My Father's Will

crayallicaMay 13, 2009

We are trying to come up with a will for my 83 year old father.I am a stay-at-home mom of 2 boys, ages 4 and 6. My husband makes 40k a year and we live in a small condo. My one brother is 49 has 2 daughter's 24 and 25 who are now out on their own. he has owned a nice home for 22 years. my other brother is 53 and has been on and off drugs his whole life and is currently back in rehab. my father had given him the family business which he ran into the ground due to his drug abuse. He has also been given cars, bail money and the "shop" from the business which he sold for 80K and blew on drugs. We are trying to come up with a fair way to distribute my father's assets.(It's not a LARGE sum of money). My father feels the bulk of the money from the sale of his house should go to me, as I have 2 small children and do not own a home. We feel the brother with the drug problem has already been given so much and would just use any of the money to further his demise. I just don't want my other brother to feel slighted. He is in agreement that I should get more because of my financial situation, but he has not said what he thinks would be "fair". My father's health is failing and we want to get this settled. I just don't want any ill feelings. When the time comes, things will be difficult enough. Any advice would be appreciated.

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Are these half brothers? I ask because I am assuming that you are quite a bit younger and because it can make for a touchier situation. Having been through my parent's probate where my brothers each got 20k and I got 35k because they owed my parents so much money, I know how ugly this can get. Two of the three haven't spoken to me in over 10 years. I see that you are more in need of money, but unless you are willing to permanently say good-bye to your brothers, I would opt for an equal distribution with your eldest brother's share going to a trust. Your younger brother is free to make you a gift of part of his share, doling it out over several years to avoid gift taxes, but that's not something you should count on. He may want to help his adult children become established and won't want to feel punished for his successful lifestyle.

My single friends are enraged at any thought that because they don't have children, they should receive a smaller share of their parents' money. Unfortunately, in a probate situation, we tend to become very emotional and equate money with love.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 10:54AM
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They are not half brothers. the oldest (with the drug problem) is 53. The other is 49 and I am 41.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 11:12AM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

I too think that it should be divided equally, or there will likely be family problems that will never be able to be fixed. One's success, or lack of success should not play a part in dividing things equally. What one has received in the past should not play a part either.

Setting up a trust fund for the one brother's inheritance would be a good thing though, with maybe just a portion or percentage distributed monthly or yearly. It sounds like Father has been the one 'helping'(?) in the past though he was just enabling brother to run through money by spending it on drugs. Brother may need a little monthly income or else he may be on your doorstep or on your other brother's doorstep for a place to stay.

Good luck, in whatever is decided.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 11:17AM
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It is your dad's money. It sounds like he has opinions on it and is of sound mind. Ask him what he wants in his will.

The other option is to ask your brother to give you an exact dollar amount. It is unfair to say you get the bulk of the money and then YOU get to decide how much that is. Make him state an actual opinion on the matter.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 1:00PM
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Well, first I believe it's entirely your Dad's decision & the siblings shouldn't have much input & surely shouldn't attempt to influence him. That said,

If I were your Dad, I would do as others have noted & divide my estate equally. The decisions your Dad made during his life in regards to helping his children sound like they've created some animosity (?). I hope that's not the case.

I have witnessed during my lifetime many friends, business associates, etc. get themselves worked into a real stew over inheritances. The hard feelings seem to come from some sense of 'entitlement'. Based on how your Dad tried to help your elder brother, I would surmise that had you been needy he would have helped you also.

I had a very similar situation with my oldest sister (14 years older than I am). She got into financial trouble in her 40s & my Dad basically supported her for the next 15 years until his death. Dad supported her in a lifestyle higher than his own & certainly higher than mine or of my other sister's. Dad's Will had always read that his estate was to be divided equally between the 3 of us. And, it was. Overall, my older sister received much, much more if you count what Dad gave her during his lifetime. I would not have wanted my father to turn his back on her when she was needy. He didn't love me less. My sister just needed him more. As parents, we quickly learn that treating our children 'equally' is sometimes different than treating them the 'same'.

