“Greed lifts its ugly head and kills brotherly love”: My husband and his brother argue over the inheritance of a beloved neighbor. What can we do?


When my husband and his only (younger) brother were growing up, a childless neighbor was very nice to them and treated them like their “nephews”. They even called her “Aunt Hilda”. They also treated her like family; My husband has visited her regularly over the years. But greed lifts its ugly head and kills brotherly love.

When my husband was in the army 30 years ago, Aunt Hilda gave a house and land to my husband’s brother when he decided to move to another state to look after her future mother-in-law, with the written legal condition that she had a lifelong opportunity to return and live in the house if she wanted or had to.

The brother decided he didn’t really like these terms and after living in the house for several years, he used the “collateral” of the property to borrow money to buy property elsewhere and build another house. The “old” house has been empty for 20 years, but he is doing the very least to save it from a catastrophe. It doesn’t stay there because it’s not cared for. He has stated that he does not want to do anything to encourage them to move back into the house.

“First she discussed dividing her property 50/50, then she remembered that she had already given the brother the other house and land.”

Aunt Hilda’s husband recently died. She is 80 and has decided to write a will to leave her money and possessions to my husband and his brother. At first she discussed dividing her property 50/50, then she remembered that she had already given the brother the other house and property (current value is about $ 400,000, not a small sum).

Now Aunt Hilda says that since she has already given the younger brother the other house and the land, that should be taken into account. The brother sends my husband long e-mails to convince him and Aunt Hilda that the previous “early inheritance” should not be taken into account “because it cost him so much effort and work”.

It is up to Aunt Hilda, of course, how she will divide the property, and whatever that is, everyone should respect her wishes. But when she asks the brothers how to make it fair, what do you recommend? She is 80, but she could still live to be 15 and any value attached to the brother’s house today would likely change.

Much more could be added to my brother-in-law’s attempts to win more than his brother, none of which reflects his character well. My poor husband is saddened by his brother’s greedy behavior, especially when he should focus on the well-being of Aunt Hilda – who has just lost her husband – and grateful that she is considering leaving everything to them.

Should we intervene?

The woman

Dear Lady,

Your brother-in-law is a lot of work and his inherited wealth is a lot of work. In this sense, at least, God corresponded to them as He created them.

Sure, he could be less self-centered and more compassionate, and it wouldn’t hurt if he had a benevolent bone in his body. But he is not, and wishing him to be other than himself is an exhausting and unwise endeavor. Accept him for how and what he is and you will both enjoy more peaceful nights.

Remember, if a crazy person wants to argue with you and you eventually give in, then there are two crazy people in that fight rather than one.

Her husband sees Aunt Hilda as a beloved relative and her property as a gift, while his brother sees her property as a lemon that can be squeezed over and over again. What would I say to his brother? “The property has taken a lot of work over the years and you have benefited from the property over the same period. You made an early decision to embrace this legacy and it has worked very well for you. “

What if he keeps making waves? I would feel compelled to tell him that it is just unreasonable to keep pushing for more. The love and care he devoted to his own property was in direct proportion to the lack of care and duty shown to Aunt Hilda’s house, and in all the years he enjoyed that property, she did not. You have to be willing to stand up for what you believe is just.

And remember, if a crazy person wants to argue with you and you give in, there will be two crazy people in that fight, not just one. Because of this, you advise Aunt Hilda to hire a probate attorney to prepare the papers fairly and honestly. Lawyers are well paid to deal with difficult personalities and they have a duty to listen to their clients’ wishes.

You can email The Moneyist at [email protected] with any financial and ethical issues related to coronavirus

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