Any opinions on 11 year family disagreement. Long.

pickyshopperMarch 4, 2014

Eleven years ago our mother passed away, and things have been contentious between one sister and the other four siblings since that time.
Mom's will stipulated that her estate (her condo and car) should be sold and money divided evenly between the children. The money from the condo sale was divided up with no complaints. However, shortly after the funeral, that sister individually spoke to each of us siblings and asked if we could just give her the car, instead of selling it.

She maintained (and still does) that she had a conversation with Mom about a week or two before she died, and Mom said that the car could go to her, as she was the only sibling who didn't have one.

Three of us said yes, because we didn't have a problem forfeiting our portion of the car sale proceeds, to give her the vehicle. However, one brother said no, because he reminded us that he was the only sibling who didn't have a house. He really needed his portion from the sale of both the condo AND the car, to save toward a down payment for his first house.

We felt bad, because we had forgotten he rented a house, and it made him look like the lone 'hold out' who wouldn't just waive his right to money from the car. Sister would not consider the option of giving brother his portion of the appraisal price of car, so she could keep it. She refused on the principle that mother told her she could have it. The rest of were stymied by this dilemma, so we sold the car, as the will directed, and gave everyone their portion of the money.

Sister has been estranged from brother for 11 years, partly because he wouldn't waive his portion of the car money, and partly because he expressed his doubt that our mother would have forgotten to change her will, if she really intended to just give sister her car. She backed him into a corner with "Are you calling me a liar?" and he responded "I guess I am, then."

Sister has attempted all these years to convince the rest of us that brother is the worst person alive, for calling her a liar, but none of us want to get involved in her feud with him. We feel that as our mother worked for an Estates attorney for almost 50 years, and died with a very sharp mind, it would be uncharacteristic of her to forget to update her will before a big trip. She died while away, so we'll never know her intentions for sure.

Any suggestions regarding what we can say to sister to convince her that brother isn't 'despicable?' One detail you should know is that this sister suffers from long standing mental illness, causing her to often perceive things inaccurately, which results in resentment toward others and self pitying for herself. We'd love it if she would end her estrangement with brother, as family get togethers (weddings, etc.) are very awkward when two siblings don't look at or speak to each other.

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A house is much more expensive than a car. The proceeds from the condo went to all five children. Presumably, the sister garnered enough from the condo proceeds to buy a car for herself, while the brother did not to buy a house or condo for himself.

IMO, car should be liquidated and the proceeds divided equally. Sister can buy a car with her inheritance. A car is not an appreciative asset while owning a home is. The greater benefit is in home ownership and for stability, the brother should have a home. This should be a unified interest of the family as they benefit from having siblings in stable situations.

Bottom line anyway is that it doesn't matter what your mother may have said a week or two before she died. If she didn't let everyone else know her wishes, all you have to go by is the will, not your sister's word. The will called for both the condo and car to be liquidated and the proceeds equally divided. That is what should happen.

It sounds like your sister is somewhat blinded by her desire to get the car and is thinking only of herself, not of the family as a unit.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 9:29PM
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Sounds like your sister needs to take a grow up pill. Not sure anything you say would matter until she decides to knock it off.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 9:33PM
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Dont inflict your nasty metally unstable sister onto your brother.
He is fortunate she won't speak with him.
I wouldn't speak to someone who would be so nasty to me either.
Your brother was right to insist your mothers will be abided by.
Nothing else matters, your mother had a will. Period.
Don't feel strange when your brother doesn't talk to her.
He will live and be happy, and so should you.
And your miserable sister, well, her life is what she makes it.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 9:39PM
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I don't think your mother would be very happy about this, at all. Maybe they should think about what this would have done to her, if she were still alive. I would hope she meant more to them than her belongings.

Sorry to sound so harsh, but I've found out the hard can't change other people, but you can change yourself. In other words, if your sister won't get help and your brother won't let it go, maybe don't invite either one of them to events. Life is too short to let some petty grievance spoil it.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 9:42PM
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Having lived through something very similar with my sister and brother, I can tell you, there's nothing you can do. I spent a good portion of my life wondering how to 'reach' my sister, always assuming that if I could come up with the right combination of words and dance the right dance that I could break through to her. But mental illness doesn't work that way and the 'subtle' ones, like Borderline Mental Illness that manifest in the ways you describe are heartbreaking because the illness is not always visible and you think you can deal with her as anyone else. It doesn't work. Tibbrix outlined everything perfectly, logically, fairly. It's unlikely your sister will ever see it that way. If family harmony is important to your brother, he holds the most hope of breaking this gridlock, but he'll have to realize he's dealing with someone who is mentally ill and get his own ego out of it.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 9:52PM
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Picky, you are being so sweet and you clearly are trying to respect everyone's feelings.

The truth is that your sister wasn't being fair. She wanted special treatment--something extra--in a situation that is normally very equal. Most parents would never want to treat their kids unfairly. If your sister were as respectful and thoughtful as you are she would have never even asked for the vehicle. She really is asking a lot and seems pretty selfish.

