Children Fighting For Money At The End Of One’s Life: A Cautionary Tale

I received a very sad story from a friend of mine, who I’ll call Roger, that I felt was worth sharing as a cautionary tale:

About three months ago, my paternal grandfather was diagnosed with lung and intestinal cancer. He had worked for forty years at a factory that, for most of the time he worked there, used large amounts of asbestos in their processes. His lawyer contacted the company and they immediately reached a very nice settlement that would pay for all of his medical needs plus provide him with a large sum of money ($300,000 after taxes and fees, apparently).

Grandpa was what you might call land rich and money poor. He never had much money at all, but he lived on about two hundred acres of land in an undeveloped area. He had five children and wanted to split his entire estate equally among all of them when he passed away, an arrangement that had been informally worked out a long time ago because two of his children wanted their forty acres to build a house on (note: Roger’s mother was one of these two). Two more of the children did not want their forty acres of land, so they agreed to give their land shares to the fifth child, the one that had been most vigilant in taking care of the old man in his dotage while they lived far away and had no interest in the land and didn’t really have time to help Grandpa.

During the intervening years between this informal agreement and now, that fifth child (my uncle Rick) has spent countless hours working and landscaping all of that land, clearing out brush, keeping it mowed, landscaping pieces of it, and so on. The 120 acres looks incredible now; his work really has increased the value of that land and it has also given Grandpa a really beautiful natural place to live on at the end of his life. He goes on walks all over the land and fishes in the clear streams and such.

Now that Grandpa is dying and this money has arrived, he called his children together to make clear what was to be done with the money. He intended to split the money into five equal pieces for each of them, which seems fair to me. Well, the two children who were not getting land said that they should each get a piece and a half and the child getting the 120 acres should get nothing at all.

Since the original land agreement was never set in stone, the whole situation blew up into an argument. Grandpa went ahead and signed everything (his land and the money) over to a living trust with Rick running the trust. The trust basically says that the land is split 120/40/40/0/0 and the money will be split into five equal parts. But those five parts won’t be going to each of his children. The three children getting land each get a share, but the other two shares are going to be divided equally among all of his grandchildren, meaning I will be getting about $15,000 when he passes away.

Right now, most of my aunts and uncles are not speaking to each other and it looks like the fun we used to have at family reunions and Fourth of July parties and things like that are over. There’s also some talk about legal action but I don’t think that will happen because there’s no point. I think that it’s pretty sad that such things are being thrown away out of pure greed.

Obviously, there are a lot of things to criticize here, particularly the greed of two of Roger’s aunts and uncles. On the other hand, those two are already getting their just desserts: nothing at all from the estate, while Rick gets 120 acres of land and $60,000.

But what can we learn from this that we can apply in our own lives?

If you have dependents, think carefully about what would happen if you passed away. This is something that a lot of people in their twenties and thirties overlook. What happens to that family heirloom? Who will be responsible for your children? These are tough questions that are important to think about.

When you set forth plans to divide your estate, make these plans legally binding. One big mistake here was that they never made the land division legally binding until just now. Had they done that, it would have been more acceptable to everyone and there would have been no argument about splitting things differently, because the land split would have been out of the question.

Unequal splitting of property has a great potential to cause heartache. In some situations, this won’t matter, but it clearly does in the situation above. If you’re thinking about leaving more to one descendant than another, be sure everyone knows the reason and that everyone is fine with it. It is your decision, of course, but it is your children and other relatives that will have to live with that decision when you’re gone and you likely don’t want to leave a legacy of squabbling children.

Choose your executor(s) carefully. Part of the anger in this situation seems to be coming from the fact that the executor is getting the largest share of the assets. If this may cause a problem or a potential conflict of interest, you may wish to have an executor who gets little merely in the form of a fee for the service. I am actually doing the latter, as I have a close friend as my executor and I intend to leave him in that place for the foreseeable future.

