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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Inheritance and real estate: What to do when our grown kids fight over our money

A fact that many find hard to accept is that controversy and disharmony affect almost every family after the parents pass away. In some, the issues are eventually resolved in a way that allows the family to remain on good terms. In many others, the disagreements are permanent; the children can no longer tolerate each other because of what was said and done after the parents' deaths.

Planning ahead really can help this situation. Parents really can reduce the likelihood that their family won't survive as a unit. The problem is that parents simply won't admit that it could happen with their kids. They somehow are able to convince themselves that their own children are superior to the rest of the human race in terms of suppressing greed, resentment, grief and anger.

It's not up to me to persuade any particular person that their children are less wonderful than they think. I'm a parent; I understand how we idealize our own kids. However, every parent should ask himself or herself whether they'd intervene if their children were fighting over something controlled by the parent. Would they step in if they knew there was an argument going on from which their kids would simply not recover? Of course they would. So why not prevent that fight in the first place?

Understanding that your kids (and their spouses) may have a bad reaction when you pass away or when you lose mental capacity does NOT mean you don't love them.

I found an article at that gives some suggestions for prevention of the turmoil and disputes that could arise. Click here to read it. Although the title suggests that it's about real estate, it actually talks more about personal and household possessions than the title to the house.

In the article there is a reference to the fact that a videotaped message would be read at "the reading of the will". In my experience, there is rarely, if ever, an actual reading of the will for the family. However, if a videotape such as the one suggested in this article were to be prepared and the lawyer knew about it, a showing would be held for the family.


  1. So true.

    My father died in January 2010. Two months before his lawyer mailed him a will stating that his estate was to be divided equally between my brother and myself and that we were both to be executors. My father had a heart attack a few weeks after receiving the will and never regained consciousness. He knew in the fall that his cancer was terminal, something we did not know until the day he died. It was a difficult time.

    I agreed to let my brother be the sole administrator of the estate, mostly out if my habit not to cross him. Fast forward to today: we haven't spoken in almost three years. He reacted negatively when I questioned him for taking a very valuable estate asset for his personal benefit. I felt the interim distribution should have been equal, he disagreed. The last thing he said to me was that I didn't deserve my inheritance because I couldn't have children (he has 2) and that there would be "issues" with the estate. I've been given the runaround all this time and have no idea where the estate stands or if it will ever be settled. I hired a lawyer but after two years was no further ahead and out of pocket hundreds of dollars. I'm powerless.

    My father likely wanted us to be co-executors so we would not fight, however living 100 km apart would have made this difficult. Knowing my father and his lust for life, he likely had a hard time signing a document that concerned his mortality. A video will would have clearly shown my what our father's wishes were and they may have been respected.

    My relationship with my brother can not be repaired and my father's wishes will likely not be respected out of spite. In hindsight I should have insisted on a lawyer being administrator.

    I've been reading your blog for a few years now and find it very informative and helpful. It's sad that so many relationships are damaged due to poor estate planning. My situation is not unique.

    1. No, unfortunately your situation is not unique at all. I'm so sorry that this has all been so hard on you.

      Having a lawyer or a trust company as the administrator likely would have helped, but as you say, that's hindsight.

      Your brother's comment about you not having children is cruel on many levels, but it's also an example of how executors and administrators use any excuse to re-write the will or the law in their favour. Who the hell cares what your brother thinks about what you deserve? It's not HIS estate; it's your father's estate, and your brother is completely wrong in applying his own greedy rationale to someone else's estate.

      You're better off without a sibling like that. As they say, with friends like that, who needs enemies?

      Hang in there,

  2. Every parent should ask himself or herself whether they'd intervene if their children were fighting over something controlled by the parent. Planning ahead really can help this situation.
    real estate marketing

    1. I agree, Stacey. The problem is that parents simply won't acknowledge that their kids are just like everyone else's. Nobody wants to admit that their children could behave badly towards each other. I'm a parent and I get that we all think our kids are great, but it's just foolish to think anyone's kids are above greedy or malicious behaviour simply because we want them to be.


  3. I wish the media would start a dialogue on this subject, as it is a ever growing epidemic in this country. This is a “Brave New World” as the "Baby Boomer" generation is just entering the inheritance arena, which is a trillion dollar passage of wealth from one generation to another. Mix that with a bad economy, and the situation is ripe for disaster. It is a dog-eat-dog, “Social
    Darwinism” economic climate right now, and everybody is trolling for money. It’s “survival of the fittest”: there are no nice guys and no morality, and the most important thing for people to remember is: DON’T EXPECT YOUR SIBLINGS TO BE HONEST OR FAIR. I read a good book on the subject: It's called "Trust Me: Every Baby Boomer's Nightmare" by Katherine Steel. I bought it on Amazon.

    1. Thanks Katherine, for letting us know about your book. I agree that it's a mistake to assume that siblings will be honest or fair. Some are, of course, but in terms of planning, it's best to plan for the worst, while still hoping for the best.



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