I am sorry for what is happening in your family. Eleven years is a long time and it might be very difficult to mend. I feel bad that your brother had to be put in that position but it was your sister who put him there.

If you said anything to your sister I think you need to tell her that it was an unreasonable request and that your brother called her out for her selfishness. He wasn't out of line but only reacting to her expecting special treatment.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 10:06PM
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The will was upheld. Your sister apparently suffers not only from mental illness, but also a bad case of envy, greed and deceit. Nothing needs be awkward; the next time there a family function, don't invite her.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 10:21PM
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Because of your sister's mental issues, this really is probably not solvable. But, one thing you (other siblings) can do: ask "Can I speak honestly to you?" and when she says "yes" just tell sister that you don't want to hear any more negativity about your brother from her. Tell her that you have heard her, you understood her logic ("understand" not "agree") and there is no more to be said. (Also tell her, f you feel that it would serve any purpose, that you understand his point of view as well; that it was a difficult time for all, and that you made the decision that you thought was most fair for everyone). DON"T let her drag you into a discussion or debate over that point -- just repeat that it has been a decade, life is getting too short to be worrying about other people's grudges, and you don't want to hear about it again.

I had to do a similar thing with my sister after my parents passed -- tell her that I no longer wanted to hear about their wills and how she didn't get all she thinks she "deserved". She is a wonderful mother, a good professional and a caring person, but when it comes to sibling jealousy she has always been a fair bit off her rocker.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 10:21PM
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Yikes, I'm afraid of KSWL now, LOL.

I suppose, to me, it would depend on the degree of mental illness. In a sense, does she have the capacity to understand right and wrong? If she is severely mentally ill, I think your brother has to hold out the olive branch, ie take the high road (I know this will be controversial advice, but it is what I think). He should just say "I'm sorry we have been estranged and let's put it behind us". Which is probably literally true and does not imply she was right (she was not).

But if she is just everyday neurotic like most of us, I would tell her what you have told us. She is ruining family gatherings. I would add --- don't make us have to choose who to invite. Make amends.

Sorry you are going through this!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 10:37PM
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dlm2000 understands the problem. Someone who is at the mercy of a personality disorder is not going to act logically. But they often follow a formula. She will never see the other side's validity. She has focused her ire on ONE of the siblings, when all the rest agreed that adhering to the will was the right decision, too.

The only way for things to relax at family gatherings is for the brother to be the bigger person and let it go. He can make the first move at conversation, he can ignore her behavior, he can move forward whether his angry sister goes with him or not. I'm assuming that he is not battling mental illness, too. One side has to be sane and ignore the not-so-sane behavior.
Honestly, it sounds like she's getting what she wants out of it. Attention. She is making everyone think about HER at family events! No more enabling of the disorder.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 10:49PM
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It sounds to me like your brother moved on and is okay with it. So it's really the rest who want to make peace but not the two people involved. They are adults as well as you so why not let them live their lives their way and you do the same. As for family gatherings, let them worry about it. You go, have fun and then go home. There's no possible way to repair the situation. You were almost manipulated to allowing your sister to get her way. Your brother spoke up for himself and then you did the right thing. The will said it all. I understand how nice it would be if all were cordial but this is the real world and it doesn't always work that way. Let it go.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 12:58AM
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As the executor to my father's will, I had the responsibility to carry out "his" wishes dictated by the will. If the will didn't state the car was to go to the sister, you cannot give the car to the sister. Did you use an attorney? In my case, I determined the Blue Book value of my dad's car, my sister purchased it from her portion of the house sale. Let this be a reminder to us all. Family and wills can get ugly.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 5:58AM
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Wills are legal documents and have to be adhered to according to law. Sister probably could have bought the car from siblings, thus equalizing the values distributed. With the mother's legal background and sharp mind, she (mother) would have to have known that oral means nothing.

You can't deal rationally with an irrational person. Expanding on Dim2000's post, google Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissism.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 6:08AM
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When it comes to family relationships, it is much more important to have cordial relationships than to get a just split in the estate assets. If I were in your shoes or in the shoes of any other family member I would suggest that those well enough off to afford it should pony up a bit of money to resolve the issue and let it die. Not worth having poor relations between siblings.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 6:30AM
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I agree with the consensus for the most part. Your sister, in her state of mind, can not and will not be reasoned with.

It is up to each of you individually to decide the involvement and type of relationship you are willing to have with this sister. Sister or not, we all have our breaking point. And, because she is related it doesn't mean she has to be included in all family functions if she only brings negative behavior.

In your sister's mind, your Mom offered her the car. End of story.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 7:22AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

The sister is on her high horse not about the car but about the fact that brother called her a liar. So making arguments that legally nothing else could have been done but what was done, and that the sister did have the option of buying out the brother's share of the car will mean nothing.