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  1. PiggyBank Raider says:

    Great post and lesson. My Mother-in-Law wanted an inequitable distribution of her (and her husband’s) property. Because her two sons were already “well off” and her daughter “struggled to make ends meet,” she intended to give her house (the major asset) to her daughter, and split the rest of their assets equally between the 3 kids. Fortunately, her husband put his foot down and said, “Equal distribution to all 3 kids, including the house.” Fast foward a year later, and one of the “well off” sons lost his job and is now living hand-to-mouth. I wonder if my MIL realizes now that life situations can change, and basing estate distribution on a child’s current income is foolhardy at best.

    But people rarely learn these lessons, I guess.

  2. Josh says:

    This may make me a jerk, but I hear situations like this a lot — even when money isn’t involved. I don’t care if you don’t like how I do my wedding or if grandma left me more money than you. If you’re willing to throw away a relationship over these petty things, then I don’t want to have anything to do with you. There are plenty of other people in this world who actually value me and my friendship and I’d rather spend my time with them.

    I’m glad Grandpa stuck to his original plan and got it in writing before it was too late. I have to completely disagree with notion that you have to make sure everyone is happy with what you want to do with you own money. Let the children squabble and then write them out of the will. I’m almost shocked that people have the balls to tell their dieing father how to deal out his inheritance. That would be the last thing on my mind. It pisses me off thinking about it.

  3. Ted Valentine says:

    I have seen so many families torn up over the dumbest things where adult siblings don’t speak to each other. My wife and I are doing everything we can to raise and teach our children to care for their siblings, hoping this never happens.

  4. Chris Smith says:

    Makes me glad I’m an only child. Plus, I told my parents that I was not planning on receiving an inheritance because I’d like to be financially well off on my own account. I told them I would rather them donate their money to a charity, because “with great wealth comes great responsibility” although I wouldn’t necessarily define my parent’s wealth as “Great.” Maybe my attitude will change when I become a father, though..

  5. My family situation is already really tense. My brother is now the black sheep of the family. It use to be me. When I came back home, my brother was so resentful that the prodigal son had returned to open arms. My dad’s getting up there in age now and I can already feel the hell it’s going to bring when he passes. I told him that I did not want to be the executor, but he still might leave the responsibility to me.

  6. r says:

    I think that these kinds of things happen often not just because of greed (although, I do think that we might all be healthier if we all worked hard to never, ever think of our parents’ money as something we “deserve” at any point), but because even as an adult, the death of a parent is an incredibly hard thing to deal with. When I’ve witnessed this kind of a pattern, each time it’s come as a shock – it’s almost always involved people who in their ordinary lives have unusually little attachment to money or possessions, and who value family very highly. In each case, it felt to me that the crux of it was that each (adult) child was anguished about the death, and their frustration and sadness about their real loss just got all mixed up with their feelings about the last tangible remains of their loved one.

    While I’m not sure that I have any good solution in mind to any of this (give all my money away to charity before I die if at all possible??), it did convince me that noone can look at their own family and say “well, my children are not like that – I don’t have to worry about it!”

    To some extent, what may matter most is that noone is making any decisions at all right around the time of the loss, whether they be equitable or not.

  7. k says:

    One big mistake here was that they never made the land division legally binding until just now. Had they done that, it would have been more acceptable to everyone and there would have been no argument about splitting things differently, because the land split would have been out of the question.
    I very much doubt that it would have been more acceptable to everyone. Land comes with lots of responsibilities–maintenance, taxes, oversight. It’s not portable. Even though everyone tacitly agreed to the land allocation, money is a different story. Some kids just think they’re entitled to their parents’ cash.

  8. Grant says:

    I think this is pretty common. It’s a bad idea to use a relative as the executor of an estate but most people do it anyway. You are much better off using a disinterested third party (such as a law firm) to handle the estate.

