Two old siblings fight over money

Family Feud

Inheritance can be tricky; many of us dream about receiving a large inheritance from a long-lost dead relative (with no strings attached, of course).

In reality, getting an inheritance in real life does come with strings attached: wars over inheritance can tear families apart. Celebrities like Michael Jackson, Prince, and many others, have left behind bawling, brawling, family members fighting countless battles in the courtroom.

But does the average joe, who doesn’t have as much money as say, Michael Jackson, really have to worry about what he or she is going to pass on to their kids?

As it turns out: yes.

Inheritance isn’t just about the money you’ll pass on to your family members. Receiving an inheritance is loaded with emotional significance: sentimental items, heirlooms, family paraphernalia – all have a connection to the past. This connection could either make or break the members of your family members when you pass away. This is more than just about money; inheritance can become a symbol of how loved a child feels.

Emotions can run high; especially when one sibling fears receiving nothing left behind by his/her parents, or when when one sibling learns that he or she is about to inherit less than a brother or sister.

Communication is the key to dealing with this problem: when tensions are running high among family members, having a calm discussion with your children before setting out your Will can really soothe over any hurt feelings. Your children should be able to understand the reasons as to why they are getting what they’re getting when you pass away. The reasons concerning their inheritance should be clearly outlined. Essentially, if you, as the father, or the mother, are writing up your Last Will, you’ll want to sit everyone down and have an open and honest conversation as to why your children are inheriting what they are, and the reasons behind it. Why is one sibling getting more? Why is one sibling getting less? Communicating with your loved ones about the reasons behind their inheritance before you pass away, before you get sick, and while you’re clear of mind, keeps the lines of communication open.

For some, communication with their parents is not so easy, particularly when one parent appears to be narcissistic. There are parents who will make decisions regarding their children’s inheritance and have the attitude of “It’s my money, and I can do whatever I want.” The lack of a need to justify their decisions as to why they’re doing what they’re doing can cause a rift among their children. That appears to be the case with one person who recently wrote to an online column (Dear Amy) asking for advice about how to deal with her estranged brother:

“Dear Amy: My brother and I are both in our 70s. We’ve only spoken once in the last three years. After our father passed, our mother sold their home. My father had previously told my brother that when they sold the house, he wanted to give a certain amount of money to each of us. Our mother did not honor our father’s wishes, but did give us each a smaller amount. Years later she deposited a good sum of money into his account but asked him not to tell me. (I wouldn’t have cared at all.) Mom later called the bank and asked for the money back. My brother was angry, but approved it, and then stopped speaking to her. My mother moved closer to me and I was her sole caretaker for seven years until she moved into assisted living. She spent the rest of her money paying for her care. My brother thinks I got more money from her than he did, which is not true.”

With the mother now gone, greed, as the author implies, is the problem:

“He [my brother] also expected me to give him money from the sale of my home because I had gotten more than the asking price. I had sent him $1,000. I also sent him over $5,000 when he needed emergency dental care. I wondered why he never returned my calls, until I found out from his estranged wife that he had expected to receive a lot more money from me from the sale of my house.”

There are certain details that appear to be omitted, but that is the gist of the letter. The author wonders what she can do to smooth things over with her brother.

The ball, as Amy replied, is now in the brother’s court.

You can read more about this story, here.

Although the author doesn’t mention it, things could have been smoothed out if their late mother had simply sat down with her two children and explained the reasons as to why she was spending their inheritance the way she was. A (difficult) conversation about the whole thing could have saved years of estrangement between the two siblings after she passed away.

It may have even kept the relationship between the two siblings intact.

Take this as a lesson when you’re planning our the inheritance for your children or loved ones: communicate!