IMHO, nothing will change until and unless the brother and sister want their relationship to change. It is up to them to determine the kind of relationship they want to have. About the only role pickyshopper can play is to make sure each one is aware of the tension their strained relationship brings to everyone else at family gatherings, and say it would be great if they could find their way to be at least cordial for everyone's sake. Make sure each is aware when both are invited so they can choose whether to attend or not and don't choose's not your fight.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 8:03AM
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Lol, mtnrd! I say in my defense that I know a few people who have diagnoses of bi polar who use that as their defense for what is essentially bad behavior. I have known both for decades... and I have a very close relative who has suffered with mental illness all his life and has done so without the kind of behavior described above. Not all people with mental illness are gits.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 8:11AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I don't think it's your problem. It's theirs and I wouldn't work harder on the issue than they do.
You can't control other people, only yourself. Be kind, loving, all things that are good qualities that affirm others and let them deal with it.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 8:48AM
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The death of a parent sometimes exacerbates and magnifies old feelings of sibling rivalries, and the distribution of worldly goods becomes the measurement of the parent's love.

The only way to resolve these types of disputes is to follow the letter of the law, as you ultimately did. I recently had a painful situation following the death of my father and a dispute by his son from a first marriage 70 years ago. I felt and feel tremendous guilt over a promise of money claimed but not written, but had to be guided by my obligation to my mother with dementia. The fracture, I am sure, is permanent on his side. The argument dealt with a similar situation. He believed it was a gift our father did not have time to execute, when we knew it was to be a gift upon our mother's death. He died intestate, but everything went to my mom.

I think as ellendi does about your sister, she thinks your mother gave her the car just as my brother thought our father meant to give him money, because it works better in their favor.

Had your brother said to your sister that the only guide to mom's wishes was the will, and you all were required by law to follow them, sis may have pouted for a while, but would have moved on. However, your brother called her a liar and, on the heels of just losing her mother, is confronted with the truth of her brother's feelings about her. That hurts, mentally ill or not. I know your brother was hurting, too, but name-calling following a death when everyone's emotions are raw, is wrong. That's the time to comfort each other.

I think your brother should apologize for calling your sister a liar. That is a completely separate issue from not wanting to gift her his portion of the car, which he had a perfect right to do.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 8:57AM
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Wow, kudos to Dee. I think that is an excellent point.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 9:15AM
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So sad. You're not going to be able to convince your sister that your brother is not despicable.

You might try sitting her down and asking her if she thinks your mother would like how this turned out, all for the price of a used car.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 9:15AM
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It wasn't right of your sister to expect a free car. In an attempt to reason with her one last time, maybe someone should pose the question to her....."Suzie, how would you have felt if John had said he talked to mom the week before her death and she wanted him to have the condo? Would you have just said OK and given up your share of the condo?" It probably won't register, but worth a try?

You did the right thing. She could have easily purchased the car from her proceeds from the sale of the condo. I suspect you all probably would have even given her more than a fair price on the car. When my mom died, DH and I contemplated buying her house as an investment and talked about it with my siblings. We would have gotten the fair market value and paid my brothers their portion....the only logical and fair thing to do.

We dont know the extent of her mental illness, but I agree the brother should extend the olive branch so that family gatherings are enjoyable for all, which is what Im sure your mother would have wanted. If she declines, then it is done and the ball is in her court. And you and your siblings can rest knowing you tried to make peace with her. Then it will be up to everyone to decide whether to continue to include her or not.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 9:30AM
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I doubt this is something that will ever be resolved, so the rest of you will just need to make whatever accommodation you need to to make family gatherings less "awkward". It's not the end of the world if the two don't talk to or look at each other. Presumably there should be enough of the rest of you to surround each with a constantly changing group of people and make their interaction unnecessary.
Pity your brother didn't point out to your sister that your mother could have as easily said to him a week before she passed, "Well, you're the only sibling without a house so I think you should have the condo."
I'm not convinced even apologising to someone who is mentally ill would change anything after all this time.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 9:33AM
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The selfish sister should give brother the amount due him. The value of the car on the day your mother passed away, divided by five is what she needs to pay him in order to resolve this. She is justifying her bad behavior by hearsay. Your mother may or may not have said what she claimed and could possibly not have been coherent at the time. If the remaining three siblings stick together on that, it should put pressure on Ms. selfish to do the right thing.
There are books written about wills and fairness. It all boils down to the matter of fairness. Nobody should receive a larger piece of the pie.
Did the car have a high value ?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 9:56AM
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It sounds like the family problems go way back and it is unfortunate that through your mother's death, the worst has been brought out. I had a similar experience in my family after my sweet mom died. After initial anger, hurt feelings, angry words written on my brother's part, it ended with him refusing to speak to his 4 siblings, and he is the one that was so hurtful. Over time, I have chosen to forgive him, as has the rest of the siblings. He is invited to family gatherings (as my parents would have wanted) and he chooses not to attend or have contact. He has recently began having contact with my oldest sister, but not the rest of us, and she has not done any bridge building work regarding the rest of us. I have let it all go. I feel sorry for him because he is missing out on all of our lives. It has been 8 years. But I feel good that I am honoring my parents wishes by living peacefully with my siblings, something I too want when I am gone one day.
Let it go and don't get caught in the middle. Remain peaceful, and invite everyone to everything and let them choose whether or not to attend and/or address the problems. You are not going to be able to fix this, and that is okay.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 10:12AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

If you have all been aware of this sister's limitations, then I would assume there are other instances where she is unreasonable. I believe that her behavior in this situation is a clear indicator of mental limitations. Someone without limitations could better control their emotions and see the logic and the pain being caused over what really is a minor disagreement in the big picture over an eleven year period. That she has denied herself the enjoyment of a relationship with her brother for 11 years over this, and that she could not see the fairness of her brother getting his share of the car rather than her getting the car, are all indicators of mental limitations, which include emotional immaturity.