  9. martha in mobile says:

    Even amongst well-intentioned siblings, trouble can be caused. My dying FIL wanted to leave my BIL out of his will because the SIL’s family is very, very well off. My husband, knowing this to be a very bad idea indeed, suggested that instead of dropping the BIL, he add me to his heirs (I had been doing the caregiving for FIL and MIL, who had passed recently from Alzheimer’s). Husband was very pleased with himself for coming up with such a good solution. BIL was not. Fortunately, the brothers locked themselves in a hotel room until they figured things out (which included discussions of our net worth (tiny compared to theirs) and a mea culpa from husband). Now we are closer than ever (which cannot be the normal outcome of these events).

  10. chazzman2000 says:

    My parents told my brother and I not to expect anything when it comes to an inheritance and I’m totally cool with it. My brother and I are financially sound and on the right path. When we talk about retirement, we never bring up our parent’s money. Let them do what they want with it.

    With my wife’s family. I do not think things are going so smoothly with her siblings. I’m sure it will mean less in an inheritance, in favor of them. It doesn’t really concern me and I don’t think about it. I do think its kind of crazy to give money to someone that can’t handle it in the first place. The inheritance will most likely be squandered in the end or it could even hurt those they love even more.

    Now I have two children and I don’t really see where I’d want to advertise to them about what they’d get. I’d rather have them expect to get nothing.

  11. jake says:

    I have a friend who was unfortunately enough to be involved in something like this. The only difference is that with my friend’s family everything had been written clearly out and legally binded years and years before the person even got ill and passed away.

    Yet family members till fought after the death, because they claim that it was still unfair and what’s legally on paper shouldn’t matter because when it comes to family they claim it’s “different.”

    For me I expect nothing from my parents, and my parents have said to expect the same. If they give all their money to my little brother or what not it was their money so it was their choice. Who am I to say, or claim any of their possesions or somehow say that I deserve it.

    To me, my parents have spent a unquantifiable amount of money on me not to mention time and effort, so to expect more is selfish.

  12. red_girl_42 says:

    I have to agree with Josh above. The money is grandpa’s to do with as he pleases. No one is entitled to someone else’s money when they die (with the exception of minor children, who should be provided for). If my parents leave me anything when they die I will be grateful to have it, but I’m not expecting anything and I’m not going to disown my siblings if they get more than I do. I think that kind of behavior is appalling. If I want to give all my money to my cats when I die, that’s no one’s business but my own.

    That having been said, I do agree with the advice of writing a legally binding will to ensure that your wishes are carried out. Some people do behave appallingly, and you need to be sure that your money will go where you want it to go regardless of how greedy your family members turn out to be.

  13. Lisa says:

    I have watched my mothers family as they dealt with my grandmothers estate and the rationalizations they made to lessen my mothers share. It was sad. I still love my aunts but I wonder about their values. 30 years earlier when my great-grandmother died they refused the household furniture calling it garbage and put it in the alley for trash removal. My mom took it from the alley and put it on our pickup truck and took it home. Fast forward 30 years and that garbage furniture was worth upwards of $70,000-100,000. They wanted to decrease moms share of my grandmothers estate because she got the trash furniture 30 years earlier. Although we have open discussions with my parents about their estate, I expect nothing. I plan to be financially independent and should reach my number in 1-2 years. I encourage them to enjoy their money and splurge on themselves. They say they get their greatest pleasure these days doing for us and their grandchildren. My sister and brother both have more assets than I do. My oldest brother is a spendthrift and drug abuser. We, parents, siblings and my oldest brother, have agreed to put his share of their estate in trust for rent, food, meds (prescription), ect. Upon his death the money goes to the remaining siblings or their children as he has no children. Hopefully this will never become contentious. But, it was the only way my parents would agree to leave him any of their estate.

  14. theora55 says:

    My Mom has done a great job of talking to us about her estate plans. There’s plenty of opportunity for a fight, but her openness has helped. My family gave me a college education, and helped me financially many times. Any inheritance I get is a gift.

    Greed makes people behave badly.

