Do I Owe My Brother $20,000.

Question: Dear Luise: I am sorry, but I have three major questions. The first is as follows:  My grandparents and I were really close. Mother and I were semi-close, and my brother and I really close. Despite the favoritism shown by my Mom and Dad, I truly loved my brother, even after I found out we had two different Dads, and his Dad had adopted me. When I learned this, it clicked why my dad and I weren’t close (that’s another issue.) My grandparents were close with my brother until he was in high school. There was an incident between he and my grandfather and my grandpa felt my brother disrespected him, and he didn’t like the way my brother was indifferent towards him and he was upset with my brother. Years passed, my grandfather passed away (I was devastated) and my grandmother and I got even closer. She and I always talked about Mom’s favoritism toward my brother. Years passed, my grandmother started showing signs of dementia. My mom had her declared incompetent and became her conservator, which she should not have done. She should have just taken care of her. Everything was in my mom’s name, i.e. bank accounts, etc. I ended up taking care of my Grandmother. She came to California, lived with me for about 6months, fell and broke her hip, had a hip replacement, and then went into a Board and Care, which I felt was more homelike than any nursing home. I called her everyday, and took her on outings, drives, shopping, to my house every week-end, put her in a medical plan, (the court made me her conservator and took it from my mother.) I had to use my grandmother’s money and give the court an accounting. They told me the house could not be sold until all of her money was gone.  When her money was just about depleted, they said, for me to sell the house. My grandmother got very ill and passed away before the house was put on the market. When the will came out, she left me the house, my brother $20,000 and any monies left in her account went to my mother. There was no money left after paying for the funeral.  My Mom sent me $1000 to for the funeral. I was able to give it back to her. I used my own money to pay the taxes, and the attorney. Now she and my brother won’t speak to me, because I didn’t have $20,000 to give to him. Should I have sold the house in this bad economy and paid him?  Why should I have to sell what was left to me?  Also, so you know, my Mom had a vacant lot and two houses and all are in my Mom and brothers name, and I am not on either. D.

Answer: Dear D.: Your grandmother left you the house and she left your brother money that was not longer there because she had to use it. End of story.

It’s not about you needing to “give” your brother anything. Your grandmother was doing the giving and that was based wholly on what the residual of her estate was after she used her resources to pay for end of life expenses. There was nothing in her will requiring you to share your inheritance with your brother, should her funds become depleted or non-existent. You were the one in her life who stood by her and she acknowledged that

If you want to borrow $20, give to your brother…have at it. You can get it from your equity in the house. However, please remember that your grandmother didn’t even have enough residual to settle her estate and you are out-of-pocket there. Did your brother…or mother for that matter, come forth to help you with that burden? No, I didn’t think so.

The bottom line here is whether peace between the three of you is worth $20,000. And think about this; if your mother and brother turn on you again, what will it cost you next time?

I hold you in deep regard for taking over and giving your grandmother the love and support she deserved. Proximity, warmth and respect are all priceless. End of life issues often aren’t pretty or easy for those who care enough to stay in the loop. How wonderful that your grandmother had you by her side on her journey. Blessings, Luise

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