If your sister could do better she would. The responsibility as siblings who do not have limitations falls on all the rest of you, to make allowances for her to the degree that you can. By that I mean accepting her as she is and looking out for her in whatever ways you can.

I think it is a very hard thing to do, if, as someone else already pointed out, the sister has borderline limitations. She can appear to be as normal as the next person in many situations but then all of a sudden you are reminded of the limitations by a situation you were not expecting.

I think the conversation has to be with the brother first, to attempt to get him to see her limitations clearer. I would go further and suggest any of the siblings that are unfamiliar with mental illnesses in a formal way, to educate themselves as much as they can about the potential causes and what kind of behaviors you can expect and what part of the brain is not functioning correctly. You'd be surprised how many people have a mentally ill relative and have never even read up on it to understand it better.

Once you all get to the point where you understand the mental illness part of it, and accept that she is not able to do better, then that might help everyone to let go of it a little more. I would think the brother could then make an attempt to reconcile with the sister, not by apologizing, but by expressing his desire to have a relationship with his sister, that a lot of time had passed, that Mom would want us to 'make up' and put this behind us and his willingness to do that. NOT expecting that she will respond positively to that. If she does, great, but to be prepared for her to refuse and don't take it personally and be hurt by it.

If at that point, she still cannot respond in a positive way, I would say, everyone else in the family should just let it go and put it away as if she did too. Tell her that as far as you all are concerned, you are putting it in the rear view mirror as if it never happened, whatever needed forgiving, is forgiven and you are all forgetting about it. Then put that into practice at your family gatherings. Treat her as if it never happened. Be warm and friendly and accepting as you were before this happened and if she does not respond and pouts or withdraws, just ignore her behavior and continue to make every opportunity for her to be drawn into the gathering. Play some family games, like dominoes or something she likes to play and invite her to play and if she doesn't, then have a great time playing so she sees she is missing out. And perhaps if you continue along this way at every family gathering, at some point, she will be tempted to join in rather than be left out.

In other words, treat her as you would a child, because it really is a good probability that she is very emotionally immature and is functioning at the highest level she can. Your best 'parenting skills' will help all of you to look out for your sister and at the same time feel good about yourselves that you are doing what your Mom would want and preserving the family and taking care of your sister and you all won't be held hostage to her emotional immaturity to allow her to ruin family gatherings.

I understand that it is a struggle and having that responsibility to always take the high road, with a sibling that has limitations is not easy, but it becomes easier as you see her clearly as someone who will never mature enough to have that full and equal relationship with you. It is a loss and there is grief involved in accepting what will never be possible, but once you go through that part of it, you can be less hurt by her behavior and do the best you can for her and everyone else in the family with a little more ease and comfort.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 10:24AM
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Annette Holbrook

My husband has 2 sisters who don't get along. Started when they were younger but became a real issue when the mom became ill with Altzheimers and then after her death. Like yours, the one sister tends to have some issues with perception and something of a persecution complex. My husband was forever stuck in the middle. He finally put his foot down a few years ago and told each sister he would not listen to either one disparage the other. He would just hang up the phone, no anger or anything, just click. They finally started talking to each other a year or so ago. They aren't best buddies or anything but can be civil so that's a victory as far as I'm concerned. I personally don't want much to do with either of them for my own reasons so I told my husband to keep me out of it and he now he does!

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 10:41AM
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I dont think the brother outright called the sister a liar in a showdown. He simply questioned the fact that mom did not change her will and that, since she worked in a legal environment for years, she certainly would have if she really intended the sister to have the car. It was the sister who became confrontational and accused the brother of calling her a liar.

Brother was right, sister was wrong, but someone needs to be the bigger person here...and that falls on brother in this case due to the sister's mental illness.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 10:50AM
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I would be surprised if any overtures by your brother will have an effect on your sister. She feels entitled and people like that either cannot or do not want to see other people's viewpoint. She feels she was entitled to the car and will be unlikely to ever see differently.

I agree with kswl but would invite each to various family functions but not at the same time. Tell each of them you are doing this because you will not accept this behavior. Family members might also spend time with each one of them by themselves. This way each of them will know you care for them but make it clear that subject if off limits.

