein their wealth is concentrated) now and put the money into a joint account in my brothers' names. These same brothers have been helping them put their financial affairs in order, while (for different reasons) my sister and I are out of the picture with regard to all this.
When my mother first told me of their plan (over the phone), I expressed some mixture of surprise and concern, and her response to that suggested that she hadn't considered that my brother(s) might not be entirely worthy of their absolute trust. An accountant friend I mentioned these developments to (who has seen his fair share of nasty estate battles!) encouraged me to speak with a lawyer promptly, which I did.
The lawyer (a specialist in estate law with fifty years of experience) said their idea was terrible and ALWAYS leads to problems later on. He recommended another way of leaving their money in which probate fees could be avoided (known in Canada as an inter vivos or living trust).
I reported back to my father by email with what the lawyer had said. He wrote back that they were aware of such trusts, and that I need not worry about the fact that I am thousands of miles away from my brothers, that they "have [my] best interests at heart," and that my parents are leaving clear instructions how the money should be distributed upon their demise.
While they may indeed have faith in the good intentions of my brothers, it is no secret to anyone who has had the misfortune to hear more than a dozen tales of inheritance that the road to estate separation hell is paved with good intentions (especially when the legal foundation for those good intentions is weak or entirely missing).
I should emphasize that I am not stating that I believe they will not distribute the estate according to my parents' wishes. Structurally, however, the situation is leaving me (and my sister) entirely at the whim of their willingness to operate according to the highest ethical standard. I already have evidence, however, that such is not the manner of operation I can look forward to. (This "evidence," however, was clearly not taken as a sign of any failing of character when I pointed it out to my mother.) I might also mention that I have have exceedingly limited communication with my siblings in the decades since we lived together as children. We are also separated, as I mentioned, by thousands of miles, and i have only returned for visits to their area twice, since I moved away many many years ago. We cannot be called close or tightly-knit by any stretch of the imagination.
Another odd thing, from my point of view, is the fact that this is all being done to avoid paying what amounts to 1.5% of the value of the estate. That's $15,000 on $1,000,000. Not, in my estimation, a sum worth sowing the seeds of future sibling discord over. But my parents seem determined to refuse to even consider the possibility that there could be a negative outcome (for me, and, possibly, my sister) here. Which leads me to wonder if something else is going on here that is not being expressed verbally or directly (and of which my parents may not even be fully aware on a conscious level themselves).
I don't know if, at this point, I could provide even a mountain of evidence that their plan is misguided and have it be accepted by them as input worth considering (but then, I am the youngest and have never been taken seriously anyway...). But I am nonetheless interested in hearing the stories of others who have been in a similar situation, or from those of you who may have something to offer in the way of a more effective response to all this than my present one of just letting them all carry on in the direction they seem to be going with no interference from me.
Thank you for reading, and looking forward to your comments!