  15. catherine says:

    I still think the best will I ever heard of (urban legend no doubt), and the only one that eliminates bickering, reads:
    “Being of sound mind, I spent it.”
    Give the gifts while you’re alive, enjoy the recipients enjoying them, and leave nothing behind. That’s what my Grandad did and there was nothing to argue about when he died. Luckily, my parents are following suit.

  16. Kim says:

    This happened with both my mother and grandmother who passed within a year of each other. Both had no will and in both cases “outsiders” a step father and his kids in my mothers case and a daughter from a first marriage (an aunt who showed up a year prior that I barely knew to “take care” of my grandmother) were in position to basically keep everything so my brothers and sisters and I got exactly nothing–not even pictures.

  17. Kevin says:

    When my grandmother got sick my father and uncle started fighting over her money. She already had a trust set-up but because of the arguing she changed the distribution and gave each of them very little and split the remainder between her 5 grandchildren. Even though this was all in writing they still dragged the issue to court and ended up costing the trust well over seventy thousand dollars in legal expenses and other costs just to have the distribution remain the same. Basically all they did was rob their children of about $14,000 each.

  18. ck_dex says:

    I don’t see how anyone in this family can count on getting a dime given the grandfather’s state of health. If he goes into the hospital or assisted living for several months, that will blow a big hole in the money.

    If he is sure he won’t be agreeing to any further medical care, he could head-off some of the fights by distributing the maximum allowable distribution of $12K per year to family or friends of his choice. And/or he could begin distributing the land now and gift money to cover the taxes.

    Sounds like a mess that could have been avoided with a $1,500 visit to an estate lawyer, or at least by picking up a NOLO book on estate planning.

  19. Julia says:

    My grandfather is in very poor health (largely because he does not and has never really followed doctors advice about managing his diabetes). When I was a little girl I thought he was wonderful… funny, interesting (musician), and very sweet.

    As I grew older I noticed that he was never really one to reach out to his family to maintain relations – he waited for everyone else to come to him. I learned much later (in my 20′s) that following his divorce from my grandmother, he did not meet his finacial obligations to his children (to spite my grandma apparently) and was able to get away with it like many men before better enforcement of child support decrees.

    Of his four children – one was a life long drug abuser who died young (five kids and a widow left completely destitute), leaving my mother and her two other siblings. He is currently waging a very disturbing campaign of emotional and financial bribery. He is using the promise of his decent sized estate to try to lure his kids into his life at this later stage because he didn’t do the parental groundwork before.

    My mom and uncle each are financially sound enough that they are not scrambling at the dollars being waved. My aunt however, fell for it and has been doting on him (took him into her home and nursing him essentially). An argument arose and he got mad and told her he was gonna cut her out of most of his estate (leaving her $1000) and that he’d leave the rest to her two siblings. *Note: my aunt and her husband have never been fiscally responsible and burned through the inheritances they each received after the deaths of their respective mothers.

    My aunt came to BELIEVE that my grandfather’s money is OWED to her because she is not as financially prepared as her siblings and because she took in my grandpa for a time. it has turned ugly and she has been fighting with grandpa, my mom and uncle (who are each asking my grandfather not to let spite derail him from the estate planning he did years ago in which each of his children or their heirs will share equally).

    My aunt is so worried about further antagonizing my granfather she has turned on her siblings instead. Very sad and ugly.

  20. Bill says:

    Grandpa should distribute the land now.

    The problem with those who are land rich but cash poor is that the state often ends up footing their bills via Medicaid.

    And the state WILL attach a lien to real property (and bring any other asset transfers in the last 5 years back into the estate) to recover their costs.

    My wife’s grandparents distributed their farm between their kids over 20 years ago, while they were still relatively healthy.

    Grandma’s still alive in her 90s and lives with her youngest child.

    And the family farm is still in the family.

    After having cared for my mom for 10 years before she passed away last fall, I say Rick does indeed deserve the larger share of the land AND the money.

    Many in that situation are forced to forego income/career opportunities to care for their aging parents.

    The typical story on my online email support group has one of the children (often the youngest female) being “elected” to care for mom/dad.