I've experienced a similar situation and no amount of extending the olive branch works. People with borderline mental illness often cannot change.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 10:51AM
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If a family member is mentally ill, you love him/her nonetheless. However if they are not so ill that they don't know what they are doing, they are responsible for their behavior just as we all are.
She can think what she wants, be upset if she wants, but the rest of the family can cooperate in drawing a behavior line that says she can't go on about her 10 year old disagreement at family gatherings. Enforce it.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 11:00AM
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Sounds to me that there's more going on than the monetary share of 1/5 of a used car on both sides. (I mean unless this was a super-duper luxury car, even your brother didn't desperately need that share of the car).
I don't think that any kind of logic or explanation will convince either of the two siblings. The only thing that might work is if you tell them that your mother would not want her children to be estranged from each other, that 11 years is a long time, and that they both should try to behave at least civilly for the sake of their mother and the family if they can't give the other benefit of the doubt.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 12:58PM
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No surprise that folks here are taking sides.

A person with borderline personality features (assuming that is the problem) can pose great challenges in a family. Such people have an uncanny ability to get others overinvolved and fighting for or against them. Intensely. Way too much drama around who is right, who is on who's side, and what is going to happen next. And too often WAY too much talking about one another vs. talking directly to one another.

Best survival tactic is to reign in emotion and judgment. Retreat from what others could/should do and figure out how to move toward greater serenity yourself. Determine which of your thoughts/conversations get you more worked up, more involved in the conflict, and strive for the discipline to minimize those. Disengage.

Easier said than done. It is very hard to dial down thoughts/feelings/words/actions around a longstanding issue that has come to define relationships within the family. If you can somehow reduce the power (tension/conflict/drama) of all this in your corner of the family by saying/feeling/doing less around the issue, maybe others can follow suit. Try a simple but usually effective "I'm not comfortable talking about that."

Focusing on the toxic mess just feeds it.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 1:05PM
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If she has this "long standing mental illness," my suggestion is love both siblings but limit their interaction - do not have them at the same function for too long a period of time. The way to handle these types of mental issues (biploar?) is love and support while you have to be with them, while limiting time spent with them if possible. I feel sorry for the brother - he seems to be innocent in all this.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 1:33PM
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We faced this issue, none of us have mental health issues. You cannot change her opinion, just as we could not change our one sibling's opinion. Let it go. Do not discuss it. With anyone. Period.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 1:37PM
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All this over a car? Certainly a person's will should be honored. But I have to wonder how much this used car was worth. Usually not much, divided by five. If she needs a car, who cares. It just doesn't seem important to me and a sad state of the materialistic world we live in.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 3:18PM
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I agree with celtic, but if your sister has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, life with her will be almost impossible. Brain chemistry does not make them "not tell the truth" or manipulate constantly, they choose to do that. Personality disorders can control their behaviors, other mental illnesses cannot. It's not really fair that they are both considered "mental disorders". JMHO

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 5:30PM
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I'm about keeping the peace in the family, especially if there is someone who is "special". I would talk with the brother and see if he can reach out to her. Maybe not a full force apology, but "maybe I was wrong" type of statement. You can't loose by taking the high ground in an argument.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 6:23PM
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Why is this in the decorating section? It doesn't have anything to do with decorating at ALL!

Oh, and:

"Any suggestions regarding what we can say to sister to convince her that brother isn't 'despicable?' One detail you should know is that this sister suffers from long standing mental illness, causing her to often perceive things inaccurately, which results in resentment toward others and self pitying for herself. "

A mentally ill person who has held a grudge for 11 years is probably not going to be swayed by the opinions of strangers on an online forum.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 8:12PM
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There's a book called: "Stopped Walking on Eggshells." Didn't realize we were talking about Borderline Personality Disorder.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 8:23PM
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What can you do to convince sister? Nothing, absolutely nothing. I don't mean to sound harsh, but accept it and move on. I learned a long time ago that my serenity in life is proportional to my acceptance of things beyond my control, including my son's mental illness and all that entails. Wishing you peace.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 8:30PM
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Your sister sounds exactly like my sister. She invents her "truths" all the time and did so about some of my mother's stuff when she passed too. It was a balancing act indeed but she is off her rocker half the time and the rest of us just roll eyes and go on.

I feel badly for your brother who was absolutely correct in wanting his share, regardless of his personal status. It is too bad that he was put in a corner to have to call her a liar though. He should have just re-directed the issue back to the will. The executor probably should not have let it get to that point.

If she can hold a grudge for 11 years, so be it. move on. The fact that she keeps throwing it back on him, indicates to me that deep down she knows she is in the wrong. She needs to do that to validate the rift.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 9:26PM
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Dear pickyshopper,

there is a lot of discussion here, and I am sorry for your troubles. But this sort of thing can't be resolved on a home decorating forum. When the estate was divided I would have done as Mom's will stipulated that her estate (her condo and car) should be sold and money divided evenly between the children.

This post was edited by sasafras on Wed, Mar 5, 14 at 22:27

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 10:24PM
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I'm the OP. Firstly, runninginplace and all others, please accept my apology for posting such a long thread in the wrong place! But since I did, I'd love to respond to all of your valued opinions.