When my aunt died, the 3 of us were also the sole beneficiaries of her estate. Same aunt had also assisted my older sister giving her thouands of dollars over a 10 year period. At my aunt's passing, the estate was divided equally.

Why was this OK with me? Clearly, my older sister received more. It was OK because that's what my father & my aunt's wishes were for their estates. They both chose to treat us equally. What they chose to do with their money during their lifetimes was not relevant & was their own business...certainly not mine.

Please try hard not to translate your father's love into dollars & cents. And mostly, please don't do or say anything that might make him feel he must in some way choose between his children. I don't believe you'd be comfortable for the rest of your life knowing that had happened?? And, how horrible for your father who probably loves all 3 of his kids very much despite less than stellar behaviors from one of those kids. Being a parent is hard & tough decisions are included in the job description.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 1:00PM
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I would have to agree that a will that does not look fair is a recipe for hard feelings.

One thing that might be done is to set aside a portion of the estate to be divided equally between his grandchildren.

Presuming that your eldest brother is single and without children, I think that there should be some provision in the will as to what to do with his share if he dies before your father.

Everybody with any assets at all should have a will to prevent unpleasant surprises. When my paternal grandfather died without a will my father discovered that he had a half sister who was entitled to a third of the estate. This half sister's mother had died in childbirth and she had been raised as a cousin to my father. It all worked out in the end, my father's half sister stepped aside, the sister my father had been raised with took the house and my father took the money.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 2:10PM
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Is there a reason why your father can't write his own will (assisted by an attorney, of course!) I can't believe that you'd be able to just dictate what you want.

I have three grown children. They might guess which one my hubby and I have had to spend more on than the others...but guess what? If hubby and I die the estate gets split equally between the three of them. No judgements. Remember the prodigal son in the Bible. If one of your sons "costs" more to raise....are you going to short him in your will and reward the other boy?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 4:50PM
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The whole reason for my post is because i DON'T want ill will. I am not at all dictating what I want. My FATHER thought more money should go to me. I wanted advice because i felt this may make my brother feel slighted in the long run and I would never want that.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 5:46PM
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You say you want advice....
the consensus is that it is your FATHER'S money and your FATHER"S choice to do what he wants with it.

Doesn't matter how much you want or what we think about it....

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 6:12PM
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I have to agree with Luann. It's your father's money, and if he wants to divide it up 2/3 to you and 1/3 to your (good) brother, or 3/4 and 1/4, any percentage he wants, why should you feel the need to be the peacekeeper and self-sacrificing martyr?

My DH and I don't have children. Our estate, if we both die, goes to two relatives - a stepsister on DH's side and a half-brother on my side. His other stepsiblings, and my other half-siblings, get nothing. They don't need it, whereas the people we picked as heirs, actually do.

IOW, it's our money. So if we feel there are some in the family who are doing fine on their own without needing any inheritance from us, then that's what we feel comfortable doing.

Will there be hard feelings if your dad splits the estate up unequally? Possibly. Who can tell the future?

Is it your fault? Nope.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 8:19PM
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Most important to me is the relationship, for that reason, I'd split it evenly with the three children or adding the grandchildren.
You can also suggest that your father write out that he has already given much more to the addict brother so he is deducting that amount from his split. I would only do that if indeed he had already received much more than the other two.
I would be most concerned about the other brother, it is not fair to penalize him for financial success.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 8:30PM
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Part of my law practice is estate planning and you would be surprised to see how often the money/property is not evenly divided. If one person has a drug habit its ridiculous to give them a lot of money unless you want to cause their death, as they will spend it on drugs immediately. If some kids have borrowed more money it can be deducted from their share. Lots of families don't resent the money being split unevenly. Your father sounds competent to make his own decisions and should be encouraged to see a good estate planning attorney, Its not expensive and prevents some of the resentment. I agree with jkom.
It is hard to say that a relationship with a druggie is important--its certainly not important to them. Its odd how often the child that is addicted and wastes family assets gets so much consideration. Nobody wants to hurt their feelings.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 3:27AM
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We feel the brother with the drug problem has already been given so much and would just use any of the money to further his demise

Wow! This hit home with me.