    They usually get kicked out of the house the day after the funeral (“we have to get it ready to sell”), after spending 5-10 years caring for their parent.

    Try restarting a career after a decade out of your field.

  21. Jenn says:

    An inheritance pretty much tore apart my family too. The problem is that unless nobody actually really NEEDS the inheritance, there’s always going to be bad blood. My uncle lived pretty much his entire life mooching off people and waiting for my grandfather to die so he could collect what he thought would be at least half million dollars. He had big plans for get-rich schemes from this initial investment, and often attended seminars. Well, my grandpa lived to a ripe old age, and by the time my uncle got his money, which was less than expected, he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and was an old man himself. On top of that, my grandpa didn’t give him a lump sum, but put the money in a trust for distribution along with the grandchildren… because he knew a lump sum would be gone in a heartbeat and my uncle wouldn’t have enough to pay medical expenses. My uncle and grandfather also barely spoke in the last 10-20 years, partly because of the money issue.

    Don’t depend on an inheritance. Don’t wait like a vulture for someone close to you to die. And certainly don’t think you’re ENTITLED to anything… an inheritance is a gift from someone you love. Don’t take it for granted.

  22. Mardee says:

    I hope that grandpa has a good attorney to draft his will because I’ll bet you anything that as soon as he dies, the 2 left-over kids are going to file an action to contest the will and/or the trust under some kind of “undue influence” grounds. And while they may not win, it will cost the estate a lot of money to defend it. Roger says there’s “no point” to legal action, but you’d be surprised at what little it takes to get someone to file a claim. Anyone can file a will contest (and this is based on my state but many states have the same criteria) who would stand to inherit if the offending provision is set aside – in this case, the 2 children who have been disinherited.

  23. Mardee says:

    One last comment – several people have noted that they (or others) don’t really need the inheritance. However, it’s usually never about the money – it’s always about “Who did Mom or Dad love best?” Emotions play a big part in these disagreements.

    By the way, just because you’re named as executor, doesn’t mean you have to serve as one (or accept the fee executors get). That’s why wills name alternate and second alternate executors. If his being named executor is such a bone of contention, why not just step aside and let the attorney (or alternate) do it? Or at the very least, notify the family the he won’t accept the fee. My brother was executor of both my dad’s and mom’s estate and never accepted a dime.

  24. Bill says:

    That’s another reason grandpa should give away the land now (using part or all of his estate tax exemption if necessary)

    Any challenges would then have to come while grandpa’s still alive.

    He only has to tell the court “those greedy kids get nothing” and it’s over.

    No multi-year fight in probate court.

    And with a illiquid asset like land, you really, really want to get the land out of his hands ASAP and start that 5 year clock (Medicaid’s new “lookback” period) running

    Everything in a revocable living trust is accessible to Medicaid liens.

    Since the money is already in a trust, I doubt a non-beneficiary could even see the terms of the trust (a court could still review it) – I think the lesson there is to NOT tell your disinherited kids the terms of the trust.

    >Anyone can file a will contest

  25. Mardee says:

    @Bill – generally, that’s not quite true – the only people who can file a will contest in most, if not all, states are those who would inherit if the current will (or a provision of it) were set aside. In my state, parents inherit before siblings when a person dies intestate. So if Sibling A tried to contest Sibling B’s will that left everything to Sibling B’s girlfriend, Sibling A’s claim would be dismissed. This is because without the will, the property would go to Sibling B’s heirs, which would be his parents. Therefore, Sibling A has no “standing” to sue.

  26. Mardee says:

    Oops, sorry, I was responding to you, but I think you were actually quoting me. :) However, the full line should read “Anyone can file a will contest (and this is based on my state but many states have the same criteria) who would stand to inherit if the offending provision is set aside,” Hence, my last comment (which should not have been directed to you). I think I need more coffee…

  27. plonkee says:

    I also think that its not really about the money when you write a will. Its about who was loved the most, who did the most for the dead person. If you care about the people that you’re naming in the will, you have a responsibility to try not to make things worse. Once you’re dead you can’t fix it.