My sister is our eldest sibling, has a genius I.Q., and was a normal thinking, not unkind sister to all of us, prior to developing mental illness 30 years ago, in her twenties. I know she has Bipolar and something else as well, but she rarely takes her meds as she says they give her bad side effects and no one can convince her otherwise. She had an on and off combative relationship with both our parents, but had a good relationship with all her siblings, prior to our mother's death.

Our brother has tried many times over the last 11 years to let our sister know that he loves her, and never wanted to upset her by not relinquishing his share of the car sale to her. But he was not In the same financial position as the rest of us and couldn't afford to give her his portion. He has extended the olive branch many times and is completely willing to have a relationship with her, but she refuses.

We've tried everything mentioned, such as reminding her how sad this would make our mother. My brother has asked her how she would feel if he said he had been promised a larger percentage from the sale of the condo, since he was the only one without a house. She said that was comparing apples to oranges and couldn't see any similarity.

Her accusation about him calling her a liar came only last week, not 11 years ago. She literally got him in a corner of the room at a family funeral, and insisted for the umpteenth time that our mother had promised her the car shortly before her death, because she knew sister needed one.

He answered that our mother also knew he was saving for a house, but never favoured any of us over the other, so that was why her will stated the car and condo money should be split evenly. That caused the "Are you calling me a liar?" to which he reluctantly replied, "Well, I guess I am, then."

We all know our mother treated us all the same and certainly would not have had a secret conversation with one of us, promising something that her will stated should be sold and divided evenly. Mom was a legal whiz after so many years in that field and was sharp as a tack when she died.

It is so disheartening for the rest of us to receive constant phone calls, which start out normal, then turn into her spewing her hatred for our brother. We witness her shun him when we do gather at family events and none of us can get through to her that he did nothing wrong.

You have helped me to understand that my sister is simply not capable of changing, because of her limitations. We just feel so awful that one of our brothers is the target of such loathing, because of our stupidity.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 11:21PM
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I have been following this thread with interest as I too have a mentally ill sibling and it has caused distress among us siblings as we graple with how to deal with the situation and our aging mother. Several of the responses reasonate with me, particularly the ones that advise that you accept that you cannot change the situation and you focus on what brings you peace in your own life. It would be very difficult for someone who does not have first hand experience with a mentally ill family member to understand that everyone is profoundly affected as a result. My brother has subjected me, my children and siblings to abusive and angry outbrusts on many occasions; but I have come to realize, that even though he is mentally ill, that does not give him the right to be verbally abusive to me. As a result I have distanced myself from him for my own peace as well as to not have my children subjected to his behaviour. Even though he is mentally ill, I believe he is still capable of making choices to get along, control his outbursts, not take drugs, and take his medication. When he wants something he certainly knows how to be engaging. This is a very long winded way of saying that only you can decide what and how much you will take from your sister, if you will allow her to gossip and insult your brother at family gatherings or if you will even continue to invite her to yor home. As others have advised, you need to disengage. Tell her that though you may love her, it hurts you to hear her trash talk your brother whom you also love and she needs to STOP and then WALK AWAY or HANG UP THE PHONE. If you need to, screen calls and check for caller ID. Perhaps others may be afraid to stand up to her as often times a mentally ill person can also be intimidating to deal with as you never quite know how they will react.

This post was edited by valinsv on Thu, Mar 6, 14 at 0:27

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 12:23AM
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I agree with what many have already said. You aren't going to change her behavior so change your own. Tell her that you do not agree with her treatment of your brother and that you do not want to ever discuss it again. Then when she brings it up in person, walk away. If on the phone, hang up. If all of you do this, she may stop. If she doesn't, you still haven't wasted any time listening or getting pulled into the game. Just be a broken record, keep walking away and hanging up.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 1:17AM
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DH and I had a trust set up years ago~he has since passed. DD#1 has been a *very* single mother for 8 years as her ex is a lazy sob and thinks only of himself. She and GS recently moved to Tx and live with me. DS #1 is a very hard worker in a blue collar job, and chose to marry a woman with 5 kids whose husband doesn't know the meaning of child support. The only home they could afford was a manufactured home, and rent the property it sits on. DS #2 works in a professional office, but his job would be considered menial labor. He also chose to make the move to Tx where he could afford to buy a modest home. DD #2 is married to a man who owns his own company with 135 employees, and money is absolutely no problem. She lives in Orange County, in a gate guarded community you might recognize from one of the housewives shows. DD #3 is married to a techie who probably earns more than DD1, DS #1 and #2, combined, and you could probably add another $100k to that easily. Yes, they've all made choices, some better than others, but the bottom line is, I love them all equally. When I pass, the trust is written 'to be divided 5 ways equally.' Love doesn't show favoritism, for any reason.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 2:34AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Pickyshopper, such a sad situation. I feel very bad for your brother and all of you. Even though I’ve suggested that her limitations be understood and allowances be made, I had a different situation in mind when I said so. If she has had a diagnosis, then I think that is where to start, is to study up on everything that you can expect from someone with this diagnosis. Talk to other people who are dealing with the same thing in the hopes that someone else may have found some coping techniques that work for them. I would go so far as to suggest counseling for you and your siblings to see if professionals could give you better suggestions for how to manage your sister’s behavior.