About 4 years ago my FIL died and assets were split three ways. The brother, who was a recovering alcoholic and on SSI, got a house free and clear. All he had to do was pay the taxes. Long story short, he mortgaged the entire house to play the lottery (over a span on three years) and took his own life when nothing was left.

Do not give that brother a dime -- if you do, you are only contributing to his habit and problems.

I am sure your father worked too hard for his money (I know my FIL did) to have it pi$$ed away in a few years. My Fil also spent thousands on this this same brother while he was alive (rehab, paid his bills, etc...). All of that was supposed to come out of his eventual inheritance although I don't believe it did.

Is there another alternative -- such as setting up a trust for your oldest brother? That way if he ever needed care, it would be paid for.

I do have to say that that I don't think you deserve more because your husband makes less and you don't own a home.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 8:49AM
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My mother divided her estate unevenly.

Seven years before she died, she gave me the down payment to buy a house. Shortly thereafter, she had her will drawn up, and in it she stipulated that my share of her estate should be reduced by that amount. We discussed this at the time I bought the house, and I thought it was more than fair. I certainly had NO hard feelings about it, and my sisters also seemed to be fine with it. I think my mother really enjoyed being able to help me with this and seeing me use her gift successfully.

I do think there's a difference between something like this, where there's a straightforward transaction to be accounted for, and other considerations such as how well the children are doing financially, how many children they have, and so on. But ultimately it's the parent's decision to make.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 11:34AM
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Sounds like drug addict brother already go tmore than his share, but regardless, it should be divided as your father wishes.
Leaving the recovering addict out of it, given that he has been given so much, I'm not sure I see dividing the other two unevenly as "fair". I chose not to have children and I've given up a lot to make a secure future for myself, so should I get less than a sibling who had children, worked part time even after the kids were older and built up credit card debt, simply because she needs it more?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 3:15PM
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Tell your father to do what he wants to do--but I would be inclined to (as someone else suggested) make a statement and accounting of all I had given "prodigal son" and tell him that that was his inheritance. Then divide the rest equally, unless one of my other children had gone to trouble and expense to help me--that one I might give more.

My uncle had several sons--after a very nasty divorce, only one ever kept contact and eventually rebuilt a relationship with him. None of the rest bothered to, and he never heard from any of them even as he slowly died from cancer. My uncle enjoyed and became close to several of his great-nieces and nephews instead. But they (his sons) all came to his funeral, and when the will was processed, I got a phone call from one cousin SCREAMING at me (the first time I'd heard from him in over 25 years, except at that funeral) that uncle shouldn't have left anything to those great-nieces and nephews, including my dtr., and nothing to him or his dtr (whom uncle had never seen!) This cousin is very well-off, and even has some measure of fame, BTW (which he worked very hard for, and deserves, but...) Go figure.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 4:57PM
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There's a very wise old saying, "Never say you know anyone until you've split an inheritance with them." I certainly learned a lot about my sister, to my dismay, when I was the executor of our eldest sister's estate. It wasn't even that large (no RE).

Circumstances change and a will or trust is a living document that should change with them. As I mentioned above, my DH and I have no children. When my nephew and niece were younger, they were our heirs.

But now they're grown: both married, both have houses, and in fact they own two other houses in partnership as investment rental properties. They have good jobs, their spouses have even better ones - simply put, they are in far better financial shape than we were at the same age, LOL.

Thus our decision a few years ago to remove them from our estate. My nephew and niece will inherit their father's estate, their mother's estate, and a share of both their in-laws' estates (who are a lot better off than our entire family). So it made absolutely no sense to anybody that they should still be our heirs. My niece is our secondary trustee, so she is aware we changed our trust and is in full agreement with our reasons.

Money can often tear a family apart. ItÂs an emotionally charged issue, as flaming-hot as it can get. But you canÂt always be the peacemaker, and people arenÂt always going to love you. This isnÂt your estate, and your dad needs to decide what sounds fair to HIM. And all of you are going to have live with it, without resentment.