  28. KMull says:

    Sad story! It shows you how committed these folks were to each other, truly. Come on people! You are brother and sister…

    I am glad the grandpa stuck it to the others who wanted nothing to do with the family in the end.

  29. Jeremy S says:

    This is one of the things about our society that has always seemed wrong to me. No one is entitled to anything. It’s Grandpa’s property to do with as he pleases, and it seems very gruesome to me that it is not so uncommon for relatives to fight to get a share of a dieing man’s estate.

    When it’s time for me to die, remind me to leave everything to charity.

  30. Cameron says:

    What a sad story. This definitely will make me think when I write my own will.

  31. I can’t agree with Bill more: set up a revocable living trust, with a “pour-over” will to handle other issues. And to the many people who recommend a different executor: AMEN!

    Most importantly: do something, anything, about estate planning. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be a living trust (although most folks would benefit from one). But having your legal documents in place will help you to protect the relationships your family has with each other.

    And Jenn’s right: none of us are entitled to an inheritance. Yet I also believe that a family member who cares for another should be fairly compensated for their time and efforts, ideally not as part of an inheritance. But if that’s the form it takes, so be it. And no whining from the folks who weren’t there to change the Depends!

  32. Slappy says:

    A situation… I have been left a piece of property by my mother who recently passed away. The property has always been used, and is currently being used, as a small parking lot and generates a little bit of income every month accordingly. Recently, one of my sons expressed an interest in buying the property from me and bulding a house on it for his family. My other son, hearing of this, is a bit upset. While he has conveyed that it is my property, that I can certainly do with it what I like, and that he doesn’t want to count his inheritance before I’m dead (paraphrasing)… he has expressed that his interest is that I retain the property. The land around the family lot is rapidly improving, the market is currently bad, and in 5-10 years it will probably be worth triple what it is now. It behooves him that the asset remain in the estate to continue generating income in the interim and so a bigger nest egg can be divided in the future. Is there a way to sell my property now to the son who wants it, but protect the interest of the other son to the value of the ineritance lost? I suppose I could always leave more money to him in the end, but was hoping something could be done in the way of the sale/deed/etc. to avoid the problems associated with an unequal financial distribution as described in the story.

  33. Peter says:

    With multiple siblings, or people with interest, I’ve almost never seen it go smoothly. In every case there is a “black sheep”, in need of money or determined to get their fair share, who is fighting to get the biggest share they can. My advise to my parents has always been, it’s your money, spend it on yourselves and we’ll deal with the leftovers.

    The worst situation I ever witnessed, was people racing back from the funeral to a friend’s great aunt’s house, so they could stake claims to their share of the household contents. There was actually pushing and shoving in that one. It was sickening to witness.

    Even with people you consider level headed, it can turn ugly over some simple thing. How dare my sister in law get that good china! She promised me I’d get the jewelry! It’s always something, and every bad feeling that has been repressed for years will come to the fore. It often takes time for it to heal.

    I’m trying to teach my kids that it’s my money, don’t expect any, and I’ll give you what I want when I want to. No expectations. Easy enough to say at this stage, but hopefully I’ll follow some other advice I’ve given my mother, and that’s to pass any prized heirloom to people before you die. That way, they may want to claim it as part of the estate, but they legally can’t.