As for medication, it is very common for people prescribed medication for these conditions to refuse to take their medications. I don’t doubt that they do cause side effects, but perhaps different medications can be tried to find one that has more acceptable side effects. The other question is, does the medication actually make a difference? When she is taking it as prescribed is there a noticeable difference in her behavior?

Nutrition is another area that you might focus on. Something that is often lacking for anyone with a condition that effects the brain, is the right balance of healthy fats. Fish oil, salmon, avocados, nuts, and seeds are the few foods that have healthy fats and if she is not eating these, then her brain is negatively impacted by that. You might try offering these at family gatherings to try to help her develop a liking for them. Guacamole, and salmon on the menu, Home made raw nuts trail mix and raw vegetables with dip for munching. Improved nutrition might help her sleep better, feel better, be in a better mood more of the time.

Most of all, I would urge you to take care of yourselves. This kind of conflict is a stress that can start to effect your sleep and your mood and lower your own coping ability, if it is constant. All the more important to be able to find a way to respond to her that allows you to lower your own stress and minimize the negative effect it has on all of you.

My goal would be to end the discussion of the incident that happened 11 years ago and discussion of her feelings and thoughts about her brother, who she seems to be fixated on at this point. I would try to find a success story out there to help you figure a way to do that. Either a counselor who has had success in dealing with a similar situation or a family who has had success in managing it.

And you mention that you all feel awful that your brother is the target due to your stupidity. I don’t see how any of you can believe that you have done something to cause this situation. It sounds like you all bend over backwards trying to help and you all made the correct decision about dividing your Mom’s estate, despite her response to it. If it wasn’t this situation it would be another situation that she would be fixated on. It is her mental condition that is the problem and not anything all of you did or didn’t do. That is why I suggest a support group for people who have a family member with one of these conditions. That will be enormously helpful, if only to give you a little perspective. You don’t have to go for years, but even a few visits if that’s all you want to do, will be eye opening.

Best wishes for you and your family.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 4:15AM
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Proceeds from a car split four we are talking a few hundred dollars AT MOST. Sister needs to GET OVER IT. Chances are mom ASSUMED sister would take her share of the condo to pay into the estate for the car. Still a good deal for sister in most cases. Unfortunately I doubt very much this is the one and only time sister has felt resentment toward brother. Anger like this does not blossom over ONE incident. She is angry over a life time of things between brother and herself. At some point you all need to say you are sorry for all the hurts all around and then FORGIVE each other. I am guessing she has never been told you are all sorry for her anger and perceived slight. Adults should be able to accept that in the case of disagreements a legal will is going to take precedence. Before my MIL passed away she did a lot of promising of her things. Unfortunately she verbally promised many of us THE SAME THINGS. This can happen.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 6:07AM
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I was going to say the same as Prairiemoon - "If it wasn’t this situation it would be another situation that she would be fixated on. It is her mental condition that is the problem and not anything all of you did or didn’t do."

This may sound like comparing apples to oranges, but it is sort of like an abused wife/child, etc. Keeps trying to make it better, but still the abuse continues. There is no end until you accept it, make the changes as suggested and move on.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 6:11AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I like the idea of shutting her down when she brings the issue up again. If everyone agreed to do that, it might cause her to change her behavior. Many people (not just those with mental illness) hang on to their anger and hurt as a way of capturing attention, sympathy, and importance. Perhaps if she can't get those things from her anger any more, she'll look for another more pleasant way of garnering attention.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 9:09AM
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Thank you again for all your responses. Our sister is very sneaky and will begin phone conversations quite pleasantly, then suddenly throw in a few nasty jabs about our brother. She'll stop when we tell her we won't listen further, but then fire off a few more zingers just when we think we've distracted her from debasing our brother. I guess we'll have to concede that she'll never stop doing that, so we will have to hang up to end her diatribes, as some of you have suggested.

arcy, all of us siblings have always gotten along well, so there aren't any hurts to forgive each other for, as you proposed. The way my sister reacted to 'the car incident' shocked us all, as she has actually always been really close to this brother. He has tried to assure her many times that he simply couldn't waive his $8,200 and wasn't trying to 'cheat her out of the car mom promised she could have.'

We feel that the trauma of our mother's death really exacerbated the degree of her mental illness, because her behaviour is way worse than it was beforehand. This is all so very sad. She is our beloved big sister, who was blessed with such high intelligence and once had a wonderful marriage.