If your siblings canÂt do that, itÂs their faultÂnot yours. You are not responsible for a lack of charity in someone else.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 2:30PM
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I would leave you the house and the brother the cash, depending on who much. say the value of the house and divide whatever is left over.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 10:45PM
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Your post started with "We are trying to decide..." There should be no "we" about it. It's up to your father entirely.

What you would do or I would do isn't relevant. It's his choice and nobody else should influence him beyond encouraging him to take care of the legalities soon.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 9:48PM
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I recently lost both of my parents. I have four brothers and sisters and most of them have children. The possessions are not worth a ton of money and luckily none of us are really fighting over anything. Everything is supposed to be divided evenly between us kids. Two important things that I have learned from this experience:
Online wills or cheap easy to fill out wills do not hold up in all states. Very few states will recognize a hand written will anymore. My parents did the cheap online version and we had to take everything through court to have it approved by the state. It didn't cost us much but it did drag things out a bit.

Saying things like, "when I go, you can have such-and-such" does not mean anything AFTER they die. If someone wants to give you something, they need to hand it over to you BEFORE they die. After they die all their possessions become part of their estate and are no longer theirs to give.

So if you father would like to reward one of his children for whatever reason, he could give them something valuable before he dies and then let his will be an equal split. It could be a way around hurt feelings when things start to get divvied up.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 5:49PM
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Should your father choose to give you extra, one way to do it without going through a will is to have some assets in joint names, with right of survivorship.

Usually that means a change of ownership, which may trigger capital gains taxes, if it is an asset whose value has changed since your father acquired it. For example, if he'd bought shares in a company at a cost of $6,000.00 and the value at the time of adding you as a co-owner were $10,000., many jurisdictions would say that he'd developed a capital gain of $4,000.00, on which he could well be taxable.

Years later, when he and you sold it, of if you sold it subsequent to his death, if the asset were to be worth $15,000. when you sold it, your cost base would be $10,000.00 and capital gain $5,000.00.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 12:25PM
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modern life interiors

Since your brother has a drug problem and has been to rehab who paid?

If it was government assistance such as medicaid your father should set up a special needs trust for your brother. This way he won't lose his benefits and he won't have to reimburse the government for the money they gave.
You need to double check the gov"t subsidy. People on drugs are not reliable with their info. They hide a great deal of stuff.
I have the same thing in my family even the same age group. It is tough!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 5:58PM
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Equal. It's only fair to all involved, unless your father has strong feelings about giving more to another. In that case, he should give it before he passes away and then what's left should be split equally. There should also be a clause in there somewhere that if anyone challenges your father's wishes in his will, that sibling will be excluded. Trust me you don't need to be dragged to court and spend what little is there to defend yourself.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 8:09PM
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I agree that it's only your dad's decision. I'll bet you agree, too, and you're asking because your dad's asking you.

Were it up to me, I would divide the money equally, and take no account of whether one child was better off than another. Having been the one who was "shorted" in the will, I can tell you that it hurts and feels like you're being punished for having some measure of financial success. (I'll bet that if your brother doesn't need the money himself, he'd enjoy being able to do something for his own children with it.)

I also wouldn't allow a child (or other person) to help me out in life and then provide for them in the will. I'd give them money while I was alive, then divide the estate equally in my will.

As for loans, my preference is to have them in writing, so the estate can collect on the loan and the will can still be for equal shares.

I'm honestly not sure about your drug-addicted brother. I wouldn't feel badly if the will spelled out that he was getting a lesser share to account for the family business he already received. And I certainly think that whatever he gets should be held in trust.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 3:31PM
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My Father is dying and on his will states his 3 kids to split the inheritance. My question is my older sister passed a few weeks ago and she is still on the will and my father is too ill to change it. Who gets her inheritance her son or husband

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 11:34AM
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You had better call your father's attorney. Matters will vary from state to state. Some wills state that only the child can inherit, not children or spouses.

Talk to the attorney ASAP.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 11:39AM
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I think it should be split fairly. If my sister wanted more money because she didn't save as hard or work as hard as me, I would be livid.

It's not your brother's problem that you don't have a house or that you have 2 kids. Those are choices YOU made.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 7:49PM
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