  34. Victoria from Texas says:

    I am the younger of the only two children of my parents; I am the only daughter, and have only the one older brother. Our parents made out a will years ago and it was originally a “fifty-fifty” distribution of their property and assets. At that same time, when I was in my 20s’, apparently our parents judged me to be the more responsible child, because I was more stable and more responsible with my own financial/real estate/employment affairs. The older sibling was provided a college education, numerous vehicles, and basically wasted our parents’ sacrifices of sending him to college, as he worked in non-skilled employment for decades, even though he holds two college degrees. I on the other hand (unwisely at age 18) got married and did not go to college and started a family, was subsequently divorced after several years and raised my children on my own, always keeping my bills paid, etc. I was also appointed power of attorney for both parents (effective when the first parent died) and they also had advanced healthcare directives.
    Well, after the first parent died, the widowed parent lived another several years in declining health, and even though my sibling lived much closer to the remaining parents house, he never cut her grass or really much of anything. My own family and I were the ones who brought the parent his or her medications, groceries, performed innumerable tasks including doctor visits as this widowed parent did not drive. A few years into widowhood, the remaining parent changed his/her will to direct distribution of assets to 75/25; the lesser percentage going to the sibling who did little or nothing to care for the widowed parent. Also, my family and I took our ailing widowed parent into our home and cared for him/her until his/her death. Before he/she died, the widowed parent appointed a non-blood relative whom he/she trusted to be Trustee to an estate he/she had created before their death, so my sibling and I would not fight further. This dying parent of ours realized that this was the only way to ensure our parent’s legacy/estate was distributed according to the “new” will. Of course, this did not sit well with older sibling, but like our dying parent stated “if you did 50% of the things (my name here) and their family did for me, then (sibling name here) would be getting 50%. The dying parent knew anything monetary would be most likely squandered.

    So now I am the Villian By Proxy because of our parent’s decision to make these ammends to his/her will. The best I can do is finish my job of distributing the deceased parents’ personal property, as the real estate and life insurance money was put in the Trust, and will be distributed per the “75/25″ in the next few months.

    I would like some advice on how to handle this, as now I am between an inherited rock and a hard space.

    Thanks, Victoria in Texas

  35. Anna Bolla says:

    If people would make the practical choice in life to live below their means (at the times they have an income coming in), save some of their income at the end of each pay, and WAKE UP to the REALITY that no-one in life will help them out or bail them out of their own mess, then that individual wouldn’t even have to be concerned about emergency money nor would have an ounce of greed in their bones, as they would know that the money they so wisely chose to save/invest is their for them when needed!!!! I come from a vey selfish-greedy family, even my own mother said I was cut out of her will, that she may leave me a $1,000 in her will if she didn’t need it for herself for an emergency! Right there I made up my mind that I didn’t want anything from her and that I AM ON MY OWN. To date, I am doing BETTER fiancially ON MY OWN with absolutely NO HELP AT ALL FROM A SINGLE HUMAN BEING and am doing better that some of my siblings who actually received her inheritance!!!!! Bottom Line, NEVER EVER EVER RELY ON A HUMAN BEING FOR ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!Anyone who does is making the BIGGEST MISTAKE OF THEIR LIFE!

  36. tentaculistic says:

    My parents had a ton of kids, and we all get along, and I know they have been really worried about their estate. At one point they had brought up several times the worry about a Cryptonomicon-like fight for estate assets (a morbidly hysterical section in an awesome book, btw), so I asked if they would like help figuring out who had sentimental attachment to which items.

    I helped them create a list of sibling “dibs” on sentimental or worthwhile items. I walked around their house and listed everything I could think of, then asked all the sibs to give a prioritized list of what they wanted (if 2 people wanted an item, it was allocate based on priority to each person first and then by age – the older kids had a lot more work than us youngers). The parents were surprised by some of the things we found sentimental. But I have to say, my siblings found the whole process hideously morbid/greedy and resisted. Which I understand, but it’s about peace of mind more than greed.

    Then my parents decided to do “advance inheritance” and have given each child several thousand dollars, on several occasions. Each of us told them that we don’t “deserve” their money but we greatly appreciate their generosity. Smaller amounts spread out like that (rather than a bigger lump sum) can be a huge help in life, and since it’s a (ridiculously generous) gift rather than an inheritance, I think it’s kept feelings really positive. Except for thinking about them dying, which is pretty sad.

    I just hope that those two things are enough to keep our close-knit family from bickering or greed in the height of grief. These stories are a real warning of how bad things can get when dealing with estates.

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