But she lost her husband and is estranged from one of her daughters, because her mental illness no doubt contributes to her making some very bad choices. She will not go to counselling, as there is 'nothing wrong with her thinking.'
I can only hope she is not willing to lose the company of all her siblings as well, as we are running out of ideas to try and help her get over her hatred for our brother.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 8:20PM
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This is a really tough one. It sounds like your brother has done everything possible to try to mend fences, but it's not possible because your sister simply won't let it happen. It seems like she's transferred her difficult relationship with your parents onto your brother and isn't willing to let go. Here's what I'd do:

1) Make sure your brother knows that you support him, that you know that this isn't his fault, and that you love him. He's had to bear the brunt of her animosity, and I'm sure it's been very difficult for him. (You've probably done this already, but it wouldn't hurt to do it again!)

2) Everyone (including your brother) needs to make a joint decision to refuse to discuss this with your sister ever again. I'd say to her one time, "Sister, we're all tired of hearing about this grievance that should have been forgotten years ago. We will not discuss it with you again, and we will not listen to you badmouth Brother." And I wouldn't discuss this decision with her, I'd simply tell her that this is how it is now, and then implement it immediately.

3) Whenever she tries to bring it up, I'd say "I'm not discussing this with you" and turn away. Or simply say nothing and turn away. Do not ever specifically address anything she says related to this grievance and don't ever get drawn into a conversation about it - just shut down immediately. If she's willing to talk normally about other things, I'd be interested and talk to her normally. But as soon as she starts to bring up this grievance, ignore her and turn away. If she starts badmouthing your brother, I'd say "I'm not listening to that" and hang up the phone, walk away, stop responding in any way. This will be hard to do because she won't want to give up her dramatic audience, so everyone will need to be very consistent. She'll probably even escalate her behavior for awhile to try to get everyone to respond like they used to, and it's important that you don't give in. The last thing you want to do is reinforce the idea that all she has to do is behave really really badly in order to get the response she wants.

Whenever she's willing to talk about other things, I'd be interested and engaged to try to encourage the behavior you want from her. But I'd shut down immediately whenever she brings up the past or trash talks your brother. The hope is that over time, she'll give up on badmouthing and attacking your brother because it never gets the dramatic response she wants anymore - it just gets her frozen out. And even if she never quite gives it up, at least you'll be spending less time and energy on it by refusing to give it any more of your attention.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 11:20PM
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As someone with a mentally ill sibling, I understand your distress with the situation. Silvercomet and others have given you some wise advice. In short: understand that her mental illness makes it impossible for you or your siblings to reason with her and recognize that you cannot change her perceptions. Realize that empathy for others is not a strong suit for people with bi-polar disorder. She may never be able to let the issue go, but you and your sibs can. Refuse to engage in any further discussions on this topic with her and hang up or walk away if she persists. Just as you can't make her take her meds, you cannot alter her way of seeing things. Be loving and supportive of her but don't allow her to use you as a sounding board on this topic any longer. Good luck to you with this difficult family issue.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 11:04AM
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It’s not always the ‘thing’. It’s all about how it was done. There was some dishonesty here on your sisters part. It seems it was fairly well known that your mom wanted everything divided equally. What was your sister doing discussing getting your mom’s car with her on her final weeks of life? That’s despicable! Still, I doubt she will change at this point. Everyone just needs to move on. However, if sis starts bad mouthing the brother I think you should all respond with …you were dishonest discussing getting a free car with our dying mother! Get past it sis! If you all say the same thing maybe it will sink in.

This post was edited by jterrilynn on Sun, Mar 9, 14 at 11:53

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 11:46AM
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Maybe it was a million dollar Maserati? Ha.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 6:48PM
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This sounds like it was an unexpected death, not the last weeks of her life.

What sadly strikes me is how you define your sister as mentally ill. These types of
things play out in many families, and having nothing to do with mental illness. I think if you want to move forward and reestablish a relationship with your sister, you need to stop viewing whatever she does or however she feels in that context.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 10:01PM
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OldFixer, our mother's car was a Mercedes in great condition with very low mileage on it, so the appraisal was over forty thousand, which was why my brother did not want to waive his one fifth portion.

snookums, I am not 'defining' my sister as mentally ill, just because she is so insistent about estranging herself from our brother for his 'betrayal.' I certainly realize that many families have terrible rifts, over the division of assets, after a family death. But my sister fought hard to get herself diagnosed, then unfortunately could not handle taking the medication necessary to treat her illness.

She worked as a pathology lab technician in a major hospital for about 10 years after graduating college. After several episodes of experiencing hallucinations and hearing voices, she checked herself in as a patient to get a full psychiatric work up. The diagnosis was not Schizophrenia as she had suspected, but they said she had experienced a psychotic break. She was diagnosed with Bipolar and some degree of dissociative disorder, for which the treatment is anti-psychotic medication.

Unfortunately, the meds (and she has tried several) make her feel foggy, forgetful and dizzy, so she rarely takes them. She had a cheerful demeanor before this illness slowly began robbing her of her normal personality. We all love her as much as ever, and are always there for her. But we can rarely have normal conversations with our sister anymore, as she almost always misunderstands something and perceives that we are all against her. It is very sad to see a beloved sibling lose her marriage, her relationship with a daughter and have to give up an amazing career, because of her struggle with mental illness.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 6:08PM
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