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BEACON Senior News

When inheritance tears siblings apart

Jan 29, 2024 10:06AM ● By Laird Landon, PhD

Dear Laird: My mom died two months ago after being in assisted living for seven years. Initially, we were told that everything would be divided equally between us. I was shocked to learn that, without telling me or my brother, she changed her will to give me everything. My brother is furious. He accused me of influencing Mom’s decision to change the will. I told him I would split the assets, but he still refused to come to the funeral and won’t talk to me. I thought Mom’s passing would bring some relief. Now I feel lost. We are in Colorado Springs and my brother is on the Western Slope.
Signed, Grieving and Grievances

Dear Grieving: This is truly a sad situation. You are overwhelmed with grief from the loss of your mother. Your brother is also grieving but is angry at you for something you had no control over. Your mother has unwittingly hurt you both by failing to share her intentions for her estate. Feeling blindsided is a natural response on your part, while your brother’s resentment is an understandable reaction to this lack of transparency.

At this point, clear and proactive communication is crucial. If you haven’t already, express to your brother in writing your surprise and reiterate your commitment to rectify the situation by splitting the assets. Clarify that, as the sole inheritor, you have the right to distribute the estate however you wish, and you wish for him to have his rightful share. 

Within the letter, recount your mother’s final days and highlight the positive sentiments she expressed about your brother. Share the challenges you faced in caring for her and how fulfilling it was to provide that care. 

It’s imperative for both of you to find solace individually and not let your brother’s emotions impede your grieving process. Recognize that you did your best in caring for your mother, and take pride in that. While your mother’s decision to exclude her son was hurtful to him and offered you no relief, it likely stemmed from her recognition and gratitude for your dedicated care, leading to an emotionally charged change in her estate plans.

Your brother’s misplaced blame is likely a product of his own guilt for not assisting in caregiving and spending more time with your mother. While this is understandable, it is unfair for him to presume the worst of you.

The strain on your relationship with your brother is a consequence of circumstances beyond your control. As time passes and you proceed to share the estate with him, he may see things differently. 

Although this event has left a lasting impact, there is an opportunity for both of you to contextualize it and work towards rebuilding your relationship.

Send your questions to Laird in care of the BEACON, or email him at [email protected]